Biden Administration

Biden's Pick To Run the Commerce Department Is No Progressive

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo seems unlikely to double down on the past four years of economic foolishness at the Commerce Department.


In nominating Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to run the Commerce Department, President-elect Joe Biden has picked a pragmatic, centrist Democrat who understands the value of capitalism and who has a track record of standing up to public-sector unions.

First as the state's treasurer and then as governor, a post she's held since 2015, Raimondo has gained a reputation for bucking lefty special interests that typically dominate Democratic politics—no easy task in what's perhaps America's bluest state. She commissioned an independent analysis of the state's pension system in 2011 that revealed it had less than half of the long-term assets needed to remain solvent. That started a years-long effort to reform the system, despite the opposition of public sector unions. Raimondo succeeded by building a political coalition and bringing the looming crisis to the public's attention.

Raimondo also took on the public school establishment in Rhode Island. She blocked the passage of a bill that would have effectively banned the creation of new charter schools in the state, then backed efforts to expand charter schools in parts of the state.

As the head of the federal Commerce Department, Raimondo probably won't have much to say or do about school choice or pensions, of course. Still, her clear-eyed prioritization of economically sound policies in the face of opposition from the left is a welcome sign—particularly after four years in which the Commerce Department was used to implement politically motivated attacks on free trade and the once-per-decade census. Raimondo and Biden should act swiftly to undo the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, despite what some progressive Democrats would prefer.

Raimondo is not without some serious blemishes—notably her close ties to Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and longtime libertarian nemesis—but her selection seems to indicate that Biden is seeking to return the Commerce Department to its traditional role as a middle man between the presidency and corporate America after the Trump years saw the department take a more politicized tack.

That's not always a good thing, of course, and Raimondo's connections to Wall Street will certainly receive scrutiny.* But Raimondo looks like a better choice than many of the alternatives. Progressive groups like Data For Progress urged Biden to pick a candidate who would tackle "economic inequality" and the democratic socialist magazine Current Affairs said "environmental sustainability" should be a priority. Billionaire climate change activist and failed presidential candidate Tom Steyer was a name floated by some progressive groups, and he reportedly lobbied Biden's team for the job.

Despite being an often overlooked part of the federal Leviathan, the Department of Commerce's sprawling mandate means it plays a role in shaping policy on issues as diverse as climate change, international trade, and even congressional gerrymandering. In the hands of someone like Steyer, the Commerce Department's agenda would likely look a lot different than it will under Raimondo.

Since it oversees a lot of things that shouldn't really require the government to be involved at all, the best-case scenario for the Commerce Department is for Americans to forget it exists at all.

That, unfortunately, hasn't been the case for the past four years. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the few members of President Donald Trump's cabinet to serve the full four years, memorably made a fool of himself by promising that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would hardly be noticed by most businesses and consumers. It was an argument that undermined itself—the tariffs were intended to force businesses to make different purchasing decisions and thus would have to be noticed in order to work. Worse, Ross approved the vapid "national security" rationale for imposing those tariffs, then oversaw the development and operation of an opaque, confusing, and easily corrupted process to determine which American businesses could dodge those tariff costs.

Ross also led Trump's unsuccessful effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census, which would shift the once-per-decade redrawing of congressional districts and politically disenfranchise parts of the country with high immigrant populations.

In short, the Commerce Department for four years has been a tool for expanding bureaucratic control of the economy under the false premise that federal officials know how to run businesses better than the people who actually do—and for politicizing the normally rote functions of the government.

And that was before Democrats took charge. Thankfully, Raimondo seems like an unlikely candidate to double down on the past four years of economic foolishness. Perhaps we'll be able to forget about the Commerce Department once again.

*CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify details about Raimondo's private sector career. 

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  2. The serious kissing up has begun!

    1. Can they *please* dispose of that dopey “Office of the President Elect” bs? There’s no such thing. It’s just another made-up Dem bone stroking. Jeez!

