Wednesday February 21, 2024

Biden’s ten months

November 24, 2021

The US political scene continues to be rife with acrimony, and negativity. Discussion in the political press these days is mostly focused on how much Joe Biden's approval ratings have dropped in recent months. While this discussion started with the ill-conceived US withdrawal from Afghanistan back in August, lately the focus of the press has been on how the Democrats have been unable to deliver on their promises.

With the recent approval of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the passage of the $1.8 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) plan in the House of Representatives, the criticism is starting to temper down a bit. The infrastructure bill represents badly needed funding for projects that have been neglected for years. Promises made by former president Trump to improve the US infrastructure yielded nothing except boastful meetings with more empty promises. Now that the funding has been approved and signed into law, instead of applauding the accomplishment, the rightwing press is urgently looking for other Biden priorities to criticise.

The Build Back Better plan addresses important social priorities, and has been a core part of Biden's campaign promises. It includes funding for childcare for low and middle income households, and early childhood education. All of it paid for by reversing some of the tax breaks given by Trump to the highest income earners and to corporations. Giving back some of the tax breaks from 2017, which mostly increased income inequality in the country, is now being castigated as the “highest tax increase in the history of the US.” If reversing some of the tax breaks is the biggest tax increase ever, one can only wonder how big the tax breaks had been to begin with.

It is easy to forget all that was put in peril during the four years of Donald Trump. Biden astutely reversed the actions of the previous administration to exit the Paris climate accords, and leaving the WHO in the middle of a pandemic. While there is much to do still to address the urgent need to curb greenhouse gases, as the recently concluded Glasgow summit has shown, re-engaging the world is at least a step in the right direction.

Another important step has been to start to regain the trust and respect of important US allies such as Canada and Mexico, America’s largest trading partners. A civil dialogue has resumed with them as was apparent from the recent meeting of the ‘three amigos’ in the White House.

The damage done by reneging on the multilateral Iran nuclear deal by the previous administration is more challenging to fix. Iran has little trust in the word of any US administration and is pushing for compensation for the losses suffered by their economy. This will be politically near impossible for Biden to deliver. But talks with Iran are continuing through European intermediaries. Even Middle East tensions are starting to ease a bit. Saudi Arabia and Iran appear to be making conciliatory gestures towards each other.

While the infrastructure and BBB plans were being negotiated and debated in the two houses of Congress, the rightwing press was thrilled to call the plans dead. Now that one has been signed into law and the other on its way, even though it will most likely be modified further, the press is looking for other parts of the Biden Administration to criticise.

They have found a new target – Kamala Harris. Her approval ratings have hit rock bottom because it is being said that she has “accomplished nothing” in the ten months of the administration. One strains to think what exactly the previous vice president Mike Pence had accomplished at this point in his tenure. The VP role in the US constitution has no particular portfolio or responsibility, except to be ready should something happen to the president.

Just as many in the rightwing could not ever accept Barack Obama as a legitimate president, many are now straining to find issues with VP Harris. Recently a rightwing pundit said since Harris spent part of her childhood in Canada, she “can't really be considered a real American.” I guess calling out her racial background as being unacceptable was a bridge too far even for this rightwing extremist. But, surely, his viewers got the message.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC. Website: