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Joe Biden’s first year: Covid, climate, the economy, racial justice and democracy | Joe Biden

Joe Biden’s first year: Covid, climate, the economy, racial justice and democracy | Joe Biden

A Covid testing site in Los Angeles this week. The Omicron variant has set back progress made in tackling the coronavirus.

Joe Biden, 46th president of the United States Capitol in Washington, took the oath to office one year ago. An inauguration ceremonyDue to pandemic restrictions, the usual crowds are absent.

Biden identified four crises facing America, namely the coronavirus (the climate, the economy, and racial justice). Biden could have added another: a crisis affecting democracy in a nation divided after the capture of the Capitol by insurgents two weeks before.

How has he performed on all five counts

Coronavirus

Biden took office pledging to lift the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, which he called “a raging virus” that “silently stalks the country”. There was a time in his presidency when it seemed that he had.

As the virus receded and the economy recovered, vaccination rates shot up last summer. Touting the administration’s progress at an Independence Day celebration, Biden declared that the US was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus”.

The Delta variant was followed by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Biden tried to rein in travel, but it did not slow down the spread. Covid-19 cases reached 3.000 in recent weeks. Record-breaking levels. The number of Americans hospitalized for the disease is on the rise and deaths are increasing nationally.

Long lines to obtain Covid tests and low availability of at-home tests have sparked criticism of the White House’s preparedness, while shifting guidelines and muddled messaging from federal public health officials left a disease-weary public Confusedand frustrated. Public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic has Significantly decreasedHis overall approval ratings have dropped.

Biden responded by ordering 1bn in-home coronavirus testing and is requiring private insurers to cover up to eight of the costs. Biden also announced plans to make “high-quality” masks available to Americans free of charge and deployed military medical units to help hospitals overwhelmed by a shortage of staff and beds. The Defense Production Act is being leveraged by the administration, which is working with pharmaceutical firms to increase the supply antiviral pills.

A Covid testing site in Los Angeles this week. The Omicron variant has set back progress made in tackling the coronavirus.
Los Angeles has a Covid testing facility this week. Progress made in fighting the coronavirus has been halted by the Omicron variant. Photograph: Joe Kohen/Rex/Shutterstock

Nearly 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. Nearly 77 million also received a booster shot. The misinformation and partisanship continue thwarting efforts to increase vaccination rates. A supreme court ruling this week prevented the Biden administration’s enforcement of a vaccine-or test mandate for large companies, but it allowed a mandate for most healthcare workers.

In response to the latest wave, the Biden administration has shifted its rhetoric – and its expectations. Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, said the Omicron variant would “find just about everybody”, warning that the unvaccinated risk far worse outcomes.

Climate

In his inaugural address, Biden promised to heed the planet’s “cry for survival” by marshalling an unprecedented response to the climate crisis. But his ambitious plans have since collided with the reality of an evenly divided Senate, where a coal-state senator’s opposition has thwarted major pieces of the president’s climate agenda, with potentially dire consequencesFor the planet.

Biden made a pledge to the US that it would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. This was at the international talks in Glasgow last January. But failure to enact the president’s Build Back Better legislation would make it nearly impossible for the US to meet that target.

The roughly $2tn proposal would amount to the nation’s largest ever investment in combatting climate change and contains a suite of tax incentives, grants and other policies that would grow the green energy sector and invest in sustainable vehicles and public transport services. Without it, the Biden administration will have to rely upon a number of environmental regulations and rules that could easily be overturned by future presidents.

Biden has made climate change a priority throughout his first year in office. He elevated climate advocates to high-ranking positions, created a White House Office of Domestic Policy, and appointed John Kerry to be the special presidential envoy. This position was made a cabinet-level one. He was inaugurated as the special presidential envoy for climate in April. ConvenedA summit to press world leaders to make stronger pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to reaffirm US leadership on the international stage.

A house is engulfed in flames in Boulder county, Colorado, last month as the wildfire season grows longer and blazes affected more suburban areas.
As the wildfire season continues to grow, a Boulder County, Colorado house was set on fire by flames. Photograph: Boulder Police Department/Zuma Press Wire Service/Rex/Shutterstock

Biden used his executive authority to quickly reverse many of former president Donald Trump’s energy and environmental policies, starting with his first day in office when he moved to rejoin the Paris climate accords.

Biden, November Signed into law A bipartisan infrastructure bill worth $1tn that provided billions of dollars for communities to be more resilient to climate-driven disasters but did not reduce planet-warming emissions.

The US played an important role at the last year’s international talks regarding global efforts to combat climate change. However, some activists and world leaders were disappointed by the final agreement. “This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes, an existential threat to human existence as we know it and every day we delay the cost of inaction increases,” Biden Glasgow

Yet the coming weeks and months will be critical for Biden’s climate goals, and his legacy. The president’s Build Back Better legislation is doomed without Senator Joe Manchin’s support and it remains unclear if negotiations can be revived. Next month the supreme court will hear a case brought by Republican-led states and coal companies that could significantly restrict the administration’s power to regulate carbon emissions driving climate change.

And if Republicans gain control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections, action on climate change could stall, potentially for years.

Economy

It is both the best and the worst times. The White House ended 2021 by pointing out that there were 50 million fewer jobless claims than in 50 years. This is despite a stock market that has broken all records and an economy that is among the most dynamic in the world.

Biden has created 6.4 million new jobs, which is the largest number of first-year presidents in history. At the time he was elected, the unemployment rate stood at 6.3%. It is currently 3.9%This is the lowest pandemic death to date.

The economy is experiencing strong consumer demand, which is expected to lead to a 7% increase in GDP over the last quarter of 2021. However, Omicron, which has devastated airlines and restaurants, will likely slow down growth.

