Op Ed

5 Pragmatic Solutions Biden Could Offer

Trump in free-fall, nation needs leadership. Here’s what Biden should do.

By - Jul 5th, 2020 07:21 pm
Joe Biden. Photo is in the Public Domain.

Joe Biden. Photo is in the Public Domain.
This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

The Trump campaign is heading for a free-fall, the point in the campaign where the worse it gets, the worse it gets. That’s when centrist Republicans and independents start heading for the exits, not wanting to be associated with a candidate who could be the biggest loser of all time in American presidential politics. Joe Biden’s lead in the polls is now up to 14 points across the country and 8 points in pivotal Wisconsin. And the gap is widening.

These are polling numbers and they are notoriously unreliable as to final outcomes. This time around, though, unlike 2016, Donald Trump is a known commodity. He has been in office 3 ½ years and center stage just about every day. For better or for worse, we have a pretty good fix on this complicated man.

Further, the election is a referendum on him and not so much on the issues he has championed — turning the clock back in immigration, on health care access, on global alliances like NATO, on free trade with China, Europe, Mexico and Canada. We know clearly what he is against.

What he is for is a shorter list: tax cuts, higher defense spending, conservative judges, higher deficits and national debt.

He inherited an economy that was rumbling along at a pretty good pace and added stimulus with deficit spending and the tax cuts. It worked until the pandemic torpedoed the happy times. No one, neither he nor Biden, has much of a clue on how to resuscitate the devastated economy.

The Federal Reserve, thankfully, has a semblance of a game plan: massive bailouts and ultra low interest rates. On a bipartisan basis, Congress pumped $3 trillion into the nation’s for-profit and non-profit corporations. Despite all that, the economy is still tanking.

Layoffs will accelerate this month with the end of the extra $600 per week jobless compensation. Federal funds only delayed the terminations. Companies go under if they carry more labor than needed for work volumes. And volumes are still way off.

Congress and the president can’t agree on a forward plan.

In that vacuum that starts in the Oval Office, there is a golden opportunity for Biden to start acting like the leader he soon will be come. He doesn’t need to be shanghaied any more by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The progressive presidential candidates all fell by the wayside. Bernie Sanders lost decisively.

He can keep the left-wingers in his camp by promoting their goals, but can also pick off the independents and defecting Republicans by voicing pragmatic ways to get to where most Americans want the country to be led. Here are some examples:

  1. Universal coverage for every American home. Dump the Affordable Care Act; it’s a 50-state managerial mess the depends on expanding Medicaid and many doctors and dentists won’t take Medicaid patients. Adopt Medicare Advantage for All, not Medicare for All. Medicare Advantage offers a far better platform with choice, competition, better management and lower costs. Americans are voting with their feet for by flocking to that platform for coverage. Another no brainer: Add a money saving and health enhancing medical home for every American’s primary care. Savings are a proven 20 percent to 30 percent. Won’t that sell to voters across the board?
  2. Pragmatic Immigration reform. Yes, close our borders to illegal immigration, like most countries do. But keep the doors open to talented people. Give illegal kids born here citizenship. But limit adult illegals working here to Green Cards the rest of their lives. It’s a pragmatic compromise.
  3. Trade with other countries. Do what Warren Buffet proposed: allow increased exports to the U.S only to the extent that our trade partners allow more imports of U.S. goods and services.
  4. Support for entrepreneurs. Our economy has been battered by the shutdowns. We will have lost many employers before this scourge is over. We don’t even know how bad the damage has been. The fed’s bold action saved some of us. But we need the job creators to swing into action. It’s the entrepreneurs who create most new jobs. The Wisconsin program of 25 percent tax credits for angel investments has worked exceptionally well. Increase it to 40 percent and expand it across the nation. It will give new hope and life to many pending startups.
  5. Free college education. Cut a deal with the young people of America. We will pay for your education, but you need to pay it back with national service in needed sectors. That deal has worked superbly for generations with the GI bill and service in the National Guard. It’s working with AmeriCorps. How about health care and environment advancements as other options?

The time is right for Joe Biden to come out of his basement bunker. Instead of waiting for Trump to screw up some more, a likely prospect, as the president gets more and more desperate, get bold. Lead the nation to a pragmatic progressive platform that works to unite the country.

