Six Months Into the Biden Presidency, Where Do We Stand?
When President Joe Biden swore the presidential oath and took office in January this year, he inherited what can only be described as a host of extraordinary issues: a worldwide pandemic, police brutality, gun violence, the xenophobic, racist, and, frankly, idiotic policies of his predecessor, and a country divided like never before. In the six months since then, Biden has taken extraordinary steps to undo the work of the previous host of the Oval Office, but for all his efforts to implement his own policies, implement his campaign promises, and unite the country, has it been enough? Has he been, will he ever be, the leader that the U.S., the world, needs and that he promised to be?
Reversing President Trump’s Policies
Within his first 100 days, Biden made it his priority to reverse a large number of Trump’s policies, in accordance with his campaign promises. For one, Biden made headlines several days after his presidential inauguration when he reversed Trump’s infamous declaration to separate children from the rest of their families at the U.S.-Mexico border—officially, at least. But in March, it came to light that Biden was allowing unaccompanied minors into the country but expelling those with family members. The problem has now become much more complicated, forcing families to send their children to cross the border alone or separating themselves in camps, a caveat of Biden’s reversal that has yet to be remedied.
Of course, re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement in February was a major step in Biden’s work to curve the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate change, in contrast to Trump’s move to officially withdraw three months before because India and China were allowed to continue using fossil fuels.
In April, Biden also restored the country’s annual aid package to Palestine after it had been drastically slashed by Trump. During his administration, they’d rejected his so-called peace plan, which would have allowed Israel full sovereignty over currently illegal Jewish settlements within the state. Trump has steadfastly maintained his pro-Israel stance but Biden has made it clear that his administration will not only support Palestine politically but also provide aid to ease the impact of Covid-19 and food insecurity in the region.
There have also been heavy implications associated with Biden’s campaign promise to administer 100 million Covid vaccinations for 50 million Americans within his first 100 days. While he certainly achieved his goal, even weeks ahead of schedule, he has yet to address the huge disparities in vaccination rates across race, ethnicity, and class. Since the beginning, the pandemic has only made the inequities between white and BIPOC that much more evident.
While over 61% of the country’s white population has been fully vaccinated, vaccinations for Black and Latinx populations continue to hover around 9% and 15%, respectively, due to historic mistrust of science and the medical industry, misinformed hesitancy, and disparities in public health infrastructure. And if they’re low-income, they’re less likely to own reliable transport to get to a vaccination centre, to earn time off from work to receive the vaccine (as the majority of frontline workers are BIPOC) or to have access to a pharmacy or regular contact with a doctor or physician to receive accurate information about the vaccine. Yet Biden has yet to address or acknowledge these setbacks in light of achieving his goal.
Pushing the Next Campaign Promises Forward
Looking ahead, Biden has several promises in the process of completion, including ending the wars in Afghanistan and West Asia. As of this month, the administration is on track to removing American military occupation and activity in the region by September.
Earlier this year, he also passed the American Rescue Plan to prevent millions of evictions and provide $50 billion for housing and other assistance to those experiencing homelessness. However, Congress has yet to approve a budget to set aside $100 billion for construction and housing upgrades, so for now, it’s a waiting game.
Of course, Biden recently made headlines for forgiving $56 million in student loan debt for 1,800 borrowers but what headlines at the time didn’t mention was that it was done through a “borrow defence to repayment”, which is separate from Biden’s effort to collectively cancel student loan debt through an executive order. Many have deemed it unlikely to happen but Biden continues to be in talks with the Department of Education to deem if such an order would legally be allowed in the first place.
Most of his other promises, however, including increasing the federal minimum wage to $15, restoring the U.S.’s engagement with Cuba, and making 2 years of community college free, seem unlikely to be turned into full proposals, let alone ones that will likely pass in Congress.
Reuniting a Divided U.S.
And when the government continues to be as split as the country’s citizens, it’s no surprise that few of Biden’s bills have received bipartisan support, many of which have passed without a single Republican vote. But besides attempting to bring together officials in Senate and Congress, however, Biden hasn’t made much of an effort to unite the rest of the nation in the same way. On a variety of issues, however good his intentions may be, he blatantly ignores the inequities caused by his administration’s policies and accomplishments and call-outs from BIPOC activists, as though forgetting the divisions within the U.S. aren’t only political. It doesn’t help, of course, that because of his predecessor, Biden seems much easier to forgive, follow, and praise for anything, more palatable than some believe he deserves. His administration has proven itself, somehow, to be more complex than the last.
In January, he stood on Capitol Hill full of promises and claimed himself to be a president for all, for one united nation but six months on, with three and half years to go, the verdict’s still out on how true that statement really is.