What Biden did and what he didn’t do

What Biden did and what he didn’t do

What Biden did and what he didnt do

Something strange has been going on in Washington lately. Smells a bit like… competition.

Seriously, it’s been amazing to see how the media narrative of the Joe Biden administration has shifted. Just a few weeks ago, Biden was being portrayed as a wretched man on the verge of leading a failed presidency. Then came the anti-inflation bill, a big jobs report, and some good news about rising prices, and suddenly we’re hearing about their accomplishments.

But I still think what the media is saying is not entirely true. In fact, Biden has achieved a lot, in some ways more than he is given credit for today. On the other hand, the United States is a huge country with a huge economy, and the President’s actions don’t seem all that impressive when compared to the scale of the nation’s problems.

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In addition, Biden is currently benefiting from a slight intolerance to low expectations. His political accomplishments are great by today’s standards, but they would not have attracted attention in an earlier era, before the radicalization of the Republican Party, which made finding real solutions to real problems almost impossible.

So what did Biden achieve?

In my opinion, he took office with three main domestic goals: investing in America’s ailing infrastructure, concrete measures to combat climate change, and expanding the social safety net, especially for families with children. He has most of the first two and a little bit of the third.

Last year’s infrastructure law received conspicuously little media attention, with only around a quarter of voters even knowing that it had been passed. However, we should keep in mind that Barack Obama wanted to invest in infrastructure but couldn’t; Donald Trump promised to do it but didn’t do it (“It’s Infrastructure Week!” became a running gag); Biden came and he got it.

On the contrary, the Anti-Inflation Act, which is first and foremost a climate law, has rightly received a lot of attention. America is finally taking action on the greatest existential threat of our time. Energy experts believe the scheme will have a significant direct impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

All of these are significant achievements, in stark contrast to the previous government, whose only major domestic policy change was a tax cut that had almost no visible positive results.

But when I see the news that calls these laws “colossal” or enormous, I wonder if journalists did the math. The Infrastructure Act will add approximately $500,000 million in spending over the next decade. The Anti-Inflation Act will increase spending by about another half trillion. A law to boost semiconductor production will add another roughly 50,000 million. So all in all, we’re talking about a little over $1 trillion in public investment over 10 years.

To put this in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office projects cumulative GDP of over $300 trillion over the next decade. That means the Biden program will be about a third of 1% of GDP. It’s not colossal.

It is true that the ramifications of what the President has done can be far greater than the dollar amounts suggest. There is reason to hope that the climate law will have some catalytic effect in promoting the energy transition. And some economists believe increasing the budget of the ill-resourced Internal Revenue Service will greatly reduce tax evasion, thereby boosting revenue.

And if you allow me, I would like to add a few words about foreign policy. Biden received an overwhelming amount of criticism for the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, though his critics offered few suggestions as to what he should have done differently. But the narrative about foreign policy has also changed. While I’m no expert, it seems to me that the Biden administration has done a remarkable job of building and holding together a coalition to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression.

Okay, I can already hear people reacting to every mention of Biden’s achievements by screaming what’s going on with price gouging. In fact, the Biden administration has failed to understand the risks of rising inflation. However, the same has happened to many others, including the Federal Reserve (and yours sincerely). And I think it’s worth noting that other countries, not least the UK, are also suffering from high inflation, although they have not followed the policies of our President. In fact, Britain’s problem with rising prices seems in many ways more serious than ours.

And both public opinion and financial markets expect inflation to be brought under control. So there’s nothing to suggest that this admittedly significant stumbling block will do any lasting damage.

I repeat, I don’t want to sound Trumpian and say Biden is doing an amazing job, perfect, best job ever. What he has been doing – and was doing before media history changed – is dealing reasonably effectively with the real problems facing America.

The point is that what Biden is offering us should be normal in a rich and advanced country. In fact, it was normal before the Republican Party made its sharp shift to the right. However, at the point we are at, competent government based on reality is shocking.

Paul Krugman He is a Nobel laureate in economics. © The New York Times, 2022. Translation of news clips.

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