The Biden Administration: COVID and the Economy Updates
Updated: Jan 13
The Biden administration has been rolling out its plan for the first 100 days, centered around coronavirus relief and eventual recovery. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
It is difficult not to acknowledge the similarities between the first 100 days in office of recently inaugurated President Joe Biden and former 20th century President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt entered the presidency during the Great Depression, which left a quarter of Americans unemployed. He was able to create jobs and implement social security through an expansive program called the New Deal, which was vigorously executed during Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office. The New Deal made strides in renewing the economy, reforming the ruined financial system, and boosting employment rates. To this day, it is regarded as Roosevelt’s greatest presidential achievement.
In 2021, America finds itself in a similar situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in about 500,000 American deaths by March 2021, as well as caused chaos in the economy. Now more than ever, millions of Americans affected by the pandemic have turned to the federal government, desperate for support. President Biden appears to be taking a page from Roosevelt’s book, with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain telling Time magazine that Biden plans to “meet these challenges with solutions as big as the problems are.”
Biden has focused on two primary objectives so far: slowing the spread of COVID-19, and delivering economic assistance to those who need it. With the ever-important $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan having passed on Wednesday morning, it is a fitting time to examine what the Biden administration has achieved in terms of COVID control and economic stability.
The Economy (The American Rescue Plan)
Most economists expect the economy to rebound on its own once vaccine distributions and a natural build up of immunity lessen the threat of the virus. Hence, Biden’s main goal regarding the economy has been to alleviate the pain felt by the communities who were hit the hardest, which will hopefully accelerate a return to normalcy. One of Biden’s central economic endeavors, the American Rescue Plan, was just recently signed into law, passed by the Senate on March 6 and signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.
The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package designed to assist the United State’s recovery from the devastating effects of the pandemic. In terms of direct financial payments, the plan provides $1,400 stimulus payments to Americans making $75,000 or less annually, thus building on the $600 payments from a previous stimulus package and reaching the goal (which originated when former President Donald Trump remained in office) of $2,000 in stimulus payments. Moreover, in regards to extended unemployment benefits, the American Rescue Plan extends both Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits of $300 a week to September 6, 2021. On top of that, other financial assistance comes in the form of billions allocated to emergency housing assistance.
The American Rescue Plan also provides funds to food aid, K-12 education, state and local government, and businesses, among others.
Although the American Rescue Plan may appear to be a financial blessing, some Americans — most being on the conservative side — have been keen to point out its downsides. The primary concern is that the plan will plunge the country further into debt. As of 2020, the nation’s debt hit $27 trillion. Two thirds of this debt is owed by the public, which will be reflected in future generations’ taxes. As stated by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, “national debt is… a generational issue. Continued borrowing to finance tax cuts or spending for consumption today creates an increased burden on young and future Americans.” Another key consequence of rising debt is that it “slows economic growth, which in turn slows the growth of wages and income.” It is likely that millions of Americans are completely unaware of the future consequences created by the American Rescue Plan. If these consequences were made known, perhaps the nation would revisit two important questions: how much money ought to be poured into the economy, and should the American Rescue Plan have been made more efficient?
Despite these potential worries, it should be noted that Biden assisted former President Obama in establishing the Recovery Act — which was then the biggest economic recovery plan in the nation. It is likely that his prior experience with the Obama administration will help Biden lead America through this crisis.
Going into his first 100 days in office, Biden’s plans to curb the pandemic were centered around distributing increasing vaccine availability and reducing the rate of infection. To do this, he enlisted the help of both his administration and other experts, such as Dr. Bechara Choucair, the former commissioner of Chicago’s health department. Included in the American Rescue Plan is $416 billion set aside to launch a national vaccine program. The program aims to vaccinate 100 million people within the Biden administration’s first 100 days.
Since the start of their campaign, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have made their dedication to defeating the virus very clear. They both received their vaccines on national television in a bid to promote its usage by the American public. Moreover, the official Joe Biden website showcases the Biden Harris seven-point plan to “beat COVID-19 and get our country back on track.” The very first bullet point on the plan is extremely ambitious in and of itself: “Double the number of drive-through testing sites.”
Biden has certainly been active on the coronavirus front. Since his inauguration on January 20, 2021, he has signed 44 executive orders, with 15 of them relating to the coronavirus. These executive orders include establishing the Pandemic Testing Board to expand U.S. coronavirus testing capacity, as well as accelerating the manufacturing and delivering of supplies needed for vaccination. One cannot deny that Biden has been heavily involved in the distribution of vaccines to the American public. In addition to signing a multitude of executive orders, he and his administration have partnered with vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of vaccines.
However, the President has come under fire for making misleading claims about the administration’s progress in regards to COVID vaccines. According to Fact Check, the president claimed that vaccinations had “nearly doubled” on his watch, while the seven day rolling average had only gone up by 67 percent at its peak. He also stated that if his COVID relief plan became law, the economy would create 7 million jobs this year, but the financial services firm clarified that 3.5 million of those jobs would be created regardless of the relief plan, thus making Biden’s claim an exaggeration of his administration’s success.
Fact Check also commented on Biden’s critiques of former President Donald Trump. In one instance, Biden berated the Trump administration for failing to order enough vaccines for the American public, while in reality, the Trump administration had signed contracts to order the necessary vaccines. The obtainment of these vaccines may have been delayed because these contracts relied on the vaccines being authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, a factor outside of Trump’s control. Moreover, Joe Biden explicitly stated that there was “no real plan to vaccinate most of the country” in regards to the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. However, the Trump administration actually made plans with vaccine companies Pfizer and Moderna to provide a total of 400 million vaccine doses by the end of July. (Biden essentially built upon these plans, arranging for the companies to provide another 200 million doses in addition to the 400.) Hence, the Trump administration was not without a plan to vaccinate the country.
Final Evaluation of the Biden Administration
A definite conclusion regarding the performance of the Biden administration cannot be reached, as it is inevitable that a person of Republican affiliation and one of Democratic affiliation will have different opinions on Biden’s first 100 days. Republicans and conservatives may argue that Biden has been indulging in too much government spending and involvement, whereas Democrats and liberals may argue that government action is exactly what the nation needs to return to normalcy.
The bottom line of this is: our country is enduring a time of turmoil, and Biden is trying to make the best of a tumultuous situation. It is too soon to tell whether the Biden administration’s actions will pay off in the future, but for now, the American public must allow the President and his team to explore their options and try new things.