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Biden pitches big government as antidote to crises

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By JULIE PACE
APTOPIX Biden 100 Days Congress
President Joe Biden turns from the podium after speaking to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Forty years ago, a newly elected American president declared government the source of many of the nation's problems, reshaping the parameters of U.S. politics for decades to come. On Wednesday night, President Joe Biden unabashedly embraced government as the solution.

In an address to a joint session of Congress and the nation, Biden offered up government as both an organizing principle for the nation's democracy and an engine for economic growth and social well-being. He issued a pointed rejoinder to the fiscal philosophy espoused by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, arguing that “trickle-down economics has never worked," and offered in its place an eye-popping $4 trillion in new government spending to bolster infrastructure and remake a social safety net that buckled for many Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and can deliver for our people,” Biden declared.

One hundred days into his presidency, Biden is riding a wave of early momentum after securing passage of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief fund and surging coronavirus vaccine supplies across the country. But his ability to enact the next phases of his domestic agenda is deeply uncertain given his narrow majorities in Congress, near-universal opposition thus far from Republicans and wariness from some moderate Democrats.

Yet Biden, to the surprise of some lawmakers in both parties, has not responded to those political realities by curtailing or moderating his asks of Congress. While he made overtures to Republicans in his address Wednesday, particularly for partnership on infrastructure spending, he also made clear that he was willing to press forward without them, confident that a once-in-a-generation influx of government spending will yield results he can sell to the public in next year's midterm elections and perhaps in the 2024 campaign, if he seeks a second term.

Biden's posture has been cheered by many Democrats who are eager to move past the political constructs erected during the Reagan era, which left the party caught between arguing for more investments for lower- and middle-class Americans and wary of being branded as tax-and-spend liberals.

As he sought reelection in 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton stated in his own address to Congress that the “era of big government is over," though he also said Americans should not be “left to fend for themselves.” The next Democratic president, Barack Obama, muscled through his signature health care law and a stimulus plan to pull the economy out of recession, but faced fierce political blowback that cost him his congressional majorities and quickly curtailed many of his other domestic policy ambitions.

But the Democratic Party as a whole has grown more comfortable in recent years with more liberal policies, pushed along in part by a younger, more diverse array of politicians who argue that persistent inequality, particularly for minorities, requires broader overhauls of the nation's domestic policies. The inequities exposed by the pandemic, with Black and Hispanic Americans disproportionately impacted both by the COVID-19 virus and the economic fallout, hastened those arguments.

And while Biden — a white, 78-year-old career politician with a moderate record — may not have been the first choice of his party's left flank, his closing arguments of the 2020 campaign evoked the ideals of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's expansive progressive agenda and the notion of what government can accomplish in a crisis.

He harkened back to Roosevelt again Wednesday night, recalling that in another era where the nation's democracy was tested, “Roosevelt reminded us, in America: We do our part.”

Biden's advisers say his decades of Washington experience — he was a young senator during Reagan's presidency and went on to serve as Obama's vice president — have cemented his belief that this is another such moment in history that cries out for the type of federal government interventions that may not have been palatable for his most recent predecessors.

“This country has been ravaged by social injustices, and in the past year, by the pandemic,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton administration. “Neither was incremental in the ways they ravaged our communities. So the response can't be incremental.”

There are some indications that Americans back Biden's aggressive approach. According to The Associated Press' VoteCast survey of the electorate, 57% of voters in the 2020 presidential election said the government should be doing more to solve problems, while 41% said it was doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.

Those who backed a broader government role in addressing the nation's challenges overwhelmingly voted for Biden. But the AP VoteCast survey also showed that 28% of voters who supported former President Donald Trump were in favor of a more active federal government.

Biden appealed directly to those voters in Wednesday's address, particularly those he said “feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s rapidly changing.” He promised them well-paying jobs that don't require a college education.

So far, Republican lawmakers are unmoved by such promises. No GOP lawmakers voted for Biden's pandemic relief package earlier this year and most are skeptical of his proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, to be financed by higher taxes on corporations. The president upped the ante even more Wednesday night, unveiling a $1.8 trillion family plan for universal preschool, two years of free community college, $225 billion for child care and monthly payments of at least $250 to parents.

After Biden's address, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — one of the more centrist Republicans the White House has been courting — bristled at the totality of the president's asks.

“Six trillion and counting,” he said. “He would like Republicans to vote for his plan. But in terms of meeting in the middle, that hasn’t been something the administration has shown.”

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


8 Comments

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Biden needs a reality check, not a blank check.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Sad that Dems have to resort to smokescreens to promote their radical agenda.

“Persistent inequality” in America is a lie. The last people that the American political system favors are Asians, who come to America dirt-poor and not speaking English and yet prosper.

”Systematic racism” is a narrative Democrats have been desperately promoting for a year. However, Trump created the lowest unemployment rate in history for minorities and created more opportunities for them than any other President.

However, the diversionary tactics are understandable, given Biden is hardly popular. 23 million watched his first State of the Union speech. 47 million watched Trump’s first SOU speech.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Sorry but the US President is not going far enough.

One can only hope his successor is an actual socialist.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

oasted HereticToday  12:12 pm JST

Sorry but the US President is not going far enough. 

One can only hope his successor is an actual socialist.

Speak for yourself. The half-baked corporate socialists are doing enough damage as it is. Letting a full-blown one like Bernie in would be catastrophic but faster.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Speak for yourself. The half-baked corporate socialists are doing enough damage as it is. Letting a full-blown one like Bernie in would be catastrophic but faster.

Hysterical nonsense. The US is a reasonably better place than under the 45 regime. But it can be so much better.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

However, the diversionary tactics are understandable, given Biden is hardly popular. 23 million watched his first State of the Union speech. 47 million watched Trump’s first SOU speech.

Best go by approval ratings and election results. Biden hammers and hammered Trump.

Trump is better TV but people watch others igniting their farts on YouTube.

Biden seems to be doing okay.

Speak for yourself. The half-baked corporate socialists are doing enough damage as it is. Letting a full-blown one like Bernie in would be catastrophic but faster.

A bit hysterical.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Hysterical nonsense. The US is a reasonably better place than under the 45 regime. But it can be so much better

Absolutely not, Biden doesn’t and won’t with the GOP on anything, we now have a one party system, the border is out of control, businesses are leaving, corporate tax rate is going up, small businesses are ging crushed, entitlements are smothering the nation, people can’t run fast enough from these blue states. Kamala was appointed borders czar 35 days ago and she still hasn’t been there once, Scholls still remain closed even though we all know the majority of kids don’t have the disease and are less likely to get the disease, police officers are retiring at a record rate in at a very alarming rate, Democrats want to defund the police, they want to abolish ICE, they want to abolish bail, they want to abolish all school student loans, so the entitlement State is increasing in size and job opportunity is lacking and eroding, and no amount of allowing illegals in will help build up the economy, especially if you tend to replace them with low skilled workers.

No, it gotten worse under this administration, far worse.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

we now have a one party system,

This is simply not true, despite the best attempts of the GOP regime.

the border is out of control, businesses are leaving, corporate tax rate is going up, small businesses are ging crushed, entitlements are smothering the nation,

There's no border crisis, unless you mean the con job that 45 and his greedy minions tried to fleece taxpayers and crowdfunding types with.

people can’t run fast enough from these blue states.

Migration happens. They'll only end up making the red states blue.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

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