It has been 100 days with Joe Biden in the White House and, as part of this event, the president appeared before Congress to give his first speech in the presence of members of Congress.
It was an atypical and certainly historic address. For the first time in history, the President was with two women behind him: Vice-President Kamala Harris and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But the oddity however was in the capacity which was notoriously low due to health restrictions because of the pandemic. Usually there are about 1,600 people attending the first presidential address to Congress, yesterday there were only 200.
President Biden spoke at length about his first 100 days in office, the pandemic and the challenges it presents.
Several highlights of his speech focused on his economic policies, especially those related to his controversial tax reform that seeks to raise taxes substantially. The President, throughout the evening, embraced several proposals that often belong to the radical left of the Democratic Party.
Beginning of the speech and the success of vaccines
“Tonight, I come to talk about crisis — and opportunity. About rebuilding our nation — and revitalizing our democracy. And winning the future for America. As I stand here tonight — just one day shy of the 100th day of my administration. 100 days since I took the oath of office, lifted my hand off our family Bible, and inherited a nation in crisis,” was one of the first sentences of the president, who spoke for more than an hour.
“After I promised 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in 100 days – we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in 100 days. We’re marshalling every federal resource. We’ve gotten the vaccine to nearly 40,000 pharmacies and over 700 community health centers. We’re setting up community vaccination sites, and are deploying mobile units into hard-to-reach areas,” said the President rejoicing in his first government success: the effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, which is rooted in the vaccination process initiated by the Trump administration and Operation Warp Speed.
In one part of his address, Biden pledged that the United States will become an “arsenal of vaccines” for the world, recalling the country’s role in World War II.
“As our own vaccine supply grows to meet our needs – and we are meeting them – we will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries – just as America was the arsenal of democracy in World War II.”
A fairly radical economic plan
The President went on to talk about the economic stimulus plan, known as the American Rescue Plan, passed in Congress only by Democratic support: “The American Rescue Plan is providing food and nutrition assistance to millions of hungry Americans, and hunger is already down significantly. We are also providing: rental assistance to keep people from being evicted from their homes.”
Biden also spoke about the economy and the jobs he seeks to generate by mentioning the American Jobs Plan, a proposal focused on renewing the country’s infrastructure. Biden referred to the proposal as “a once-in-a-generation investment” and “the largest jobs plan since World War II.”
According to the President, this plan “creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure. Jobs modernizing roads, bridges and highways. Jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors and transit lines. It’s clean water.”
His idea is to use taxpayers’ money to create jobs within the United States with investments dedicated solely to “buying American.”
Biden also said that the American Jobs Plan will help with climate change by generating infrastructure for the country to begin its shift to renewable energy: “The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes […] The American Jobs Plan will help millions of people get back to their jobs and back to their careers.”
Also, on the economic front, Biden endorsed positions advocated by the radical progressive wing of his party, defending raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and explaining that he faces the challenge of closing the gender wage gap.
On his tax plan, the president continues to assert that he will not impose any tax increases on people making less than $400,000 a year. “I will not impose any tax increases on people making less than $400,000 a year. It’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of Americans to pay their fair share. Just pay their fair share,” he said.
In his speech, Biden criticized former President Trump’s major tax reform and also left comments against the country’s wealthiest people and their enrichment during the pandemic.
Throughout much of his address the president put a lot of emphasis on the middle class, often tossing out comments like “Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class,” and also making it clear that he will, he said, look out for the interests of American workers.
Several studies have strongly criticized Joe Biden’s tax plan, explaining that such a radical tax reform would cost the country in the short term a million jobs and a $117 billion reduction in GDP by 2023.
Foreign policy, an almost anecdotal point
The president did not touch much on foreign policy, but he did say, in summary, that it is important that China play by the rules of the game and that he is clear that the United States is in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century and that he will defend his country’s interests.
He also issued a quick warning to Moscow: “With regard to Russia, I made very clear to President Putin that while we don’t seek escalation, their actions have consequences.” On Iran and North Korea he said that the country presses these external threats through diplomacy and deterrence.
Gun control and the “epidemic of violence”
Another issue the president addressed was gun control.
“I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence,” Biden said, while calling for congressional reforms and bipartisan work between Democrats and Republicans to require background checks to purchase guns. “These kinds of reasonable reforms have the overwhelming support of the American people – including many gun owners”
Gun control, according to an NBC News poll, is one of the issues where President Biden is least popular, holding a mere 34% approval rating from Americans.
Biden “forgot” about border crisis before Congress
If there was a failure of the Biden administration in these 100 days, it was the crisis in the Southern Border between Mexico and the United States. A humanitarian crisis generated in large part by the Democrats’ rhetoric in favor of open borders at election time that encouraged thousands of migrants to come to the country.
But Biden, who has been heavily criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, “forgot” to talk about the border crisis and instead only superficially touched on immigration and the need to support the Central American region to combat its structural problems of violence and poverty.
“We also have to get at the root of the problem of what people are fleeing to our Southern Border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The violence. The corruption. The gangs. The political instability. Hunger. Hurricanes. Earthquakes,” Biden said.
He also called for a halt to “the war over migration” and said he will work for immigration reform.
“Immigration has always been essential to America. Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it,” the President stated.