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      Excluding people who arent supposed to be here from the census is the ultimate in “bureaucratic control”, not what they have in mind for Taxes and regs on business

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  3. Bull crap, the ‘commerce ‘ department should not even exist. She’s just another micro manager, just ‘ less bad ‘ you say.

    1. At this point, less bad is more than i could hope for…

  4. She is awful, I live in Rhode Island, she has managed to kill small business with her Covid response, she changed the pension system to one of the lowest performing portfolios in the country (with the highest fees), and she only cares about you if you have an Ivy league! Bad choice

    1. and she only cares about you if you have an Ivy league!

      What’s what we call “wrong within normal parameters” ’round these parts.

    2. I can count the politicians who aren’t completely awful on one hand. The best one can expect from Biden is “could be a lot worse”.

    3. Having lived in both RI and CA, I count it as one more seat Leland Yee can’t be placed in after his upcoming pardon. Although my guess is Biden is biding his time to appoint Yee as head of BATFE.

      1. With Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow as his deputy.

    4. Why is anyone paying fees on portfolios anymore? Basically history has shown us only a few select investors can beat the stock market over long periods of time. And they pay fees to get worse advice. Your portfolio manager is not Warren Buffet, I guarantee it.

  5. “Biden’s Pick To Run the Commerce Department Is No Progressive

    Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo seems unlikely to double down on the past four years of economic foolishness at the Commerce Department.

    —-Eric Boehm

    This is buffoonery.

    Joe Biden appears to have picked his Commerce, Treasury, Transportation, and Energy secretaries based primarily on their enthusiasm for his version of the Green New Deal.

    “When we meet this goal, Rhode Island will be the first state in America to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity,” said Governor Gina Raimondo last Friday, announcing her executive order directing the state’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) to conduct an economic and energy market analysis to develop actionable policies and programs. awards this goal.”

    —-Uprise Rhode Island, January 22, 2020

    Why pretend otherwise?

    Maybe he’s not pretending.

    Like I keep saying, I’m not convinced these people understand the difference between libertarians and authoritarians, capitalists and socialists, understand where progressives land in that equation–or understand why any of that matters.

    Maybe they just have no idea what they’re talking about.

    1. “Economic foolishness” here means further tariffs or restrictions on Chinese imports.

      It’s embarrassing what this magazine’s become.

      1. Yeah. Public sector employees aren’t economically foolish. Public sector unions aren’t economically foolish. Public sector unions negotiating pensions aren’t economically foolish. Allowing exorbitant public sector pensions, negotiated by public sector unions, to go dangerously underfunded is is economically foolish!

        Also, not giving is taking.

    2. I gotta be honest, I try not to read too much from people who in my opinion have no idea what they’re talking about.

      I’m curious why you do?

    3. But at least there won’t be any economic foolishness now that top (wo)men are making the decisions.

    4. What’s your plan for climate change Ken?

      1. Acknowledge that the earth’s climate changes on its own schedule? That it isn’t really controlled by human activity and isn’t an excuse for lots of Marxist bullshit from Marxist idiots?

        1. Bravo!

        2. Well, that’s just a lie Mark. Though I’d be happy to consult your sources.

    5. You might as well deal with it, green policy is Joe’s focus on economics, at least he didn’t pick the most progressive people.

  6. She’s fucking terrible, like all Blue State governors. RI’s uneomployment rate sucks, and is going up, mostly due to her Rona lockdowns. She’s a less attractive, less bitchy version of Whitmer.

    1. CNBC rated Rhode island the worst state for business in 2019. She’s an authoritarian nightmare, fully corrupted by critical theory thinking.

      Rhode island is lucky to be rid of her, but now the disease will spread.

      1. If even cnbc thinks she’s bad then she’s terrible she probably is.

    2. Yikes!

  7. I’m sure her views will be taken very seriously by Chuck and Nancy when they write all the legislation that Biden will sign.

  8. “Perhaps we’ll be able to forget about the Commerce Department once again.”

    NWS and NOAA are part of that so I expect we’ll be hearing LOTS from them.

