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For many Americans, the announcement of Joe Biden’s election victory was a welcome moment of prospective revolution in liberal federal activism, especially for minority communities, in the face of the failings of the Trump administration. It is clear that his moderate liberal policies are a juxtaposition to those of the previous administration, with promising aims for reform in racial and economic equality and environmental activism, despite his plans being somewhat ambitious.
However, how well are Biden’s policies equipped to deal with a socially divided America in the midst of a pandemic that threatens to pick apart their economy?
Unsurprisingly, many of the future president’s plans for reform in America stem from the current COVID-19 pandemic. Following President Trump’s widely criticised handling of the virus, the United States’ total caseload and death rates are the highest in the world with over 25 million confirmed cases and over 420,000 deaths so far. In response to this, the Biden administration has laid out an extensive plan to combat the virus, seeming to contrast Trump on a policy-for-policy basis.
Biden’s wider plans also revolve around the idea that solving the pandemic is central in responding to key issues like the economy, inequalities in healthcare and diminishing trust in the U.S. government. His plan to combat the virus consists of reaching into the might of the U.S. federal reserves to coordinate a more efficient response. This response would involve providing free and more available testing, pursuing the efficient distribution of a vaccine, enforcing a compulsory mask mandate, providing frontline workers with sufficient American-made protective equipment and the promise to listen to leading medical experts like Dr Anthony Fauci.
Though his plans seem a more effective way of dealing with the virus, Biden’s extensive spending may threaten economic stability. His economic plan is largely centred around beating COVID-19 and allowing the economy to rebound. However, along with public healthcare investment, Biden has also proposed his “Build Back Better” economic recovery plan, a ‘New Deal’esque response to prospective economic hardship. The plan includes investments worth a total of $7 trillion into the areas of infrastructure, education, economic fairness, healthcare and the environment.
Biden also plans to address economic issues on a local scale, targeting individual communities and small businesses at the mercy of the pandemic economy, whilst also attempting to close the poverty gap. This includes the expansion of food-relief, infrastructure in low-income communities and also the augmentation of federal assistance to state-provided Medicaid programmes, which, he hopes eventually will lead to the revival of Obamacare policies that provide medical care for those who cannot afford it.
With his prospective investment in clean energy infrastructure and ‘Opportunity Zones,’ he aims to not only achieve his plans for environmental sustainability and the resolving of poverty and racial inequalities but also assure the creation of construction and manufacturing jobs. Biden also promises to bring manufacturing back to US soil also reduce if not end workforce discrimination.
He also pledges to expand the availability of loans and contracts for minority-owned businesses, tackles the institutional problem of police brutality, invests in affordable housing and infrastructure in communities of colour, including improving access to mental health, addiction and trauma recovery services.
Biden, unlike his predecessor, agrees that drastic action must be taken against climate change, proposing plans that starkly contrast the actions of the previous administration. This is because Biden sees the environment and the economy as intrinsically tied together, where the American manufacturing of sustainable energy infrastructure – as part of a $1.7 trillion Federal investment plan – will work towards a 100% clean energy economy and reaching net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
It seems therefore that Biden’s policies are clearly a radical departure from the last 4 years. His proposed coronavirus response of coordinated federal power and scientific advice is clearly a more effective solution than Donald Trump’s mishandling of COVID-19 and often contrasting inaccurate advice to the public.
Biden’s policies on race, poverty, and equality are key in responding to the social rift in America, largely ignored and worsened by the Trump administration. Biden’s policies on race don’t just aim to tackle surface injustices, but also seek to improve economic structures that put minority communities at a continued disadvantage. His environmental and economic policies also suggest some positive movement in the way of tackling climate change, a pressing world issue
However, his $1 trillion environmental investment seems to be an overly-stressed central policy during the peak of a virus that threatens not only human life but also the American economy.
Would it not be more important to focus on the global pandemic at the current moment rather than climate change?
Having said this, his environmental policies do support a plan to build back the economy and strengthen it in the face of future threats. where a massive investment package seeks to improve infrastructure, creating local jobs and stimulating manufacturing, leading both to long-term, money-saving sustainable energy reserves and the tackling of climate change.
Although his spending poses a threat to the American economy, plans to bring manufacturing to the US, ensuring job creation, could prove successful in stimulating the American economy, allowing Biden to enact his liberal and environmentally sustainable plans for the future of the US.
Of course, Biden’s ability to enact his plans and the feasibility of his policies for the future, all depend on the level of Democratic control in the US Senate, which after the dual victory in the Georgia run-off elections tilts towards the Democratic Party with the barest of margins. But because of the filibuster rule in the senate, having 50 votes wouldn’t just cut it. One will need 60 votes to pass any ambitious legislation that is unpopular with the other side.
Purely in light of his policies, Biden promises to steer America to become a place of greater racial and economic equality and also aims to better handle COVID-19. However, we will have to wait and watch whether Biden will fulfil his policies. Because failed promises are not a new phenomenon to US politics and they are definitely not new in this era of high polarization and divisions.