Go with concepts that have worked, not high-flying sound bites. Make the progressive ideas workable.

John Torinus is the chairman of Serigraph Inc. and a former Milwaukee Sentinel business editor who blogs regularly at johntorinus.com.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

10 thoughts on “Op Ed: 5 Pragmatic Solutions Biden Could Offer”

  1. Jeffjay60 says:

    I’ve got another point that should get bipartisan support. Create jobs and improve every state, county, city, village, and crossroads with Infrastructure Rebuild Program. This country is falling apart. Somebody has to fix it. Why not provide opportunities for the many currently unemployed. Design a federally funded program that lets us fix our problems locally with direct payments to communities that submit projects that repair locally essential issues. The plans have to pay workers a family-supporting wage and benefits. That should be lower than the current situation if the Medicare for All program is passed and implemented.

  2. frank a schneiger says:

    Two sets of comments, the first on Mr. Torinus’ analysis, and the second on his proposals. To start with, in current usage, the term pragmatic can largely be defined as policies that sound good but are certain not to inconvenience the rich, powerful and comfortable.

    Next, some specifics: (1) polls are not “notoriously unreliable,” a false notion that feeds the ‘nothing can be trusted” idea. (2) Trump is not a “complicated man.” He is a malignant narcissist and a fraud. It’s actually pretty simple. (3) It is quite extraordinary that Mr. Torinus omits the following from his list: vast corruption, nepotism typically associated with banana republics, the destruction of public institutions, climate change and the environmental degradation, the fostering of racial hatred and white supremacy, and the intensification of America’s world leading extreme inequality. (4) In search. of the happy pragmatic middle ground, he ignores the reality that the Republican Party is the party of white supremacy, xenophobia, corporate and Wall Street dominance and a far right judiciary. So Joe Biden should propose a bunch of “centrist” approaches that get shot down or converted into “business-friendly” policies? For a useful reference point, see “Obama Administration. failures of.”

    With respect to Mr. Torinus’ pragmatic policy proposals: (1) Without wanting to be too harsh, he confuses health insurance, health care and health, and, in the process, shows a lack of understanding of Medicaid, Medicare or the private insurance industry. He advocates a health insurance system controlled totally by public companies driven by share price, quarterly profits and executive compensation. Those in turn are driven by the medical loss ratio, the difference between premiums and claims paid out, with the goal of getting the latter as close to zero as possible. (2) With regard to his seemingly reasonable immigration recommendations, virtually all of them have been rejected by the Republican Party as forms of “amnesty,” including letting the DACA recipients stay in this country. (3) Finally, the old entrepreneurs and tax breaks as salvation routine. As Jeffjay60 points out, if there is a way out of the hole into which this country has dug itself. One of the keys will be a massive infrastructure program, largely paid for by taxes secured from the tiny sliver at the top that now controls more wealth than the bottom 90% of the population, along with long-term public investment. That is a truly pragmatic solution that will work and transform the country, along with Mr. Torinus excellent suggestion of national community service for young people.

  3. Mingus says:

    I always like his analysis. I would have liked Biden to promote legislation that would ban the various Republicans strategies for voter suppression. Secondly for Federal Elections, ban partisan gerrymandering by either party.

  4. Dennis Grzezinski says:

    I applaud Mr. Torinus’ suggestion of free education in exchange for national service. However, his suggestion to “Give illegal kids born here citizenship” seems to ignore that ANYONE BORN HERE IS A CITIZEN (except children of foreign diplomats) — there is nothing to GIVE them. What does he think should be done to or for those who were brought here as “undocumented” children? If they have been law abiding, why shouldn’t they have a straightforward path to citizenship?

  5. brthompson says:

    On Dennis Grzezinski’s point, I wonder if John Torinus meant to refer to the DACA recipients, people who came here is minors. If so, I agree they should be offered a path to citizenship.
    I also agree with Jeffjay that we desperately need a program that offers short-term jobs to people who would otherwise be unemployed.
    I do find Torinus always interesting, whether or not we agree.

  6. Thomas Martinsen says:

    I agree with Torinus that it is time for Biden to get specific on pragmatic proposals to make life better for citizens in this country by promoting realistic health care reform, infrastructure investments, free education for those who perform public service….

