- Gerardo Lissardy
- BBC News World, New York
Something may sound paradoxical in these first 100 days of Joe Biden in the White House: The oldest president to take office is driving a maelstrom of surprising change for this country.
Many expected that this 78-year-old politician, an exponent of the old Democratic guard, would seek to “lower the ball to the ground” as president after the chaotic and divisive term of Donald Trump.
After all, Biden himself took office by calling the country to “unity,” a word he repeated eight times in his January 20 inauguration speech.
But, in the hundred days since then, Biden has made it clear that call was far from implying that his government was lukewarm or timid.
Faced with a host of colossal challenges, such as a health crisis due to the covid-19 pandemic, an economic crisis due to the collapse of activity, a political crisis due to the rift between parties, a social crisis due to racial tensions and an ecological crisis For climate change, Biden proposes a series of bold and unprecedented reforms in the modern history of this country.
Joan Hoff, a prominent historian who headed the Center for the Study of the U.S. Presidency, points out that you have to go back to Franklin Roosevelt’s first term in 1933, when he launched his New Deal against the Great Depression, to find something “as bold and all-encompassing” as Biden’s agenda.
“But remember that Roosevelt was only dealing with one economic crisis. So in the sense that Biden is dealing with three, four or five crises, his is the most ambitious attempt to address those crises that we have seen in US history. .UU. “, Hoff tells BBC Mundo.
“Toward the left”
A common denominator of the reforms proposed by Biden is that they place the federal government at the center of the response to the country’s challenges, expanding its role in various areas.
Plans include allocating trillions of dollars to social programs childcare, pre-school or tertiary education, climate change mitigation and job creation through the construction of infrastructure such as roads, airports or access to drinking water.
Biden proposed to fund those “Jobs” and “Families” plans at a cost of $ 4 trillion with tax increases on corporations and the richest 1% in the country.
Those initiatives are in addition to a $ 1.9 trillion “Rescue Plan” approved in March, with direct payments to Americans and additional unemployment benefits in the face of the pandemic.
The president defends these proposals as part of a fight for democracy.
“In our first 100 days together, we acted to restore people’s faith that our democracy delivers,” Biden said Wednesday, in his first presidential address to Congress.
“We are vaccinating the nation, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he continued.
“We are delivering real results, people can see them, feel them in their own lives. Opening doors of opportunity. Ensuring a little more fairness and justice. That is the essence of America. That is democracy in action.”
Biden mentioned there Roosevelt and his call to act, “in another era in which our democracy was put to the test”, and alluded to a history of “investments that only the government was in a position to make” to boost the country.
But Biden’s initiatives at the domestic level pose, according to experts, a change in the dominant economic consensus in Washington, which put the market (and not the government) as the engine of the economy and distributor of wealth.
“We never saw these kinds of progressive suggestions from any government, Republican or Democratic,” Hoff notes. “Thus, domestic politics clearly leans consistently to the left. However, foreign policy remains to be seen.”
“The change is big enough to describe it as a break with neoliberalism“says JW Mason, a member of the Roosevelt Institute, in an interview with BBC Mundo.
A risky bet
Driving such a transformation is a risky gamble for any president of this country, including Biden.
From an economic point of view, its critics point to the danger that the expansion of public spending will increase the fiscal deficit, public debt and inflation, or that the stimuli will overheat the economy.
In fact, with more than 43% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose against covid-19, a fall in the contagion curve and an easing of restrictions, there are already signs of a strong economic rebound in the United States.
GDP expanded 1.6% in the first quarter of the year, and its acceleration compared to the end of 2020 projects an annual growth rate of 6.4%.
On the other hand, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan non-governmental organization, estimates that the jobs plan alone with its infrastructure improvements would increase the deficit by US $ 900,000 million in a decade.
Covering its final cost with taxes provided to the corporations would take 15 years and the deficits would be reduced in the long term.
On the climate side, the president also showed courage by promising to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 52% by the end of this decade from 2005 levels.
But with Washington’s current polarization, the biggest obstacle to Biden’s agenda remains political.
Republicans were quick to present the president’s plans as too left-oriented and damaging to the economy.
“Our better future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you, the American people, “said Republican Senator Tim Scott in response to Biden’s speech on Wednesday.
Against the clock
One area that clearly reflects Biden’s difficulties in moving forward with his big plans is migration.
Upon taking office, the president proposed a broad reform that opens the path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented foreigners living in the United States and revives the notion that this is a country of immigrants.
However, a sharp increase in the flow of irregular migrants trying to enter the United States from Mexico has created pressure for the president: Republicans accuse him of provoking a border crisis and from the left ask him to improve the reception of newcomers. .
In his speech on Wednesday, Biden again asked Congress to approve his immigration proposals, which include resources to attack problems such as violence and corruption in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, from where a large part of the migrants come.
But, at the same time, he suggested a less ambitious agreement covering thousands of undocumented youth who came to the United States as children (the so-called dreamers), immigrants with Temporary Protected Status and agricultural workers.
“If they don’t like my plan, let’s at least approve what we all agree on,” the president proposed to Congress.
Some experts anticipate that Biden could get his infrastructure plan voted, but he will also have a hard time getting Republicans and even some conservative Democrats in the Senate to support the expansion of welfare.
Joshua Sandman, a political science professor at the University of New Haven and an expert on presidential behavior, believes there is popular support for those plans, but thinks Biden is racing against time despite having approval ratings above 50%.
“It is likely that the Democrats will lose the House of Representatives in (the midterm elections of) 2022, and they will also lose the Senate,” Sandman tells BBC Mundo.
In his view, it is not despite age but because of her and her long experience that Biden is in such a hurry.
“The years teach wisdom,” he says. “He doesn’t have much time.”
Now you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download nakedstra app and activate them so you don’t miss our best content.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.