  9. Incidentally, when Robby first came here, writing about free speech, he didn’t seem to understand the difference between the government restricting speech and private enterprise restricting speech. It was all just restricting speech to him.

    I saw Robby on Fox News last week explaining to the anchors why it’s important to keep differentiating between private enterprise and the government. He was right about that! He was persuasive. He understood it backwards and forwards. He has improved dramatically over the years!

    For Boehm, and anyone else who doesn’t really understand these things, here’s a basic primer:

    Authoritarianism: Using the coercive power power of government to force people to do things (or stop them from doing things) against their will.

    Libertarianism: The idea that people should be free to do as they please so long as they don’t violate anyone’s rights.

    Socialism: When the means of production are controlled by government, prices are set by the government, and wealth is distributed by the government.

    Capitalism: When the means of production are controlled by private parties, prices are set by markets, and wealth is distributed by markets.

    Progressivism: Using the coercive power of government to force individuals to make sacrifices for the greater good–as they see it–or for the benefit of one or more favored underprivileged classes.

    If you have definitions of these things that include those features but are more complicated, your definitions are probably valid.

    If you have definitions of these things that don’t include those features, your definitions are wrong.

    For instance, if you think the government taking control of the energy industry to force the elimination of fossil fuels in 15 years; the government spending $10 trillion on renewable energy so that the energy market is “equitable” for minorities and the poor; and using the coercive power of government to force these changes on the unwilling–is something other than authoritarian, socialist, or progressive?

    Then you are wrong!

    1. Your definitions of authoritarianism and progressivism are, of course, wrong. Unless the part of libertarianism where it’s OK for government to use violence against people is also “authoritarianism.”

      Authoritarianism is when an orange man Ken Shultz has been bending over backward to support for four years tries to murder Congress and take over the government. Glad to clear that up.

      Progressivism is wanting to change society for the better. Contrast to Ken, who wants to change it for the worse based on an incredibly restrictive normative value (singular).

      These are but vague approximations of complex movements with complex policy aims. We’re all a little bit of each one. The only time you should start to worry is when a movement starts to look like a very specific thing.

      As in actual Nazis using Nazi tactics. Your friends who also support Trump. I’m sure they’ll only enforce laws when people’s rights are violated. Just as soon as they are finished listing the rights they want to keep for themselves.

      1. Really? How do a few dozen unarmed people ‘murder Congress’?

        Oh, wait, you’re Tony. You believe whatever your prog masters order you to. So you aren’t worthy of debate, or respect. I would suggest you try harder, and do better. That would be a waste time. As you and I both know you’re too stupid and fanatical to be capable of any real personal growth, self awareness, or any amount of profundity.

        You have no value, but then, you don’t need it. Progs fail upwards.

        1. I do believe what I watch happen on live TV.

          Keep trying to downplay it as if I’m not perfectly wise to the tactics of the people who shovel nonsense into your brains.

          Try to downplay treason. If you succeed, I’ll give you a fucking gold star.

      2. Trump is gone. Continued TDS is silly.

        When you combine it with your often displayed misunderstanding of libertarianism, it is just sad.

        1. No I think I’ll go on bringing him up to anyone who ever supported him.

          They’re welcome to tell me they get it, they have a terrible headache, and they can’t explain their bizarre actions.

      3. “Progressivism is wanting to change society for the better.” Ken’s definition, “Using the coercive power of government to force individuals to make sacrifices for the greater good–as they see it–or for the benefit of one or more favored underprivileged classes,” is entirely consistent with your take on progressivism, although I think he’s being too nice. Many progressives could give a shit about making things better, from theirs or anyone’s perspective. Making problems worse and then crying to high heaven about it? That’s their bread and butter. You may be sincere in your belief that progressives want nothing but peace, love, and rainbows, but if you are, then you’re clearly too stupid and blinkered to see that we’re way past simple “authoritarianism” and well into full-blown totalitarianism. The Dems aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. Critical race theory, trans ideology, and related forms of special pleading are designed to court corporate and political power by creating systems of patronage. The Dems have effectively used these systems to coopt, shut down, or marginalize anyone on the left actually worth listening to (a few civil liberties advocates and antiwar holdouts who, unlike you, have both read and understood Orwell) while signal boosting consumerist morons who are fine with slave labor in China or a little recreational arson here and there as long as they can choose how to be pandered to. That’s your faction. Enjoy.

