In his first address to Congress, Joe Biden laid out a vision for a sweeping change in U.S. socioeconomic politics aimed at a fairer distribution of national wealth.
The president stressed the need to defuse racial tensions after a series of killings of African American citizens, and promised to hold police officers accountable for the use of excessive force. He pledged to support a bill drafted by Democrats that would allow the highest possible number of citizens to vote in elections, unlike Republican initiatives to limit Democratic voter turnout in certain states. He also promised to make efforts to control access to firearms.
Biden spoke for a little over one hour on his 100th day in charge, a day used as a mark to assess new presidents and their accomplishments. He has primarily had success in fighting COVID-19 due to the vaccination program, which is developing at a faster pace than expected. He also noted that he managed to rescue the U.S. economy from a crisis, although the first efforts at doing so were made by Donald Trump.
The new president usually delivers his first address to Congress in February, a month after he is inaugurated. However, Biden’s speech was postponed by two months due to the pandemic, and extraordinary precautions were taken. The House of Representatives chamber is typically filled with around 1,400 people for the speech, including members of the House and Senate, and their guests. This year, however, only 200 people were allowed to attend, including nearly one-fourth of the members of Congress and senators, representatives of the U.S. Foreign Service, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and members of Biden’s Cabinet. Only a dozen or so people were allowed to sit in the gallery. All attendees wore masks; Biden only took his off to speak.
Biden To Increase Taxes
Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion spending plan aimed at providing a relief package for low and middle-income Americans. The plan offers subsidized child care for children aged 2 to 5 for the poorest families. This way, child care will cost these families no more than 7% of their income.
The plan would also guarantee three months of paid family and medical leave, which, for the time being, are provided only in some states or fully dependent on employment benefits. Another $109 billion would help to provide two years of free community college for low-income students and increase federal scholarships for tuition in other colleges. The plan also provides for various tax cuts for families with children.
Such enormous expenses would be funded by increased taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans. In previously reported plans, Biden proposed raising the tax rate from 21% to 28% on corporations and on those earning more than $400,000 per year. In his latest plan, Biden also called on Congress to substantially raise the tax rate on capital gains. The plans face harsh criticism from Republicans and their supporters from the right-leaning media, who all claim that the plans, mainly the tax increases, will hamper economic growth.
Going Further than Obama, Resembling Roosevelt
Congress has already passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill for various social purposes, and another $2.2 trillion plan designed to rebuild infrastructure is awaiting action by Congress. This project also includes other Democratic Party plans not directly related to infrastructure, but also aimed at reducing vast inequality. Barack Obama had similar plans to stimulate the economy with a substantial redistribution of national income through government spending, but could not act as boldly because he took office during a deep economic recession in 2009.
The economy is already gaining momentum and is projected to grow at record speed this year. Consequently, Biden and the Democrats who support him can allow themselves ambitious plans for increased government intervention and investment not only in social initiatives, but also in efforts to modernize the country. Biden’s presidency is beginning to reflect that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal fundamentally changed America and eased social tension.
In his address to Congress, however, the president noted winning the economic and civilization race with China, which attracts many developing nations with its autocratic model and economic success, is also at stake now. As Biden emphasized, the U.S. has been a model of democracy for the world until recently, and the current commitment to education and investment in science and cutting-edge technology can help democracy prevail once more.
Biden Has Yet To Call Andrzej Duda
As with most presidential addresses to Congress, international matters were brushed over. Biden noted that he has warned Vladimir Putin the U.S. will react firmly to hostility from Moscow. He also mentioned his plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, on the anniversary of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Biden’s focus is to repair the damage on the world stage caused by his predecessor in the White House. Namely, he wants to rebuild America’s weakened alliances and improve relations with the EU. Multiple European leaders have already received a call from Biden, but President Duda and many others have not yet been contacted.
The sharp division in U.S. politics is hampering Biden’s plans. The president, however, stressed that he wants to work with Republicans. In response, they persistently refuse to support his major initiatives, claiming that he is moving the U.S. toward “socialism.” Despite the opposition, Biden’s Democratic camp is willing to push through infrastructure and family support plans. The proposed bills can be passed with a simple majority vote as they have a direct impact on the national budget. If the plans succeed, they should improve America’s image and Biden’s approval rating, currently at 53%.