Sunday June 05, 2022

Biden has to overcome key policy hurdles

Biden has to overcome key policy hurdles

he second and final meeting between former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden during elections was a downright civil affair. File/AP

US President Joe Biden faces multiple challenges which he cannot hope to overcome before either the mid-term legislative elections in November and the presidential and Congressional polls in 2024.

On the domestic front he is confronted by a host of problems. He inherited Donald Trump’s refusal to contain and curb COVID-19. Biden has done a fairly good job so far on the medical level but since the virus mutates constantly, it is not altogether clear whether it is under control.

Spikes in infection could come now that restrictions are being lifted and people are resuming what passes for “normal life.”

Over the past two and a half years, COVID has inflicted serious harm on the US economy.

Businesses have failed, jobs have been lost, and essential goods have been in short supply. Freed from lockdown and other restraints, shoppers splurge. Imports on which the US depends heavily have been reduced by COVID. Global supply chains have been broken, shipping has been affected, and the lack of port workers and truck drivers has disrupted deliveries. Rising transport costs, particularly for US-grown fresh fruit and vegetables, have sent prices soaring while wages cannot keep up. Supplies of medicines and baby milk on which millions depend are not available. While unemployment is low, inflation is soaring. Biden is blamed.

The traumatic May 24th shooting of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has once again put the spotlight on the dearth of gun controls in the US. While a senator, Biden was instrumental in securing a 1994 law to prohibit automatic and semi-automatic weapons of war but this law expired in 2004 and has not been renewed.

His call for a new ban on assault rifles is unthinkable while Congress is unlikely to adopt even background checks on gun purchasers. Freedom to own and use guns, particularly weapons of war, has become central to the identity and psyche of millions of citizens. Opinion polls conducted earlier this showed that only 36 per cent wanted stricter gun controls while 61 per cent opposed such measures. Biden’s rivals in the Republican party know this are determined to thwart him on this issue.

Biden has failed to deliver on core campaign pledges such as police reform, immigration, voting rights and increasing the federal minimum wage. He has failed because the Democratic Party has a slim majority in the House of Representatives and the 100-member Senate is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. The latter not only refused to commit to bipartisan legislation eagerly desired by most US citizens but do their utmost to sink or sabotage every and any Biden policy initiative. By ensuring Biden’s failure they plan to take control of both chambers in this fall’s election and to defeat Biden and the Democrats in the 2024 election no matter what the price to the country and its citizens.

The Democrats and the Department of Justice have, so far, not succeeded in undermining Trump by demonstrating he was directly responsible for the January 6th attack on the Capitol as legislators were preparing to announce Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Trump’s disruptive campaign to overturn the presidential election result by claiming fraud has also failed to warn off his supporters who want him to run for a second term in 2024. This seriously weakens Biden as he struggles to secure adoption of his faltering legislative programme.

Biden did deliver on his promise to withdraw from Afghanistan and “bring the boys (US troops) home” but the conduct of the departure was so badly planned and poorly executed that the evacuation was chaotic, humiliated the US military, and demonstrated to the public that the mighty US was not so strong and efficient as believed.

On the consequences of Biden’s pull-out, members of the informed elite who understood that US policy in Afghanistan has been a disaster for the Afghan people made their views known ahead of the evacuation. However, Biden went ahead because he knows the majority of citizens do not listen or care. Foreign policy does not command widespread interest in the US as foreign events and wars do not generally negatively affect that distant country.

Biden’s attempt to deflect negative fallout from his poor performance on the home front by providing arms and funds to Ukraine in its war with Russia has had unintended consequences.

Funds which could have been better spent in the US on education, welfare, health care and rebuilding deteriorating infrastructure are being consumed by a stalemated war.

On the foreign front, his Ukraine policy has had serious harmful impacts on the international community: soaring prices, inflation, food and fuel shortages, and hunger among the poor.

Having proclaimed that he would usher in changes in US policies, Biden has stuck to Donald Trump’s destructive initiatives, particularly those which affect this region adversely. He has stalled the US return to the 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions, thereby threatening destabilisation.

He has done nothing to ease the plight of Palestinians living under Israel’s harsh occupation, risking a third violent intifada. He has harmed Syria’s population by continuing to impose sanctions although the UAE and other key Arab actors argue that Damascus must be brought back into the Arab fold and post-war reconstruction commenced. Without Syria — a manufacturing, trade, transit and tourism hub — Lebanon and Jordan and, to some extent, Iraq cannot flourish, and the heartland of the Eastern Arab World will remain an area of privation instead of an engine of economic growth.

Biden handily won the 2020 presidential election because he was “not Trump” but the Democratic Party did not benefit from his success. Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives and retained their 50 per cent of Senate seats. This has encouraged Trump’s Republicans who smell victory this November and in 2024. Another four years of Trump and his party will be a total disaster for the US and the world.

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