        1. Your problem is you can’t stand the thought of Democrats with democratic control so much that you think anything they want is totalitarian, while of course all the laws and massive structural changes you plan to make are simply nature taking its course. Between the two of you, Democrats are by far the more conservative.

          Except when it comes to all the cultural crap. This is what this is all about, isn’t it? Trans people. You think trans people will ever even be a factor in your life? Once or twice in your entire fucking life maybe?

          You’re letting people take advantage of your innate bigotry and turning you into something stupid enough to control and ask for political donations for a cause you can’t even explain in English.

  10. “Raimondo and Biden should act swiftly to undo the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration”

    They absolutely will do that. Biden knows he won the Presidency with the backing of Wall Street, multinational corporations, billionaires, and Reason staff. He won’t hesitate to reward his base.


    1. President Joe Chi Minh knows what side his bread is buttered on.

      1. Not bad. Needs work.

        Democrats giving you and old white dude nobody finds threatening really threw a wrench into your ratfucking, huh?

        I can just hear the Republican local party meetings. “It was so easy to turn him into the devil when he was black! We’re not going to have to come up with actual ideas, are we?”

  11. By the same line of thinking: as long as the people operating the Gulags pensions’ were solvent, Stalin was a non-progressive, centrist Democrat.

    She managed to turn down retirement benefits covering birth control for transgendered 65+ yr. olds! She’s a fiscally conservative hero (until we put her against the wall and shoot her)!

  12. Well she is very progressive, but far be it from reason to know what progressivism is

    1. She temporarily halted the progress of public employee’s pensions! How much more non-porgressive does she need to be?

  13. Question is will she be able to keep awake in cabinet meeting? That was always a problem for here predecessor.

    She will be good if she take the Department looking forward. Part of Trump’s and Ross’s problem was a focus on old industries in their final years. Tariff were to help industries that already on the way out the door. Eliminating regulations that did not help new industries but only those with a few years left.

    1. Like all progressives and socialists she will be good if she commits suicide

  14. Picking Walsh for labor tells us the Biden administration is not going to stand up against unions.

    1. Why would he have to stand up against unions?

      He very well might, considering he’s been the Senator from a million corporations his whole life. But unions are a constituent of Democrats. They’re supposed to serve their interests. And the more powerful unions are, the more powerful Democrats are.

      Similar for Republicans and neo-Nazis.

      1. Trump has a lot of union support, and de o rats have much more to offer bigoted socialists than a republican ever could.

        But that’s our Tony. Embarrassingly stupid and clueless.

  15. The libertarian-democrats are back in charge! This is as exciting as 2009!

    1. So lots of unemployment, corruption, pointless military adventures, constitutional overreach, and malaise?

  16. “memorably made a fool of himself by promising that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would hardly be noticed by most businesses and consumers”

    Yet the tariffs on sugar are hardly noticed by most business and consumers. Perhaps it’s just a story about frogs and water temperature. How many confectioner jobs are lost to save three sugar workers?

  17. i absolutely do not agree with this. A lot of people have no clue how politics actually is. This is the reason i try to stay away from politics as much as i can. I just left America for Africa and though it may seem like a bad decision to many, i know America is headed to nowhere with all the policies and ass-kissing going on in the country at the moment. well, if you’re wondering how i managed to get a job in Africa, this reason really did it for me. It provided me with all the insights to understand the job market in Africa.

  18. But wait! Trump is a “conservative” and/or “the most libertarian president ever”! Ha.

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  20. Other than trade deals why is there a department of commerce?

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