As of March 1, we’ve had more than a month to observe Joe Biden’s tenure as president of the United States. There aren’t many bars lower than the one set by former President Donald Trump for modern presidencies, as Trump’s approval rating ended up at a low of 38.6%, and he left over 400,000 dead bodies in his wake. So, let’s see how Biden is stacking up so far. It’s only been a month and many of these things may change, but I still believe there is merit in scrutinizing. There’s always merit in challenging institutional power. So, let’s review. What has Joe Biden done? Has he kept his promises?
COVID-19 vaccine rollout is certainly better under Biden, to name a positive. The New York Times lists that average doses administered have reached 1.94 million doses per day. This rollout is infinitely better than what Trump had slated, which was, apparently, nothing. The Biden administration had to start from scratch on their plan to vaccinate the country and end the pandemic. At the current pace of vaccinations, along with total immunity from previous infections, we could expect to reach the herd immunity threshold around July of this year. All in all, pretty good. Without Trump’s abhorrent handling of COVID-19, I doubt Biden would’ve gotten elected in the first place, so I’d hope he would take it seriously.
But the COVID-19 stimulus is a different story. I have to start with the awful optics of decreasing the stimulus checks to $1,400 from the $2,000 that Biden promised to every American. Lately, that number has gone down to $1,400 as the bill passes to the Senate. Defenders of this change have said $600 and $1,400 add to $2,000, referring to the stimulus amount in Trump’s recent bill, but that argument is terrible. The American people were promised $2,000 checks. It wouldn’t cost that much more, especially in a stimulus bill that pays nearly $1.9 trillion dollars already. The Democrats aren’t convincing anyone who would’ve voted against it (Senate Republicans) to vote for it by shaving off the money. It’s an absolute failure. If the bill fails in the Senate, then it’s even more of a disaster. Not only would the Democrats lose the pittance they were going to give to the American people, but they would have exposed their willingness to renege on their campaign promises as well.
Along with the stimulus, another major promise was to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour rather than the current minimum wage of $7.25. The Parliamentarian of the United States Senate ruled that the plan for $15 cannot be put within a stimulus bill of this nature. The initiative also died with the $2,000 dollar check; Democrats focused on expediting the stimulus’s passage rather than working on the larger issue of the minimum wage. I understand the pragmatism, but this seems to be the first cop-out in a long string of failures to raise the minimum wage. That’s my gut feeling, at least.
Additionally, Trump was criticized for heavily using U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and detaining migrant children in cages, and little has been done on that front. Although ICE and the many detention centers are run by private corporations, the executive branch certainly has the power to change federal policy on the matter. Trump used that power, approaching Congress and pushing for massively increasing our border security to build his wall.
Will Biden follow former President Barack Obama’s legacy of “Deporter in Chief”? Biden promised “fair and humane” immigration to the United States — how has he performed on that front? Well, not great.
Recently, Biden reopened a facility used by Trump to handle the large influx of migrants. But Biden has also passed a trio of executive orders to reunite migrant families, along with trying to reverse Trump’s “America First” policies and strict border control. But those processes take a while. As things are now, it looks like we won’t receive a substantial change to the immigration system for a while, which is disappointing but still leaves open the question of his approach to immigration.
On foreign policy, Biden doesn’t seek to immediately end the so-called “Forever Wars,” given his recent move to bomb Iranian militant groups in Syria, which is incredibly disappointing to say the least. Previously, he actually made moves to de-escalate in the Middle East, rescinding support for U.S. operations in the region. Biden justified this strike by asserting it was in self-defense, a claim even Democrats in Congress questioned.
So, all in all, how do I think Biden is performing? Not great, admittedly. I think he falls into the traps that many of his predecessors did: being entrenched in precedent, being caught by obstructionists and curtailing meaningful advances in favor of a vague ideology of “compromise.”
I’m thrilled COVID-19 is being handled more competently, but the bar for that was inches above the ground. Otherwise, he is disappointing thus far, making concessions in the wrong places and falling into the pitfalls his predecessors did. He’s a neoliberal tool, someone who cares more about maintaining the status quo than making real advances. But we’ve still got a hell of a lot of time left. Hopefully, my cynicism will be defeated.
Sam Fogel can be reached at email@example.com.
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