Op Ed

Where’s Joe Biden the Centrist?

No bipartisan moves, no centrist innovations so far from the president.

By - Feb 11th, 2021 09:18 am
Joe Biden. Photo from The White House.

Joe Biden. Photo from The White House.

Political centrists in the United States are suffering a severe case of disappointment as they watch the two political parties staying in the same old partisan rut that preceded the election of Joe Biden as president.

It was just three weeks ago that Biden took the oath of office after being elected by a substantial margin in both the popular vote and electoral vote. His margin stopped short of a mandate, but he had plenty of room to cut pragmatic deals with members of the opposite party.

Instead, he immediately issued a series of executive orders that reversed the blizzard of executive orders that President Trump had issued during his four years. (Trump learned the executive order trick to bypass congress from President Obama when he was blocked in Congress.)

The centrists were hoping for some original thinking to craft positions on major issues that were sellable to the majority of congresspeople in both parties. It was not to be.

In effect, Biden quickly established himself as a conventional down-the-line Democratic political leader. He made no obvious effort to reach across the aisle.

He made no attempt to pull a couple of centrist Republicans into his cabinet, such as Sen. Mitt Romney or Rep. Mike Gallagher.

He set up no commissions or task forces to reexamine polarizing issues like health care coverage, immigration reform, or environmental advances.

Of course, former President Trump is still hanging around. His shadow over American politics prevents collaboration or cooperation on just about any issue. Trump tried to win by dividing, not cohering. His is a small tent in stark contrast to political parties of just a couple decades ago that tried to put up big tents, to be inclusive, not exclusive.

Trump loves strife, conflict, melodrama and chaos. That’s why he is undergoing trial for sedition. His rhetoric after the election may or may not have been cause for impeachment, but his language was anything but unifying.

Take a look at the hyper-partisanship that has ruled the country in recent years. President Obama rammed Obamacare through the Congress without a single Republican vote. Because Republicans have no effective position on health care, and had no say on Obamacare, they have been solidly in opposition ever since.

Wouldn’t it be the wiser path to pull experts from both sides of the aisle and the private sector to craft a national health plan that a big majority of citizens can live with?

There is a stunning example of middle ground between the two parties on ways to achieve universal coverage for all Americans. The American people are pointing the way with bright road markers. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, 40% of elders have opted for Medicare Advantage, a hybrid of straight Medicare.

The same number of dollars go out to people eligible for Medicare, but congress allowed insurance companies to distribute those same dollars, so now citizens can choose from dozens of Medicare Advantage plans.

Advantage plans have what every Republican believes in: choice, competition and private sector involvement.

Obviously, it’s more cost effective for delivering care because, with the same dollars, insurance companies can offer added benefits like vision care, physical therapy, and other benefits to attract customers.

That’s is the kind of innovative thinking that Biden could have used to pull the two parties together, but he is doctrinaire. He is doubling down on Obamacare.

He did stop short of Medicare for all as espoused by the country’s leading ideologues, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The president is smart enough not to mess with employer-provided insurance, which is working to drive down health care hyper-inflation.

Let’s make no mistake. Obamacare added several points of coverage, mainly by expanding Medicaid, but did little to drive down obscenely high health costs or premiums.

A pragmatic politician would encourage all employers, both private and public, to innovate to drive down costs and would follow the stampede of citizens to allow Medicare Advantage to replace Medicaid for the poor.

Biden’s team could also plagiarize private sector employers who have installed primary care clinics to provide holistic care and sharply reduced total costs. They are buying top quality care at centers of excellence at low, fixed prices. In short, there is an array of high-quality, cost effective, pragmatic solutions at his fingertips. Will he use them? His performance in the last five weeks suggests otherwise.

President Biden is more graceful in promoting his policies, but he is far from an original thinker. His Democratic politics are same old, same old.

If he wised up, he could find a middle way that united Americans rather than dividing them.

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

9 thoughts on “Op Ed: Where’s Joe Biden the Centrist?”

  1. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Business chairman’s will never understand is that they’re the problem.
    Corporations are a pyramid scheme were the workers get scrap and their work goes up to the top.
    Adjusted for inflation the minimum wage should be 25$.
    Workers get less compensation for their productivity.
    Corporations steel wages, just look at Amazon taking the tips from there drivers.

