Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
The President campaigned on a platform to heal the divisions within America and bring the country back together. So far, Biden has named a remarkably diverse cabinet – a move which has helped minorities feel included in their government. He’s also changed the language and medium used to engage with the public to calm the political atmosphere. Remarkably, there have been few fights between the two parties in Washington, which is usually the main characteristic of US politics. These actions have set the tone for Biden’s presidency showing that he wants to represent everybody and re-introduce values of respect and trust into politics. It will be years before we truly understand if he has achieved his objective though, as this is as much a social mission as it is a campaign promise.
Gracie Daw - Deputy Politics Editor
The president has ardently pursued his campaign promises regarding the pandemic response since taking office. The recent passing of the historic American Rescue Plan Act worth $1.9 trillion will help support those struggling financially under restrictions and bolster the nation’s vaccine programme, which has already seen the rollout of over 200 million doses. However, Biden’s attempts to suppress the virus have not been smooth sailing. In recent weeks infection rates across the country have once again begun to rise, and with states such as Texas choosing to ease restrictions, it is likely the President could face an uphill battle in an area by which many will ultimately judge his competency.
Hannah Carley - Deputy Arts Editor
President Biden has announced a high-tax, high-spend policy to stimulate growth as the US emerges from COVID-19. The World Economic Forum’s report ranking the US’ infrastructure as the ‘13th best’ has touched a nerve as his $1.3 trillion infrastructure package was among the first of his economic policies released. The president has also announced a $2 trillion green energy plan. All of this will be paid for by reversing Donald Trump’s tax cuts and increasing capital gains tax, creating a tax system where the top 20 percent of households bear 93 percent of the proposed tax increase.
The greatest change President Biden has brought to US foreign policy is a change in tone. As early as November 24 2020, Biden announced that the US was “ready to lead” again and would immediately withdraw from its period of isolationism. No time was wasted in re-joining the WHO (World Health Organisation), the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Biden has demonstrated that confronting human rights abuses is a central part of his foreign policy agenda, as China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims has been punished with expanded sanctions and new sanctions have been placed on Myanmar. Most importantly, Biden has indicated that the US is committed to helping poorer countries with their vaccination programmes, as $4 billion has been given to the COVAX global initiative and he’s given his word that “If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world”.
The US’ relations with Russia and China remain fragile. Biden’s decision to publicly call Putin a “killer” indicates that the President isn’t interested in exchanging pleasantries with the Russian President, unlike Donald Trump. It’s not yet clear whether Biden will keep Trump’s antagonistic approach towards China, although it’s likely that he will attempt to hold back China’s economic prowess by encouraging the superpower to alter its economic practices.
Ed Halford - Politics Editor
During his election campaign Biden promised to reverse many of the previous administration’s immigration policies. So far, his administration has enacted a deal with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to temporarily increase border security to prevent migration and re-opened the controversial children’s migrant centre, Carrizo Springs, after changing policy to no longer turn away unaccompanied children at the border. These are decisions that can be attributed to the US facing a surge of migrants in February. The most recent change to immigration policy has been to the labels used by authorities to describe migrants in an attempt to de-escalate hostile attitudes.
Of all the issues the Biden administration faces, immigration is one of the most challenging with the least accomplished so far, facing opposition from both within the Democratic party itself and Republicans. While Biden has sent a bill to Congress aiming to fulfil his campaign promises regarding immigration, it is unlikely that it will reach the required votes within the Senate to pass without issue.
The President has introduced a $2 trillion American Jobs Plan which is a once in a generation package to sustainably restructure American infrastructure. This will materialise Biden’s campaign pledges to improve public health, provide low-emission municipal and inter-state transport, build resilience to natural disasters and establish universal broadband to help households that are locked out of the economy.
There is support from across the political spectrum for readdressing infrastructure, especially after snowstorms in Texas saw state-wide blackouts and left millions without running water. The main point of conflict will be the raising of corporate taxes to 28 percent, which Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said wouldn’t get votes from his side. If compromises can be made, it will give the President bargaining power for the future and pave the way for bipartisan engagement.
The start of Biden’s Presidency has been consumed with dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. He is fully committed to protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act which was introduced when he was Vice President. Using the expansion of the ACA, Biden has focused on tackling the Black Maternal Health Crisis and the Gun Violence Health Epidemic. These are key areas of importance for the Biden administration because the people most affected - have consistently been ignored. Tackling these health problems face on should lead to a less discriminative society.
Biden’s education strategy is to pump enough cash into the system in an effort to reduce inequities made apparent by COVID-19. So far, Biden has extended the pause on student loan payments to try and ensure that financial conditions aren’t a detriment to education. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act injects $125 billion into the Kindergarten-12th grade system and nearly $40 billion into higher education. The investment in education has been called “unprecedented.” With rising education costs becoming a pressing issue in the USA, Biden will now face pressure to pursue his promise to forgive $10,000 worth of student loans per student.
Setting the tone for his presidency, Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord just hours after being sworn into office. He then became the first American President in history to have a comprehensive climate change strategy. His $2 trillion plan includes $174 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, $80 billion to improve railways and $35 billion for climate-related research. The President has also pledged that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will not go ahead, and significantly, at April’s world leaders’ summit, he pledged to cut US carbon emissions to 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
These pledges offer a great deal of hope that the climate crisis can be tackled, something that was absent during the Trump era. But with a miniscule Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican party who are sceptical about climate change, putting these ambitious plans into practice will be challenging. Biden’s first 100 days have demonstrated that he cares about the climate crisis, but it will require a great deal of bipartisanship and all of Biden’s political experience over the next four years for real change to be realised.
In his inaugural address, Biden boldly proclaimed that the “dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer”, and his administration has pursued criminal justice reform as a means of addressing the deep-seated racial divisions that exist in the country. The signing of an executive order to phase out the involvement of private companies in the US prison system delivered on a key campaign promise and raised hopes that a Biden presidency would engage in reform of the prison-industrial complex and a crackdown on corporate profiteering. His administration has also supported The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, aimed at improving transparency and making law enforcement more accountable. Following the conviction of Derek Chauvin on April 20 2021, the issue of race relations in the United States remains very much at the forefront of the national conversation, and there are many obstacles still to overcome to ease racial tensions.