In his speech, Biden did announce a few important immediate actions — mostly aimed at combating corporate profiteering and misconduct.
For instance, the Justice Department will be naming a chief prosecutor to go after pandemic relief fund fraud and increasing enforcement of laws against price-gouging. The president specifically called out ocean carriers that transport goods in and out of U.S. ports for jacking up prices by as much as 1,000 percent.
Biden also pointed a finger at the four meat-packing giants for squeezing small farmers and ranchers. “You play with them or you don’t get to play at all,” Biden said. “And you pay a hell of a lot more. A hell of a lot more because there’s only four.”
The president also took aim at private equity investors that treat nursing homes like cash cows. “As Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up,” Biden noted.
COVID-19-related death rates have indeed been higher in nursing facilities owned by private equity firms. “That ends on my watch,” Biden promised, explaining that Medicare will raise nursing home standards.
I would’ve given the president a higher grade if he’d announced more bold executive actions like these.
For example, he could’ve announced that no companies will qualify for federal contracts unless they meet high-road standards — like having narrow gaps between CEO and worker pay, providing paid family and sick leave benefits, respecting union rights, and having strong records on racial and gender diversity.
Biden also could’ve promised to cancel federal student debts, lifting burdens that constrain opportunities for millions of Americans, particularly people of color.
The president spoke some about what Congress could do to cut drug prices. He should’ve also announced actions within his power to allow companies to produce generic, lower-cost versions of drugs developed with federal taxpayer dollars.
In his address, Biden rightly rejected the failed “trickle-down theory” that has prioritized the interests of the wealthy and big corporations over the rest of us and led to skyrocketing inequality. Now that needs to be matched by action.
Biden’s new initiatives will move our economy in a more equitable direction. But the president could do much more on his own to deliver for American families.