Evaluating Biden

On the one hand we know we can’t relax — the forces of crazy are still trying to disrupt U.S. democracy — but on the other hand it’s exhilarating to have a President who is not a constant irritation, who (every day) isn’t a danger to push the nuclear button and blow us all up. Joe Biden has done well so far, but he has a very difficult job. 6 months from now, what should we reasonably expect him to have accomplished?

1.Get on top of the Pandemic.  At this writing, more than 27 million Americans have contracted Covid-19 and 460 thousand have died.  The infection rate has declined to 130,000 per day.  About 8 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated — with a current vaccination rate above 1.25 million per day.

Biden has a clear target: “…fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer…” (The U.S. population is roughly 330 million.)  If we achieve this target, by the end of the summer — Labor Day — most Americans, who want to be vaccinated, will be vaccinated.  It’s unclear if we will have reached the threshold for “herd immunity.”

Biden’s Labor-Day target also includes getting kids back to school — after sanitizing the schools. In the most recent Monmouth Poll (https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_012721/), when asked about pressing national concerns, the top concern was “education and schools; 84 percent of respondents said that dealing with education and schools was “extremely important” or “very important.”

Biden’s Labor Day target also means reopening most of the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic; for example, restaurants.  Because some US regions will resist vaccination — just as they now resist wearing masks and social distancing — Americans won’t be able to travel everywhere.

2. Stabilize the economy. President Biden has made his first order of legislative business the passage of “the American Rescue Plan:”  (1) Aid to individuals: $1400 direct payment; Increase in unemployment insurance; increase in minimum wage to $15 per hour. (2) Aid to families: extending the eviction/foreclosure moratorium until September; increasing child-tax credit. (3) Aid to states and local governments.  (4) Aid to schools.  (5) Funds for COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

This is a big financial package constructed by the Biden team in order to jumpstart an economy that’s in the doldrums.  The US Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported:  “[US] Real GDP decreased 3.5 percent in 2020 (from the 2019 annual level to the 2020 annual level)… The decrease in real GDP in 2020 reflected decreases in [consumer price index], exports, private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government.”  The unemployment rate is 6.7 percent and there are 10.7 million unemployed workers — there are also 7.3 million workers (technically) not in the workforce but wanting a job.  Assistance is needed in most sectors of the economy — except for the very wealthy.

I’m assuming that Biden’s “Rescue Plan” will pass Congress by the end of February.  The plan should bear fruit by Labor Day.

3. Punish the insurrectionists.  In the most recent Monmouth Poll (https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_012721/), 83 percent of respondents said that dealing with “domestic terrorism and hate groups” was “extremely important” or “very important” — one of the top three concerns.  In this context, the Biden Administration needs to ensure that those responsible for the January 6th insurrection are brought to justice.

An important step in this process is the (second) impeachment of Donald Trump.  The Department of Justice and FBI are investigating the other leaders of the insurrection.  (This process would be facilitated by the Senate confirmation of Merrick Garland as Attorney General.)

By summer, the insurrection leaders should be charged and , hopefully, the political climate will improve.

4. Expand healthcare. The most recent Monmouth Poll (https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_012721/), indicates that 81 percent of respondents described Healthcare as “extremely important” or “very important.”  Accordingly, it should be a top Biden priority to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act.  Perhaps by adding a public option, a government-run health insurance agency.

Democrats ability to do this will be dependent upon the nature of the newly agreed upon rules for governing the Senate — what happens to the filibuster.

5. Protecting the vote: The most recent Monmouth Poll (https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_012721/), indicates that 75 percent of respondents described protection of voting rights as “extremely important” or “very important.”  Accordingly, House Democrats have reintroduced their “For The People Act” (also known as “HR 1”)  which would expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.

Democrats ability to do this will be dependent upon the nature of the newly agreed upon rules for governing the Senate — what happens to the filibuster.

6. Strengthen the Democratic Party.  In 2009, in the afterglow of Barack Obama’s victory, many Democrats took a vacation from politics, with disastrous results.  In 2010, Republicans surged: capturing control of the House of Representatives and eroding Democratic control of the Senate.  (Republicans also strengthened their hold over State legislature, which permitted them to gerrymander at will.)  In 2022, Dems can’t afford a replay of what happened in 2010.

At this writing, the Senate has a 50-50 split and Democrats control the House by a narrow margin — 222 – 211 with 2 seats still contested.

In 2022, there are four Republican Senate seats that are up-for-grabs: North Carolina (Burr — retiring), Ohio (Portman — retiring), Pennsylvania (Toomey — retiring), and Wisconsin (Johnson).  Democrats have good chances in each of these races — if  they start planning now.  Dems also have a good chance of expanding their House majority.  Democrats need to start working on the 2022 midterm election.

Summary:  By this summer, President Biden, and congressional Democrats, have a good shot at passing significant legislation.  At the moment, Biden has the confidence of the American people.  Hopefully, this will continue.