Business

Despite his low-key style and pragmatic reputation, Biden is governing for the history books and pursuing the biggest expansion in government in decades.

Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDRs Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, says there are important parallels between the two presidencies. Both men faced big crises when they came to office and both men found opportunity in crisis, he says.
The numbers justify Bidens claims of a national comeback. Daily COVID-19 cases have plummeted to around 50,000, and deaths to 700 a day. So far, 234 million vaccine doses have been administered, exceeding Bidens initial target of 100 million and subsequent goal of 200 million.
During the election campaign, Trump predicted a Biden depression if his opponent was elected. Instead, the S&P 500 has soared by 24 per cent since election day the biggest stock market gains since 1953. Economic growth is expected to exceed 7 per cent this year, the fastest since 1984.
Republicans complain justifiably that Biden is benefiting from good timing as much as good management. The vaccination rollout, and the economy, were already poised to take off when he entered the White House.
The transformation in the tone of American politics, on the other hand, is directly attributable to the shift from Trump to Biden.
The new President doesnt vent his feelings on Twitter. He doesnt seek to antagonise his political rivals. His administration rolls out policy announcements in an orderly way. Hes appointed experienced, competent officials to senior roles.
Jobs, jobs, jobs: Vice-President Kamala Harris speaks at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, North Carolina. Credit:AP
The torrent of falsehoods from the White House has slowed to a relative trickle: Biden has made 67 false or misleading statements during his first 100 days, compared to 511 for Trump, according to The Washington Posts fact-checking unit.
With Trump, it was like having a jackhammer blasting outside your window in the middle of the night, Alter says.Biden is toning down the rhetoric and turning down the temperature.
Joe Hockey, who served as Australias US ambassador from 2016 to 2020, says: In the Biden administration, there is a quiet, steely resolve backed up by team discipline that was clearly absent in the Trump administration.
But Hockey urges Australians not to be fooled by the low-key appearance of Bidens presidency.
Hes pursued an incredible amount of reform in a short amount of time, he says.
Theres an old saying that if you elect a young pope in Rome theyre very cautious because they are looking for longevity in the job. If you elect an old pope they know that time is running out and they get on with it. Thats true for Joe Biden.
During the Democratic presidential primaries, Biden ran as a pragmatist and a moderate, rejecting his rivals plans for a government-run healthcare scheme and free college. In the election, he ran a small-target campaign promising a return to normality and civility after the Trump era.
Joe Biden is being compared to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Picking up two Senate seats in Georgia in early January gave Democrats control of that chamber, allowing Biden to expand his legislative goals. Both admirers and critics agree that Biden has pursued a surprisingly ambitious and progressive policy agenda since taking office.
In just 100 days, Biden has announced $7 trillion in federal spending paid for mostly by proposed tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans. Hes also announced a goal to cut Americas carbon emissions in half over the next decade.
This is a revolutionary presidency, veteran Democratic strategist James Carville told MSNBC this week. Hes trying to change the balance of power in this country.
Former Obama administration official Van Jones said it was clear that he and other progressives had underestimated Bidens scale of ambition. He is chasing FDR, Jones said on CNN. Hes swinging for the fences.
Bidens biggest achievement was signing into law a $2.5 trillion COVID-19 relief package that sent stimulus cheques to more than 150 million Americans, expanded unemployment benefits and included a major increase to the child tax credit. The Urban Institute think tank estimates it will slash child poverty in half and cut the national poverty rate by a third.
Bidens politics recall president Lyndon Johnsons Great Society. Credit:Alamy
Bidens relief bill alone was already twice as big as the stimulus package Barack Obama signed at the height of the Global Financial Crisis. He has since followed up with a $2.6 trillion infrastructure plan that would pour money into roads, bridges, airports, broadband and renewable energy.
This week, Biden unveiled a social policy plan, worth $2 trillion, that would create Americas first parental leave scheme, establish universal kindergarten and two years of free community college. Taken together, his plans easily represent the most dramatic expansion of the federal governments role in American society since Lyndon Johnsons Great Society program in the 1960s.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says President Biden can no longer be regarded as a moderate. Credit:EPA POOL
If you were expecting steady, slow, incremental change, youd be really struck by what youve seen over the past 100 days, says William Howell, chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. When it comes to policy, Biden has been really aggressive.
While progressive Democrats are delighted by Bidens boldness, Republicans are incensed.
The bottom line tonight: if I ever hear that Joe Bidens a moderate again, Im going to throw up, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said following Bidens speech to Congress.
Because after tonight, he embraced socialism. He made Barack Obama look like Ronald Reagan.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell recently said: President Biden ran as a moderate but Im hard-pressed to think of anything at all hes done so far that would indicate some degree of moderation.
Despite Bidens talk of national unity, the countrys partisan divisions remain as entrenched as ever. Not one Republican voted for his COVID-19 relief package in the House of Representatives or Senate.
Bidens approval rating, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average, is 54 per cent. Thats 12 points higher than Trumps at the same stage of his presidency but very much at the lower end when compared to other past presidents.
Just one in 10 Republican voters say they approve of the job Biden is doing.
Matthew Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown Universitys Government Affairs Institute, says an approval rating in the mid-50s is probably as good as any president can hope for in todays hyper-partisan age. Youre just not going to be as popular as past presidents were, he says.
Polling on most of Bidens policy proposals suggests they are in the mainstream of American public opinion. Some are wildly popular, like the COVID relief bill, which seven in 10 Americans supported.
Glassman says it is also notable that Biden doesnt generate the same level of visceral partisan hatred on the right as other prominent Democrats.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson this week announced he would no longer refer to the executive branch of government as the Biden administration.
Carlsons evidence-free claim that the 78-year-old has no active role in the government was not intended to be flattering. But his attempt to erase Biden from the political narrative showed that the mention of his name does not provoke the same ire among conservatives as, say, Barack Obamas or Hillary Clintons.
On foreign policy, Biden has moved quickly to replace Trumps isolationist stance with a return to multilateralism and alliance-building. Hes rejoined the World Health Organisation and the Paris Climate Accord, and is working to reform the World Trade Organisation.
Raising hopes: a woman cheers as President Joe Biden speaks during his 100th day in office. Credit:AP
On China policy there is more continuity between the two administrations: Biden has maintained Trumps tariffs and tough rhetoric, defying expectations that he would go soft on Beijing.
He moved decisively to announce a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September – a four-month delay from the original timeline outlined in an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban.
The standout weakness for Biden has been immigration at the US-Mexico border.
Polls show only about a third of Americans approve of Bidens performance on immigration and border security, lower than on any other issue.
The gun issue will remain a challenge for Biden.Credit:AP
That is his Achilles heel – theres no doubt about that, Hockey says. The White House would be well advised to pick up the phone and speak to some wise old Labor operatives to find out how it went for them taking a more open-door approach to the borders.
Biden will face a big challenge in coming months to shepherd his infrastructure and social policy plans through Congress.
Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat who holds a swing vote in the Senate, has already expressed unease at the amount of spending and demanded the White House work with Republicans to find compromise.
Other Democratic priorities – including passing gun control measures and changing the nations immigration laws – appear to have next to no hope of passing the Senate.
The first 100 days has been easy, Glassman says, compared to what comes next.
Asked to grade Bidens performance so far, Alter, Hockey, Glassman and Howell all agreed on A, with only Hockey awarding the President an A-.