Joe Biden came into office facing historic, overlapping crises: a pandemic, a recession, racial unrest, and flagging faith in democracy and government.
He had two choices: Govern from a mythical middle and risking failing to structurally address any one of these overlapping crises, or step boldly into the moment and reassert a role for effective government.
On the pandemic and the economy, Biden largely chose to boldly meet the moment.
The nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan was packed with necessary help for working people and small businesses, including a big new child tax credit, an extension of unemployment relief, and direct payments to most families.
The law also made bold strides to end the pandemic — including an effective plan for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 health care, with a focus on the most impacted populations. As a result, the administration was able to more than double its goal of administering 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, ultimately reaching over 200 million.
Biden’s proposed American Jobs and Families Plans take the next step: building a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable economy after the pandemic.
His American Jobs Plan is a robust 21st century infrastructure plan. It would create millions of well-paying jobs repairing roads and bridges, developing green technology, and expanding broadband, while also protecting the millions of care workers who proved so essential during the pandemic.
Biden’s American Families Plan, unveiled in his recent address to Congress, represents yet another desperately needed investment in the economic well-being of ordinary families. It includes plans for universal pre-k education, paid family and medical leave, and robust funding for child care and free community college.
Importantly, Biden is choosing to pay for these plans entirely with taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations, who have unfairly taken advantage of loopholes, regressive tax policies, and outright cheating for decades.
These are all important steps — many of which Biden has taken under pressure from social movements and anti-poverty advocates. But of course, much remains to push him on.
For instance, Biden’s child care proposal provides care for kids up to age 5. Why not raise it to 13? His investments in expanding affordable housing are long overdue, but he’ll need to increase funding for vouchers so low-income families can actually live there.
Biden also needs to live up to his promise to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. And while Biden has said he wants to expand health care and lower drug prices, anything less than Medicare for All — which Biden still opposes — will fall short.
Meanwhile Biden has yet to come through on other critical domestic issues — like immigration, criminal justice reform, canceling student loan debt, and cutting the bloated Pentagon budget.
Still, 100-plus days in, Biden deserves praise for going big and bold on long overdue structural overhauls to our economy, as well as for making moves to address systemic inequities. He deserves credit for surrounding himself with social movement advocates, who have greatly improved his approaches to a range of issues.
Our job is to make sure he understands where he falls short — so we can make maximum use of what may well be a once-in-a generation chance to build a truly equitable society.
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