Andy Puzder: Biden, Dems still eager to transform America into a welfare state

Democrats view the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to radically change America

Progressive Democrats have been very open about the fact that they view the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to fundamentally transform America. The monstrosity of a reconciliation bill they persist in trying ram through Congress is how they plan to do it. Saner minds may have stalled their momentum, but we would be wise not to count them out just yet.

In fact, on Friday, after meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill, Biden said, "We’re gonna get this done.  It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re gonna get it done." 

This so-called "$3.5 trillion" reconciliation bill is a spending behemoth that would actually clock in at over $5 trillion if properly scored. Only accounting tricks and Congress’ arbitrary 10-year window for scoring budgetary impacts allows the Left to get away with using the lower figure. And that's on top of the $1.9 trillion of spending included in the coronavirus relief package passed earlier this year, as well as the roughly $1 trillion "physical/human infrastructure" bill the Democrats are trying to pass in tandem with the reconciliation bill.

All of that spending would require massive tax increases, of course. The Democrats pretend that they will only target the rich. But, despite claims to the contrary, the rich already bear the brunt of our progressive tax system (already the world’s most progressive tax system) and simply don’t have enough money to pay for all this government spending. 

Add to that the fact the Democrats are actually looking to lower taxes for their rich friends and contributors rich by, among other things, reinstating the deduction for state and local taxes which almost exclusively benefits the wealthy and the undeniable reality is that all Americans will find themselves footing the bill for these massive government spending projects, whether in the form of direct tax liabilities, increased prices, or reduced economic opportunity. These are European like welfare benefits and the only way to pay for them is going to be European-like taxes that hit every class and income group


It’s not just the enormous cost of the bill that should be terrifying, though. It’s also the wide-ranging policy implications, which together constitute an unprecedented assault on entrepreneurialism, the free market, and individual liberty. The Democrats are seeking to institute a universal basic income through the back door while simultaneously establishing a cradle-to-grave welfare state.

The expanded child tax credit, for instance, would not be linked to work in any way. In other words, it would serve as a direct financial incentive for Americans to treat children as a source of income – especially since it will be coupled with a child care subsidy that becomes more valuable the more children someone has. This obviously reduces incentives to work – a fact that leaders across the political spectrum easily recognized in the relatively recent past.


In the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich worked together to pass historic reforms that made personal responsibility a cornerstone of America’s welfare system. Work requirements encouraged Americans to improve their own circumstances and end their dependence on government handouts. The predictable result of that was increased economic growth and lower unemployment.

Now, though, the left views work requirements as an unfair burden, and is working to undo the bipartisan reforms of the 1990s by increasing welfare benefits and expanding eligibility. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with generous COVID relief payments, the end result of paying people not to work is that people choose not to work.


In addition, should it somehow pass, the reconciliation bill would significantly expand federal health care subsidies, and also seek to artificially reduce the price of prescription drugs at the cost of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Couple that with universal preschool starting at 3 years old and tuition-free community college, and you’ve got a good start on lifelong government dependency.

The folly of the progressive policy formula should be obvious to everyone at a time when the country is experiencing both an inflation and a labor crisis. There are currently millions of job openings going unfilled because employers cannot entice workers back into the work force. The simultaneous spike in demand-induced inflation makes clear that the fault lies with government programs designed to absolve people of the need to work full time to maintain their standard of living.

We don’t have to look far to find contrary examples, either – 2019 was arguably the most incredible year in the history of the American labor market. 


At just 3.5 percent, the unemployment rate was at its lowest point since 1969, with record employment levels for women and minorities. There were more jobs available than there were workers to fill them, putting upward pressure on both wages and benefits. Inflation was low and steady, keeping spending power high. As for child poverty, well it decreased to the lowest percentage since 1973 – down from 3.6 percentage points from the end of the Obama/Biden era. 

All of this was due to the Trump administration’s pro-growth policy environment characterized by low taxes on individuals and businesses, aggressive elimination of unnecessary regulations, and political acceptance of government’s limited role in the private lives of citizens. Today, the Biden administration and Progressive Democrats are intent on taking the polar-opposite approach, and if they succeed, nobody should be surprised if we experience polar-opposite results.

I wish -- and our children and grandchildren may one day wish – that we had all taken more seriously the Left’s proclaimed desire to fundamentally transform our country.