Trump Could Have Given Biden’s State of the Union Address

Commentary: Reagan Reed

“The Era of Big Government is over,” former President Bill Clinton once proclaimed. If there is one takeaway from President Biden’s recent State of the Union Address, it’s that the “Era of Big Government” is back.

While many have remarked on Biden’s delivery, his back and forth with Republican hecklers, and the debate over entitlements, what stood out the most to me was how “Trumpian” the entire affair was.

In fact, except for the few lines about abortion, climate change, etc., most of the speech could have been given by former president Donald Trump, especially when it comes to Biden’s economic policy. Throughout the speech, Biden leaned into Trumpian tropes, such as the “forgotten man”.

Biden’s State of the Union outlined the most economically populist agenda of any President in U.S. history.

“Too many good-paying manufacturing jobs moved overseas. Factories at home closed down. Once-thriving cities and towns became shadows of what they used to be,” Biden declared towards the beginning of the speech.

“Where is it written that America can’t lead the world in manufacturing again? For too many decades, we imported products and exported jobs.”

“Where is it written that America can’t lead the world in manufacturing again? For too many decades, we imported products and exported jobs.”

Very Trumpy. Halting the offshoring of manufacturing jobs was a major theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign that ostensibly propelled him to narrow victories in a handful of rustbelt states.

Biden also touted infrastructure, something Trump also campaigned on. (Although Biden was actually able to get an infrastructure bill passed.) This leads us to perhaps the most stupid statement in Biden’s entire address, which not surprisingly, is also something Trump could have said:

“Tonight, I’m also announcing new standards to require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America. American-made lumber, glass, drywall, fiber optic cables. And on my watch, American roads, American bridges, and American highways will be made with American products.”

Although economically illiterate populists eat this kind of red meat up, the reality is that this is one of the most idiotic and self-sabotaging policies imaginable. In many instances it costs much more to manufacture materials in America. For example, the Trump/Biden tariffs of Canadian lumber have been a major contributor to the rising cost of lumber. The only thing Biden’s “Made in America” mandate will do is cause construction costs to skyrocket. Higher construction costs will lead to more government spending. Which leads us to the next point of agreement between Biden and his predecessor.

“So tonight, let’s all agree to stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare,” said Biden. Trump has long opposed entitlement reform, upending longtime conservative orthodoxy on the issue.

“Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” said Trump, responding to Biden’s address.

While this might be what many voters want to hear, the uncomfortable reality is that entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are by far the largest drivers of the federal deficit. It is impossible to balance the budget without significant reforms to social security. We could choose to impose a little pain and austerity now, or we can suffer the much larger and more painful consequences down the road. But make no mistake, the current system is utterly unsustainable, and the bill will eventually come due. And when it does, it will not be pretty.

Those who selfishly refuse to reform entitlements, continuing to saddle future generations with crippling debt should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

One of the most undesirable impacts Trump has had on the GOP is the party’s recent pandering to organized labor. Labor unions are the enemy of free market capitalism and their impact on the body politic is deleterious. Biden has always been a union shill, however, what is sad now is that his sycophancy to union bosses now has sympathetic ears in both parties.

Tariffs and trade protectionism have failed throughout history. They have been discredited since the days of Adam Smith. In contrast, free trade has lifted billions of people out of poverty worldwide, and is the most efficient system to create economic prosperity. The fact that both Biden and Trump continue to champion trade protectionism in an attempt to pander to a handful of economically illiterate union hacks in the rust belt is discouraging to say the least.

To conclude on a positive note, one area of continuity between the Trump and Biden administrations that has actually been encouraging has been the re-orientation of America’s posture towards China.

To his credit, Trump recognized the threat posed to China early on and was a major catalyst in changing U.S. attitudes towards the China. Although Trump’s trade war against China was feckless and ineffective, and his praise for Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Xinping was troubling, he nevertheless was hawkish on China and will likely go down in history for his foresight.

There has been an astounding level of continuity between Trump and Biden when it comes to China. Biden has essentially taken all Trump’s tough rhetoric on China and turned it into actual policy. Whether it is the resurrection of the Quad alliance to counter China, the re-arming of Asian allies, or the decimation of the Chinese chip industry with the stroke of a pen, Biden has proven even more hawkish than Trump on China.

Despite America’s deep political divisions, the widespread bipartisan consensus across the political spectrum on China is encouraging. Nothing like a common adversary to unite disparate factions.

As Biden said, “winning the competition with China should unite all of us. We face serious challenges across the world.”

Biden’s State of the Union outlined an agenda of economic populism, trade protectionism, re-shoring manufacturing, championing the “forgotten man”, unionized labor, preserving entitlements, and toughness towards China. Trump may have lost the election, but much of his agenda lives on in the Biden administration.

Published by Reagan Reed

Reagan is a journalist and educator from East Texas. He has been involved in numerous campaigns, worked at the Texas Legislature, and covered Texas politics for years as a journalist.

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