What’s Left: Another Rotting Cabinet

Much of the first month of President Joseph R. Biden’s administration has been dedicated to nominating individuals to govern the labyrinthine organizations and agencies that comprise the federal government. Unfortunately, nearly every single one of these nominations has paid heed to the traditions of corruption, swamp infestation and elitism that pervade the halls of power in Washington DC. For the purposes of briefness, this article will focus on two particular individuals: one already confirmed, the second currently seeking confirmation.

Pete Buttigieg (affectionately dubbed “Mayor Pete” by the mainstream media) was a former 2020 Democratic presidential contender who dropped out of the primary process only two days before Super Tuesday in order to throw his support behind then-candidate Biden. No doubt as a condition of their backroom deal, Mayor Pete was nominated, and subsequently confirmed by the Senate, to become the administration’s Secretary of Transportation and first openly gay Cabinet Secretary in American history. 

Mayor Pete takes office at a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the United States’ infrastructure system a grade of D+, not once, but twice. Particularly in the era of COVID-19, local and state governments all over the country no longer have the ability to fund essential road repairs. The New York City Metro system is financially broken. Public forms of transportation, from bussing to taxis, are drastically underfunded and outdated. A gigantic infrastructure package is desperately needed in order to put millions of Americans back to work. 

Many of the criticisms that dogged Mayor Pete during his presidential run are still valid. Foremost among them is his political resume of one line: the mayorship of South Bend, Indiana, a college town with a population of 100,000 and a small blue bubble in the red sea of Hoosier conservatism. Biden himself voiced these concerns on the campaign trail, airing TV ads in the early primary states about Mayor Pete’s lack of political experience. But amid the prospect of a Bernie Sanders landslide on Super Tuesday and an opportunity to consolidate moderate, upper middle-class Democratic voters, such concerns were quickly forgotten. For the mainstream media, Mayor Pete’s fluency in seven languages and background as a Harvardite and Rhodes scholar became his most revered qualifications. It may also have been the eagerness with which he has relied on political advice and monetary contributions from billionaires and corporate hedge fund managers to propel his career. In summary, the Department of Transportation finds itself under the helm of an untested political opportunist whose views on substantive policies are woefully swept beneath the rug.

Neera Tanden is the former CEO and co-founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Democratic think tank based in Washington DC. Unlike Mayor Pete, she has an extensive political resume, working on Democratic presidential campaigns from Michael Dukakis in 1988 to Hillary Clinton in 2016. She has built her career on connections and relationships in the Clinton world, climbing the political ladder and finding herself atop the consulting class world under the Obama presidency. If confirmed, Tanden would be the first woman of color to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

In the age of COVID-19 and economic conditions similar to the 1930s, there is absolutely no excuse for “tweaks-around-the-edges” politics. When the United States spends more money on its military industry than the next ten countries combined but cannot come up with enough money to house every single veteran living on the streets, it is clear that the national budget must undergo a drastic change in priorities. The director of the OMB plays an enormous role in developing the president’s proposed budget. As such, this individual must have an unbreakable commitment to the needs of America’s working class.

Unfortunately, Neera Tanden’s worldview and personal integrity could not be further dissociated from the needs of working families. She has been on record advocating for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the most popular government programs, as a philosophy of “fiscal responsibility.” She has opposed initiatives with broad popular support, including raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and establishing a Medicare-for-All single payer system. Tanden could not have been more harsh on these proposals when they were thrust into the national spotlight by Bernie Sanders in 2016. Her retorts to these ideas often evolved into unfair personal attacks on Sanders and his base of support during both of his campaigns. Moreover, none of this accounts for Tanden’s record as CEO of CAP, which saw numerous ethics violations and incidents revolving around sexual misconduct. None of these criticisms are sexually or racially motivated, despite the insinuations to the contrary from mainstream media and online social justice warriors.

Mayor Pete and Neera Tanden are only two examples of the broad patterns of corporate allegiance and elitist careerism running through the Biden Cabinet. Due to the corporate hijacking of identity politics and wokism, any substantive criticism made against them has resulted in accusations of sexism, racism, or homophobia. This does an immense disservice to the millions of working families — black, white, Latino, Asian-American, gay or straight — whose lives will be directly impacted by these individuals and the policies they choose to implement (or not implement) during their tenure. President Biden must dramatically re-think the direction of his nominations.