    For profit insurance is immoral, Corporations know that its a way to retain workers is insurance since its so expensive and not promoting them, not giving them a chance to look for better employment

    Your Trickle down economics and wage suppression is not a middle ground, it’s a total failure.

    Know this we have no more effs to give nor do trust a word from anyone that is on the right asking for unity and moderation after you have ransacked federal, state, and local governments with your Republican lapdog. 1/6 changed everything when Trump ruined your 40 year grift.

  2. Patty Wanninger says:

    Americans are indeed “untied” as your typo aptly says. The majority of American voters are through appealing to these neo-nazi authoritarian Trump-lovers who get elected thanks to decades of work at voter suppression and gerrymandering. We are going to take the case to the American people. And large majorities are behind Biden’s plans. There is no “moderate” Republican. You can’t say Mr. 47% is a “moderate,” he’s just not living in the alternate reality that Ron Johnson, Glenn Grothman, even Mike Gallgher inhabit.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    And I’ve fixed the “untied” typo. I should have caught that one.

  4. Alan Bartelme says:

    John complains that Biden isn’t working with Republicans – is there any indication that Republicans are trying to work with Biden? Sure there’s a few of the usual suspects – Collins, Murkowski, Romney, but overall there’s no desire in the GOP to do anything but obstruct. Obama worked to get Republicans on board with healthcare and gave a bunch of concessions, only to have the GOP move further right and do nothing. The GOP has shown in Washington and Madison that they would rather do nothing about problems than actually compromise on anything (see our WI legislature that took 9 months off in 2020, and won’t work with Evers on anything since he was elected over 2 years ago).

  5. Mike_Darnell says:

    “Take a look at the hyper-partisanship that has ruled the country in recent years. President Obama rammed Obamacare through the Congress without a single Republican vote. Because Republicans have no effective position on health care, and had no say on Obamacare, they have been solidly in opposition ever since.”

    This is completely revisionist history. The Republicans blocked every effort at compromise as McConnell said they would. And please remember ACA was basically a Heritage Foundation plan. The GOP objections were solely based on Obama getting credit.

  6. SamStremlow says:

    Employer-provided health plans are not “effective” or “driving down costs.” They are shackles for the working poor and the unconscionably high deductibles prevent many of us from even seeking the care we need. That’s all without mentioning the large number of people who work and don’t even receive any form of health care from their employer. John Torinus is a hack and he doesn’t care about or understand the needs of working class and poor Americans. His condescending perspective is poisonous.

  7. Bellski says:

    I have to say, if I was President for 4 years and I spent as much time as Trump did under the microscope of investigations, hearings, Impeachment proceedings and every other type of distraction that the Democratic party could level at him (none of which stuck, by the way) I am pretty certain that I would not be magnanimous with turning over the reins of power as a gentleman either. The way he was vilified and dragged through the mud during his term (to zero resolution) is absolutely shameful. Like him or not, he was the POTUS…
    Pitiful what this Country has descended into.

  8. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Republicans are spineless greedy Traitors like you Bellski. I have no more effs to give or tolerance for your villainy. You will not find Americans who are loyal to the constitution willing to work together with liars and cowards.

    You worship an orange turd, guess it reflects your character.

  9. BBauer9 says:

    I agree totally with John Torinus. I am a solid Wisconisin Independent. And I think It’s sad to see the Democrats put together a game plan that they know will lose, as they did with going for the impeachment. If you count the votes and you know you won’t get to the 17 Republicans that you need (regardless of their excuses or rationale), then go for the next best thing to get the W and not the L. A winning “censure” would have been better than a losing “impeachment.”

    The same goes for all of Biden’s executive orders. He should set himself up for a Win. He may not get everything he wants, but at least it puts a “W” in his column. And this “W” doesn’t push both sides further apart, which may affect attitudes toward cooperation and getting “W’s” on future issues.. There is no rush to sign so many executive orders that you know will rile the other party and are divisive. While, It’s ok to sign executive orders on some issues, there’s no hurry on big divisive issues where you know the other side hangs its hat. An issue like immigration needs major comprehensive overhaul for both sides. It would be better to sit down with both sides, set up bi-partisan commissions and go for a long-term game plan that will produce a “Win” for the country, Instead he went for a quick stroke of the pen that he knows will continue to divide us even more and in the end the fighting will continue and we will all “lose.”

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