Wages are also on the rise. With a Record breaking number of people quit their jobsTheir hourly wages increased 4.7% in December compared to last year.

The stock market is flourishing. The Standard and Poor 500 index surpassed new records 70 times and ended up 29% in 2021. This beat Donald Trump’s first year as president when the S&P 500 hit new records 62 times and finished up 17%.

A help wanted sign appears in a shopping mall in Gurnee, Illinois, last month. Joe Biden added more jobs in 2021 than any president in his first year.
Last month, a sign indicating that he is a help needed appeared in Gurnee’s shopping center. Joe Biden created more jobs in 2021 than any other president during his first year. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

There is, of course, a “but” coming. The economy is still a mere 3.6 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels. Many employers are having trouble filling these positions and many people hesitate to return to work.

The most alarming aspect of this was that inflation rose to 7% in 2021, which is the largest 12-month gain in 40 years. However, supply chain problems caused some supermarket shelves to be empty. This resulted in a barrage Republican criticisms and fed a FeelingEconomic malaise, regardless of its reality.

Allan Lichtman,A distinguished professor of history at American University, Washington, stated: “The economy is actually better than the perception. Unemployment is now down to 3.9%. Many millions of jobs were created and you’re going to get inflation under those circumstances. But the message hasn’t gotten out. Everybody thinks Biden’s done a poor job.”

Frank Luntz,A Republican pollster and strategist argues that Biden has overpromised. “The entire economy is seizing up, and people do blame Biden because he was trumpeting how successful he had been,” he said. “Don’t do that.”

Racial justice

“President Biden met with some of the civil rights leadership and we reminded him …You said the night you won that Black America had your back and that you were going to have Black America’s back,” activist Al Sharpton Participated in a rally for voting rightsAugust “Well, Mr President, they’re stabbing us in the back.”

Biden has yet to fulfill his promise. He has fulfilled some of his promises to ensure racial equality in policy. The $1.9tn early coronavirus relief package for Black farmers included $5bn. most important legislationSince 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 64 has been applicable to this group.

Biden names a historically diverse administration, which includes interior secretary Deb Haaland and the first Native American cabinet secretary. Kamala Harris, a woman of color, is the first to serve as vice president. Intractable problems to solve and her approval rating is even lower than Biden’s.

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However, reforms in police have been stalled. Biden reneged on his campaign promise to create a national oversight commission for police in his first hundred days.

Talks in Congress over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aims to improve police training, curb use of excessive force and end techniques such as chokeholds, collapsed in September in what Jacari Harris, executive director of a foundation named after Floyd, described as “a devastating setback”.

Aaron Xavier Wilson holds the same banner he displayed during a ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks’ march in support of racial justice last year as he poses for a photo on the National Mall in Washington in May 2021.
Aaron Xavier Wilson holds a banner he displayed last year during a march to support racial equality as he poses for a photograph in Washington in May 2021.Photograph by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Most dramatically, the president’s lobbying efforts have failed to deliver on protecting voting rights for people of colour. National legislation to curb Republican-led state efforts impose voter restrictions has been stalled in Senate. This is despite a 50-50 split between Democrats & Republicans.

Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Snemathey have voted against reforming the filibuster (a procedural rule) that was necessary to pass the legislation. Critics accuse Biden, who is accused of being too slow and too late in addressing the issue. He also failed to use his bully pulpit as a way to give it the same priority that his bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Some campaigners were disappointed and frustrated when Biden traveled to Atlanta this week in an effort to make his most assertive case yet for filibuster Reform. The event was boycotted.

Charles Blow, columnist for The New York Times wrote: “For a year, activists have been screaming and pleading and begging and getting arrested, trying to get the White House to put the full weight of the presidency behind protecting voting rights, only to be met by silence or soft-pedaling.”

He added: “When Biden fully entered the battle, the other warriors were already bloody, bruised and exhausted.”

Democracy

In his inaugural address, Biden proclaimed: “We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.” Restoring the soul of the nation, he added, requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: “Unity.”

Biden struck a very new and different deal at the US Capitol almost a full year later. More pugnacious tone “I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy,” he vowed, signaling a belated realisation that instead of repairing the breach with Republicans, he must now stand in it and fight.

Biden, who ran as an apostle of bipartisanship and won with Republican support for a $1tn law on infrastructure, was elected to office. The radicalised opposition party is still opposed to legislation that would codify national voting rights protections (see above).

Republicans remain In the iron grip of Trump, his “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him and the delusion that the January 6 insurrection was inconsequential or even a righteous cause.

Trump supporters and election deniers are running for office as secretaries and other positions that would allow them to run for future elections. This could give them the power overturning results they do not like.

The Rev Al Sharpton, Andrea Watters King and Martin Luther King III hold a press conference on voting rights in Washington in September 2021
In September 2021, the Rev Al Sharpton and Andrea Watters King campaigned for voting rights in Washington. Photograph: Allison Bailey/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

This year Biden has begun to speak out forcefully on the voting rights issue – “Do you want to be the side of Dr King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?” he demanded in Atlanta – but less so on the more insidious, precinct-by-precinct threat to the electoral process.

Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, According to the Guardian last month: “At the state level we’re raising hell about it but the Democrats on the national level are talking about Build Back Better, the infrastructure bill, lots of other things.”

Biden’s mission to heal divisions has crashed into polarisation that has only been accelerated by the pandemic and its battles over mask and vaccine mandates, as well as Republican-stoked culture wars over schools and critical race theory. Trump is not fading away. Trump is now resuming his campaign rallies in anticipation of a possible run to the White House in 2024.

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