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Local residents line up outside the food pantry Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger to receive free food during the Covid-19 pandemic on April 23, 2020 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Local residents line up outside the food pantry Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger to receive free food during the Covid-19 pandemic on April 23, 2020 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Question: How Should the Left Judge Biden's Success? Answer From a Leftist: 'How Many People Stop Going Hungry' Is One Good Way

"Honestly, if Biden is able to keep his own campaign promises," says Justice Democrats co-founder Saikat Chakrabarti, "that'll be pretty good."

Jessica Corbett

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic driving up national hunger—in addition to other health and financial impacts—one progressive weighed in Thursday on how the left should judge the presidency of soon-to-be-sworn-in Joe Biden by suggesting: "'How many people stop going hungry' is a good one."

So said Saikat Chakrabarti, president of progressive think tank New Consensus, in an interview with Politico Magazine. There are, he noted, "50 million people at risk of going hungry this winter. So that should be cause enough to try to solve the problem."

"Honestly, if Biden is able to keep his own campaign promises—if he's able to actually create millions of high-wage jobs, get us out of a depression and the pandemic—that'll be pretty good. And I think it will show in 2022," said the Justice Democrats co-founder and former chief of staff for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

"If he's able to make a real difference in people's lives, and get people in places like Janesville, Wisconsin, from making $12 an hour back to making $40 or $50 an hour," Chakrabarti posited, "people will vote for him and for Democrats because they'll know that we actually did something with the power we were gifted."

Chakrabarti's interview covered his optimism about potential progressives policy gains even if a pair of January runoff races in Georgia enable Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to stay in power and try to block Biden's agenda, as well as his thoughts on "the current state of the left" and what's changed over the past two years.

In 2018, seven Justice Democrats—three incumbents and the four young, progressive women of color collectively called the Squad—won seats in Congress. This year, Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) not only all held onto their seats, but they were joined by Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Marie Newman in Illinois.

"The people who've become leaders of the left in U.S. politics, they're in real seats of power now. The Justice Democrats have 10 members in Congress," he said. "Now they can negotiate as mature partners at a table. They have real power. That's a healthy place to be, and I think it's a really good place to be, especially if they're able to productively create change for the vast majority of Americans over the next two years—not just wins for the left, but everybody."

As for Biden, last month Chakrabarti's New Consensus released a memo detailing how, with or without the Senate, the next president can tackle "the task of ​rebuilding and renewing​ our republic, its supply chains and productive capacities, and its social fabric—what you have aptly called 'the Soul of our Republic.'"

"After decades of unremitting ​deindustrialization​ and ​infrastructural degradation​, along with the social unraveling that such decline always brings," the memo tells Biden, "our nation is in need of a thorough public health ​and​ industrial-infrastructural reconstruction—what you've called a 'Building Back Better​.'"

The president-elect, Chakrabarti told Politico, "can essentially do what both Barack Obama and George W. Bush did with the Fed in 2008 during the recession, when the federal government—the executive branch, the Treasury—worked with the Fed to basically create a financing scheme of creating liquidity and low-interest, long-term loans to bail out Wall Street banks in a crisis."

"Biden should do that exact same thing with the Fed," he said, "but instead of loans to bail out banks, create long-term investments and loans into American industry and into jobs to do exactly what Biden just campaigned on: build electric-car manufacturing plants, build clean-steel plants, build solar panel factories, build all these means of creating jobs in every community all across America."

"And also, use our Federal Reserve bank to provide low-interest financing to small businesses," he added. "This is a way to give them the money they need to survive past this pandemic and rebuild the economy in a way that roars."

Outlining the memo at The Nation, Chakrabarti noted: "This may sound unusual to some, but would in fact be returning the Fed to its original mission as a network of regional development banks. This is how we spur the next generation of start-ups in everything from electric vehicles to artificial intelligence, creating millions of high-wage jobs, just as Biden has envisioned in his plan to 'Build Back Better.' Further, since this money is provided in the form of low-interest loans to businesses, as the economy recovers and businesses prosper, the Fed will make its money back—with interest."

"By providing the Fed with an actual plan for making money directly available to Main Street instead of just Wall Street," he added, "Biden can have not just a faster recovery, he can also show the American people within his first two years that he is fighting with every tool at his disposal to create a booming, high-wage, and more sustainable economy that is building the industries of the future. Will Biden lead the charge?"

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