Bidenomics and the border: Overriding themes of the first 100 days
24th May 2021
November 19th 2019: US President Donald Trump is venting at a rally in Louisiana about his recent investigations surrounding Ukraine. Trump had allegedly tried to coerce Ukrainian public officials into digging up dirt on his most likely political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. “Like, we need help to beat sleepy Joe Biden”, Trump reassured the crowd of their inevitable victory. “I don’t think so.”
Fast forward just a year and a bit later: Biden is now in charge of Washington, and he has proven himself to be anything but “sleepy”. In fact, the largely assumed safe, moderate choice of the 2020 Democratic candidates has ironically emerged as one of the most progressive US Presidents in modern history. His first 100 days in office have been marked by a flurry of executive orders and the ground-breaking passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package, all of which has taken aback his opponents. The assumptions that the Biden White House would resemble that of a third-term Obama were just plain wrong. But how does he stack up against his predecessors so far?
In short, quite well. The Biden administration has been much more active than any of the previous administrations in terms of the number of executive orders, memos and substantive proclamations signed. Interestingly, of the 42 executive orders signed so far, 50% of them are revocations of previous orders, and almost all of them are related to former President Trump.
“In addition to these direct orders from the commander-in-chief, Biden’s flagship Covid-19 stimulus relief package has been particularly transformative in revitalising a stagnant US economy.”
The White House now also believes that a proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill and $1.8 trillion in social programmes will further increase America’s economic buoyancy and revitalise the jobs market. However, this boundless ambition has been met by concerns from critics that Biden’s expansionist programmes will eventually overheat the economy and replicate the famous stagflation that plagued the 1970’s during an oil crisis. One must note, however, that there are several differential factors between now and then, such as the world’s diminishing reliance on oil as a trade standard. Only time will tell who is proven correct.
Other differences onlookers may notice about the Biden White House is a sudden lack of media presence. In direct contrast to his predecessor, Biden appears to give as few interviews and press conferences as possible. In fact, Biden went the highest total number of days before giving a solo news conference of any US President ever, at just 65 days. While most will be glad to see a change from the media flurry that was his predecessor, it has again rung concerns about Biden’s cognisance amongst his most staunch critics. Incidents such as him tripping up the stairs to Air Force One, or gaffes such as when he said that he had joined the US Senate “120 years ago,” do not play well in the media. It is incidents such as these that the dreaded “senile” word once again begins to rear its ugly head.
Biden’s approval ratings so far have also been relatively stagnant, but incredibly partisan. He typically polls about 57% on average according to Gallup, and this is likely due to the successful vaccine rollout in the US coupled with economic recovery. However, these same approval ratings indicate that Americans are more polarised now than they were during the entirety of Trump’s term, with a seismic 83-point rating gap between Democrats and Republicans who approve of the Biden presidency. This is the widest gap in approval for the past number of decades and a testament to just how divided America remains despite Bidens calls for national unity in his inaugural address.
“Another key decision from the Biden White House has been the announcement of a full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by September 11th of this year; notable because it marks an entire two decades since the 9/11 attacks.”
The catastrophic event which shaped so much of America’s foreign policy over the past 20 years and resulted in two major failed wars under Bush and Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, will thankfully become a thing of the past, and the troops withdrawal will mark a distinct rejection of the ideological fallacy that was American imperialism across the world. It was Trump who originally struck the deal with the Taliban and Biden who will eventually execute the order to withdraw.
The final prevalent theme evident throughout the first 100 days has been the border and the difficult issue of immigration reform. Over 100,000 people attempted to enter the US through Mexico in February alone, a massive 28% increase from the month previous. Almost 10,000 of these were unaccompanied children, most of whom are led to “the wall” by smugglers who drop them from the barbed wire top plate over the other side, often at enormous heights.
The co-ordinator for the southwestern border on the National Security Council, Roberta Jacobson, outlined in clear terms that the border “is not open,” to those considering illegal entry. However, this also comes at a time when the federal agencies that deal with immigration are too often critiqued for being neglected and lacking in permanent leadership, in addition to a judicial system that is already backlogged with current asylum claims. It seems from this, that for America, some problems never change, regardless of who is in the White House.
It seems the Biden Administration is off to a good start. It has found consensus in its fiscal policy, relief bill and wielded the direct powers of the Oval Office to sign executive orders which please Democrats. Despite all this however, it must be remembered that most of the issues awaiting Biden will not draw such unanimity and be much more partisan, e.g., taxation, immigration, and healthcare. That will be the true decider of Biden’s legacy, and whether history will determine him as really being “sleepy,” or not. Sleepy Joe!