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History As It Happens

Nov 4, 2021

After months of negotiations between the moderate and liberal wings of the congressional Democrats, the fate of President Biden’s ambitious safety net, climate, and infrastructure agendas remains in flux. Whatever deal passes, it will not be the most expansive (or expensive) legislative package desired by liberals, and definitely not another New Deal in its depth and scope. Thus, anyone who believed Biden had an FDR-like moment upon taking office, an opportunity to usher in once-in-a-generation reforms to calm the vicissitudes of life in a capitalist society, must be disappointed. In this episode, renowned scholar David M. Kennedy tells us why Biden’s agenda is in trouble. It partly has to do with the basic math on Capitol Hill: Democrats have the slimmest of majorities and Republicans are nearly unanimously opposed to expanding the safety net.  The more important reason has historical overtones: there have been but a few moments in U.S. history when Congress could push through fundamental reforms or major social welfare bills.