    I take issue with Frank Schneiger’s concern that pragmatism is inordinately worried over inconveniencing the rich. The rich are powerful here. They are reluctant to give up that power. They need to be persuaded to give away some of that power incrementally – as they see it as necessary to do so. Those of us who are tired of spending too much of our incomes to make bankers and insurance agents wealthy need to develop a public narrative that lets the bankers and insurance agents know that we are hip to their scams.

    I grew up in rural America, and I worked on farms when I was a kid. One of my boyhood friends was a third generation family farmer. He was a 2nd generation family farmer who had to work outside the farm to keep the farm. His father worked in a factory. He worked as a janitor.

    Most every spring, my farmer friend had to get a loan for equipment repairs and seeds and other things for spring planting. He routinely picked rocks out of his fields the day before his appointment at the bank. He drove a front-end loader in the fields, gathered rocks that had sprung from the earth from the freezing and thawing throughout the winter. He did that to save a couple of hundred dollars by not busting a plow blade on a rock the day before he knew he would lose as much as a thousand dollars or more while talking to a banker the next day.

    The super rich have sucked the life blood out of family farmers and other workers in the U.S.A., but they will not acknowledge that, and they will not give it all back at once. They need to be educated re the cost to others of their fabulous wealth, and they need to be persuaded to share some of that in increments.

  7. frank a schneiger says:

    Thomas, here is what I think are some sticking points, all based on how we interpret certain facts, or even agree that they are facts. I’ve always believed that pessimism is self-fulfilling and dangerous, and that we have to proceed with hope to make a better future. At the same time, I no longer believe it is possible to persuade those with enormous wealth and power to change in any substantive way. I don’t know of examples in history of that happening.

    A couple of points: first, the United States is now the most unequal developed country on earth. There are only three other countries that share our income profile: entrenched poverty, a declining middle class, and a tiny sliver of enormous wealth at the top. The other three are Russia, Brazil and Mexico. Nice company to be in. Next, there is a new book titled “The Great Leveler” by the historian Walter Scheidel. It is a book about inequality. His theme is that, in the history of the world, there are no – as in zero – examples of our levels of inequality that didn’t end in mass violence. He makes an unhappy point: violence is the great leveler; it produces greater equality; peace and stability produce inequality.

    If there is one thing this country cannot afford it is mass violence. At the same time, these levels of inequality and social decay aren’t sustainable. A last point: on the educability of the super-rich, the tiny sliver, take a look at “The Greenwich Republicans Learned to Love Trump” in The New Yorker of May 3, 2020.

    What do you think about these points?

  8. Thomas Martinsen says:


    Your points are well made. My hope is that this generation of the super rich could be the first to understand the need to share their wealth. They could understand this if they understood that these “levels of inequality” have historically resulted in mass violence.

    Biden will need some of the rich and most of the rest of us if he wants to replace the wealthy favoring autocrat in the White House now with a leader who will try to raise the poor to the working class, the working class to the middle class and the middle class to the upper middle class.

  9. frank a schneiger says:

    Thomas, I believe that the word “hope” is the most important one in your note. I realize that pessimism is always self-fulfilling and also that getting this administration out of power and preserving/restoring democracy is the single most important goal right now. And that hope and optimism are two different things.

    Let’s assume that Biden wins, and that the country does not descend into a legitimacy crisis. Big assumptions, but reasonable. My sense is that it will be a very bad sign if Summers, Rubin and the Goldman-Sachs guys show up to set economic policy and start tinkering around the edges to fix the damage that has been done, while making sure that they take care of the financial services industry first. It will also be a bad sign if the Democrats win the Senate and Chuck Schumer becomes the majority leader and continues to control the selection of Democratic congressional candidates.

    To go back to your use of “hope.” It is exactly the right word. Restoring it will not be easy, and it is unlikely to be a pleasant process, because change on the scale that goes beyond tinkering rarely is. And a central part of that process will involve addressing extreme inequality and the undermining of democracy that it has produced.

  10. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Yes, Frank, the uphill slog will be challenging, given the damage that Trump and his enablers have done, but that slog must be undertaken, and that slog cannot be undertaken without hope.

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