BIDEN ADMINISTRATION’S UNYIELDING “CORRECTNESS” CAUSE FOR CONCERN
It has been three weeks since the start of the Biden administration, and we are getting a better idea of its objectives. Veteran journalist Taro Kimura, appearing as a guest on my “Genron” Friday Internet TV news show, observed on February 5:
“Although none of his cabinet secretaries is far left, I was convinced that their policy will lean strongly left when I heard Susan Rice make a statement on January 26 about the racial equity initiative being advanced by the administration.”
As Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Rice advises Biden on his domestic policies across the board. Rice emphasized during a press briefing at the White House that all federal government agencies need to “place equity at the ‘core of their public engagement.’”
To understand the significance of her remarks, one must come to grips with what “equity” signifies in the English language (I will explain this later). Rice told White House reporters:
“The President has committed the whole of our government to advancing racial justice and equity for all Americans. I have the support of every White House office and every agency in this work, because, as President Biden has made clear, advancing equity is everybody’s business. Tackling these challenges, though, is personal for me. I’m the descendant of immigrants from Jamaica and enslaved Americans. My grandparents and my parents are beneficiaries of the American Dream—and so am I.”
Rice went on to point out that systemic racism and economic and social inequality in the US “still put the American Dream far out of reach for too many American families.” She further pointed out:
“Black and Latino families with children are twice as likely to be experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic as white families. And Black and Latino Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19.” If racial gaps in income and opportunity can be closed, America could add US$5 trillion to its economy over the next five years and add over 6 million new jobs for all Americans, Rice noted. Because of discrimination against families of color and racial inequity, however, “the US economy has lost a staggering $US16 trillion over the last 20 years.”
On the same day Rice spoke, Biden signed four executive orders to fulfill his campaign promise to increase racial equity in the US. Kimura opined that “equity” markedly characterizes the policies of the Democratic Party.
Equity at Root of Democratic Party
“Every agency will place equity at the core of their public engagement,” Kimura said, “and she will be committed to monitoring how they fulfill their requirements.” Now, there is a word resembling ‘equity’—‘equality” which means that all men are created equal. This is the fundamental principle of the Declaration of Independence, in which ‘equity’ does not appear. Put simply, ‘equity’ means ‘equality of outcome.’”
Following Rice’s assertion, since Blacks (and other minorities) in America have been systematically treated unfairly over time, the situation must be rectified by whatever means necessary, including artificial means. This is what is meant by “equity.”
Rice places equity at the root of the policies of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, prominent columnist Jason Riley refuted her position in an opinion column of The Wall Street Journal (February 2) entitled Progressives Put the Racial ‘Equity’ Squeeze on Biden. Riley maintained:
“Milton Freedman said ‘the society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither,´ while ‘the society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.’”
Riley had this to say about the policies implemented by former President Trump which Biden and Rice have bitterly criticized:
“Blacks and Hispanics experienced record low poverty and unemployment rates before the pandemic under President Trump, who has rarely been accused of bending over backward to help minorities…If history is any guide, what Blacks most need from the government is for it to get out of the way.”
Citing a number of specific examples, the columnist maintained that the equity measures the Biden administration is pursuing will in fact get in the way of success of Blacks and other minorities. Incidentally, Riley is Black and has authored Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Hard for Blacks to Succeed (Encounter Books; 2016).
Needless to say, the Biden administration should hold up noble ideals in pursuing racial equality. But I fear his pursuit of universal equity is running the risk of preventing a free development of abilities among American minorities while becoming a serious cause of a further division within American society. Kimura observed:
“What Rice said had an immediate impact on Yale, a leading university on the East Coast. Yale University has a system setting the quota for new students on the basis of racial balance. Last October, the Trump administration filed a high-profile discrimination lawsuit alleging that the university was practicing ‘reverse discrimination.’ The Biden Justice Department dropped the lawsuit on February 3.”
Pushing Myanmar Closer to China?
One wonders if the Biden administration may not be becoming a little too unyielding and inflexible in its zeal to pursue “correctness” in its policies. What will happen if that should be reflected in America’s foreign policy? Let’s take the case of Myanmar.
On February 1, the Myanmar military staged a military coup and arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Myanmar is crucial for neighboring China strategically and geopolitically: if it controls the socialist nation, China will be able to build a pipeline from its southwestern Yunnan Province to the Bay of Bengal in order to import oil from the Middle East without passing through the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the US desperately needs to prevent Myanmar from being taken into the Chinese camp in light of its strategies involving the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea.
In 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar for an historic meeting with Suu Kyi. The following year Obama became the first sitting US president to visit the country. As Myanmar got closer to the US, it called off a $US3.6 billion project with China to construct a hydroelectric dam in Myitsone in northern Myanmar.
Beijing has since tenaciously endeavored to enhance ties with Myanmar, inviting its leaders—especially those with the NLD which constitutes Suu Kyi’s support base—to all-expenses-paid visits to China. More than 1,000 such visits have reportedly been arranged. Against such a backdrop, the Myanmar government started suppressing the Rohingya minority Muslim group in 2016. Relations between the US and Suu Kyi have soured. The military coup may be seen as a test of the Biden administration’s posture toward Myanmar.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately took a rigid stand, declaring the US would impose sanctions against Myanmar. But Washington faces a dilemma. The more sternly the US deals with Myanmar, the closer toward China will the socialist state be pushed. That must be avoided under all circumstances.
Desired objectives in international relations cannot be attained with “correctness” alone. Will the US be able to deal with China shrewdly while keeping Myanmar within its camp? I cannot help but be concerned about the Biden administration’s aim to wrap all of its policies in the flag of “correctness.”
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 938 in the February 18, 2021 issue of The Weekly Shincho)