As a former investment banker who teaches political economy, I’m relatively conservative on economic issues. I believe in individual liberty, fiscal responsibility and competitive markets, sensibly governed. So I’m shocked at how irresponsible the Republican party has become. Tax cuts and deregulation may have made sense in the 1980s, but that philosophy has been taken too far, now helping the wealthy at the expense of ordinary working families. Accordingly, I will be voting for the Democrats in November. Here’s why.

First, reckless tax cuts are mortgaging our future and stealing from our children. As a society, we demand government provision of services such as national defense, education, and protection against sickness, unemployment or old age. We need to pay for them. But Trump’s GOP has utterly failed the test of fiscal responsibility, despite inheriting a robustly growing economy. Republicans could have used the good times to pay down our debts, repair our creaking infrastructure or help more struggling Americans with healthcare, all of which they had promised to do. Instead, they needlessly slashed taxes, mostly for the wealthy, and exploded the budget. Even before the pandemic hit, the Federal debt-to-GDP ratio was hitting its highest levels since the 1940s and rising fast.

Joe Biden offers more responsible budget management. Some of his policy proposals look expensive but will have long-term economic benefits. Improvements in infrastructure, healthcare, education and elder care will increase productivity and ease burdens on hard-pressed workers. Moreover, he has realistic proposals for paying for them, for example by ending corporate tax breaks and raising rates on capital gains to the levels currently levied on ordinary income.

Second, deregulation is killing us. No one wants unnecessary red tape but markets work best with sensible rules to keep consumers safe, protect workers from exploitation and ensure a level playing field. Unchecked deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry gave us the opioid crisis, when big pharmaceutical companies were allowed to hard-sell highly addictive drugs to vulnerable patients. Excessive deregulation of finance gave us the 2007-2008 Crash and recession. Most dangerously, deregulation of environmental protections is fuelling devastating problems such as the wildfires raging on the west coast. Biden and the Democrats are more likely to hold big corporations accountable for the negative consequences of their activities, and that will be good for the economy as well as for ordinary workers.

Third, we need good, honest government. Even in the most free market systems there are always unforeseen crises or social challenges such as public health which are best addressed through collective effort. As well, private enterprise doesn’t always provide for even basic needs, especially in sparsely populated areas. Rural Mainers, for example, benefit from government help providing hospitals, broadband and other infrastructure, and the postal service.

When the government does have to act, we need it to be effective, transparent and evidence-based. But years of Republican attacks have weakened our capacity to respond to national problems. In 2018, for example, President Trump disbanded the Global Health Security and Biodefense unit, the government agency designed specifically to respond to crises such as Covid-19, hampering our response and worsening the economic and personal costs. Biden recognizes the importance of good governance. He listens to the experts, trusts science, and is committed to restoring the effectiveness of our vital public institutions.

Democrats are accused of being ‘radical’ but in truth there’s little in Joe Biden’s economic platform which wouldn’t be out of place in a moderate or center-right party in western Europe. Eschewing market fundamentalism in favor of sensible government-market relations, the other G-7 countries deliver prosperity which is comparable to the US but more fairly shared. They also enjoy universal health-care, longer life, lower crime rates, and higher social mobility. What’s truly extreme, and truly destructive to the average American family, are Republican policies that have shredded the public sphere, abandoned oversight of corporate misbehavior, ignored long-standing inequalities, and trashed our environment. We must do better.

Henry Laurence teaches comparative politics and political economy at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He is the author of numerous articles and the book Money Rules: The New Politics of Finance (Cornell University Press, 2001). The views expressed here are his own.

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