Joe Biden was elected president largely because he was a seasoned politician who could re-establish normal governance with some possible marginal bipartisan support. After a promising first 90-days, he has proven to be amazingly inept.
There is overwhelming public and private support for repairing and updating the infrastructure of the United States. This need led to legislation that had the support of some Republicans. However, flawed and underfunded that legislation, it gives a jumpstart to an economy still affected by the COVID epidemic and a firm step forward to modernizing our existing technology.
Rather than call for an immediate vote on the measure, the Biden administration tied its passage to legislation aimed at health care reform. This was a catastrophic decision given the significant health care differences within the Democratic party and tepid Republican support. Biden administration soon lost control of his own parity. Months have passed with no solution in sight. Meanwhile health care costs, the highest in the world, continue to rise at a pace even faster than the rising general inflation rate. It has not occurred to the Democratic leadership to put its version of health reforms to a vote. Once elected officials vote Yes or No, their constituency could pass judgment on their choice whether the legislation passed or failed.
Stung by losing the governorship in Virginia and a near loss in New Jersey, Biden finally approved separating the legislation. The infrastructure passed easily but what would have been perceived as a victory last spring now comes across as a humiliating concession. Health care reform, including possible executive actions, remain in limbo.
Almost all Americans are outraged that hundreds of the super-rich, including billionaires, pay no income taxes. The same holds for many fabulously profitable firms. Indeed, most corporations pay less than 10% in income taxes. Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) proposes to impose a mandatory tax on the super-rich and their enterprises that would be no greater than that paid by the average American family. No one else would see a rise in taxes. Biden and the Democratic leadership have been silent on this modest proposal.
When Biden took office, former President Trump already had made an agreement with the Taliban that the United States would be withdrawing its troops in Afghanistan within a year. Biden proved unable to supervise the military retreat in an orderly fashion. The result was the fiasco in August and the abandonment of many Afghans who had been employed by the United States. This was a crushing blow to America’s military and political prestige, a process still in effect.
The endless Middle East wars have been extremely unpopular. The loss of life and suffering has been horrendous. The wars also have been quite expensive. A shrewder Biden would have declared an ‘Afghanistan Peace Dividend’ with some of the war’s expenses refunded to taxpayers or applied to spending bills or the national debt. Instead, Biden plays the cold warrior and suggests the inflated and unaudited military budget be increased!
The Afghan fumbling has been matched by Biden’s international diplomacy. He proudly proclaims ‘America is back’ but no significant international agreements have emerged during his tenure. The world remains plagued by ‘natural disasters’ caused by climate that is not being seriously addressed.
The COVID pandemic is abating, but the U.S. infection and death rates are among the highest in the developed world. Biden’s overall approach to the pandemic always has been sound and scientific, but he has never been able to handle the divisions regarding masking, vaccinations, and other measures opposed by a significant part of the public. He is unwilling to denounce irresponsible governors or forcefully take on whacky theories and websites. He gets no public outreach assistance from Vice President Harris, who has muffed her given assignments and whose hopes of being the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee are fading rapidly.
Unless there is a dramatic reversal in Democratic competence, it is highly likely the forthcoming bi-elections, which usually result in the ruling party losing seats, will return control of the House and Senate to the Republican Party. If so, faced by a hostile Congress, the two remaining years of the Biden presidency do not seem likely to be productive. The Democrats will be headed for the loss of the presidency in 2024.
The biggest losers, however, will be the American public. We face critical financial, existential, and social problems. The Democrats have proven inept at effective governance and the Republicans who are very good at organizing electoral campaigns are increasing moving toward authoritarian actions that could produce a constitutional crisis. The Republicans remain highly protective of fossil fuel technology and other outdated policies even as the world moves rapidly in the opposite direction. Both parties need new vigorous voices with a long-term perspective on national development. At present, the United States appears moribund.