Only the name has changed, the policies haven’t.
As always, I am indebted to the Twitter account @WaitingOnBiden for the invaluable work in gathering together the failures of Biden.
One year ago, President Biden was inaugurated. Millions of people voted for him simply because he was not Trump. A year later, it is easy to see that they were fooled. Biden’s policies have been very similar to those of Trump. The rhetoric has been different, the tweets have been nicer, and Biden doesn’t play golf, but from a policy standpoint nothing has fundamentally changed. The material conditions of the majority of the working class have not improved from under the previous administration. The greatest lesson to be learned from a Biden presidency is that both parties only support a corporate agenda. There can be no progress without a mass working class movement. Real change happens from the bottom up.
Historically, the first year is when a new president accomplishes the bulk of their agenda – especially when they control the House and Senate as the Democrats did in 2021. What did the Biden administration do with this control? They started off by passing the American Rescue Plan Act. This act built on some of the former provisions passed under the CARES act but failed to live up to the expectations promised by Biden. It only had a $1,400 relief check when Biden had promised $2,000 checks would go out the door if the Democrats won the senate races in Georgia. It originally included 400$/week expanded unemployment benefits, but the Democrats negotiated with themselves and cut it down to $300/week and only through Labor Day. The CARES Act had included $600/week, making the Democratic legislation 50% of that passed under Trump. The 15$ minimum wage provision, which would have greatly benefitted the working class, was cut out completely because the senate parliamentarian said so. One of the most impactful items in the bill was the expanded Child Tax Credit, which was advertised as cutting child poverty in half. Unfortunately, this provision was to last for only one year, so if child poverty was cut in half, it is set to increase by 50% in 2022. Nevertheless, the American Rescue Plan Act was still an overall positive for the working class. However, it was not just a boon to the working class, as much of the relief money went to corporations. And Republican states have been using their own relief money to fund tax cuts for the rich, something which the Biden administration has allowed to happen. If Biden had continued passing relief bills, things might be different. However, after passing the American Rescue Plan, Congress spent most of the year passing no significant legislation.
In spite of claims of a Biden boom, the US Misery Index has increased from 7.8 in January 2021 to 10.94 in December. The stock market has been used as an indicator of this boom even though 89% of all stock is owned by the wealthiest 10% of the US. And even now the stock market is seeing what is being referred to as a correction phase. The S&P 500 lost 5.3% in January 2022.
Whatever the stock market may be doing, the conditions for the working class have been getting steadily worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
From December 2020 to December 2021, real average hourly earnings decreased 1.9 percent, seasonally adjusted. The change in real average hourly earnings combined with no change in the average workweek resulted in a 2.0-percent decrease in real average weekly earnings over this period.
The Biden economy has only benefitted the rich and powerful. The material conditions of the working class have no improved one bit.
When it came to his Build Back Better act, the signature legislation in the Biden agenda, the president was unable to even negotiate with his own party to pass it. Instead, the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill was decoupled from BBB and passed as a stand alone bill. What did the bill primarily include? Private-public partnerships. When it comes to benefitting corporations, bills are easy to pass. But when it comes to much needed relief for the working class, the bills languish or are voted down. The Democratic party and their corporate media backers blame Manchin and Sinema, but they are simply rotating villains to make sure nothing gets done.
Even though Biden could not get Build Back Better done, there was plenty that he did get done during his first year.
He managed to hand out drilling permits to oil and gas companies like they were free ice cream. In fact:
New federal data shows the Biden administration approved 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands in its first year, far outpacing the Trump administration’s first-year total of 2,658.
This was 34% greater than Trump’s total. And Biden promised to ban oil and gas drilling on public lands. So much for being the party of believing science! When Biden has to choose between pleasing his corporate donors and carrying out his campaign promises, it is easy to see which choice he makes. Joe Biden hasn’t changed from when he first entered congress and was ready to prostitute himself for the big donors.
In addition to listening to the money rather than the science, Biden has continued Trump’s border policies. Biden told immigration activists that they should vote for Trump. He should have told them to vote Green, but either way, it was clear that a vote for Biden was a vote for deportation. His policies over the last year have shown that to be true.
According to the Texas Tribune, undocumented immigrants in border facilities have increased 50% under Biden. Biden restarted expedited removal procedures. According to United We Dream, deportations and expulsions under Biden to date number 1,827,559. ICE detentions increased drastically during the first half of the year:
While on the campaign, Biden promised not another foot of border wall would be built. That was another lie. The Department of Homeland Security announced on December 20th that it would begin closing gaps in the border fence. This is in addition to construction that was being carried out over the summer and seizing land from Texas families for border construction. A Biden promise is worthless.
Remember how kids in cages were the most awful thing under Trump? Even though these were cages that Obama built, people were rightfully outraged at Trump’s immigration policies and detaining children at the border. After promising no more kids in cages, Biden is continuing this policy. Democrats have suddenly become silent on the matter. Was all the outrage fake? Now that the kids in cages are no longer of political benefit to the Democrats, they have been swept under the rug. Where is the spirit of Eugene V. Debs?
As long as there are children in cages, we are not free. It matters not whether the administration holding them is Democratic or Republican, placing children in detention centers is a crime against humanity.
Biden ran on cancelling at least some student debt for everyone.
It does figure in my plan. I’ve laid out in detail. For example, the legislation passed by the democratic house calls for immediate $10,000 forgiveness of student loans. It’s holding people up. They’re in real trouble. They’re having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent, those kinds of decisions. It should be done immediately. In addition to that, as you know, I think that everything from community college straight through to doubling Pell grants, to making sure that we have access to free education for anyone making under $125,000 for four years of college. And there is a program that exists now under the law that forgives student loans for being able to engage in public service. I’m going to institute that fundamental change in that so it’s able to be available to everyone, that in fact, is engaged. It’s not being very well managed right now. So I’m going to do all of those things. Thank you. – President Biden, November 16, 2020
So far Biden has done none of those things. Biden does not need congress to cancel student debt. He could do it through the Department of Education. Prospect.org details exactly how this would work in an excellent article here. He could even make college tuition free using a similar mechanism. While there might be legal challenges to using his executive authority in this manner, it is telling that he has not even attempted it. It was only being pressured that he extended the moratorium on student loan payments. Student loan debt repayment is currently scheduled to resume in May.
Biden has been a complete failure on healthcare and addressing the pandemic. He ran on a public option but has not mentioned it since taking office. Instead Biden is continuing a Trump policy that privatizes Medicare. And in addition to that, Medicare premiums are going up 14.5%, the largest increase since 2016. Instead of the incredibly popular Medicare for all championed by Bernie Sanders, we are seeing more expensive Medicare for seniors.
In a talk with Ady Barkan, Biden promised to make the vaccine patents freely available for the world. Spoiler alert – Biden didn’t release the vaccine patents and is unlikely to in the future. Biden received $6.3 million from pharmaceutical companies during his presidential campaign, almost four times that received by Trump. The Biden presidency has been a boon for Pfizer, who reported earnings of $7.7 billion in 2021, an increase of 133%.
Biden ran on a promise to decriminalize marijuana, which is also something he could do without congress.
“We have a commitment to decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses. When you look at the awful war on drugs and the disproportionate impact it had on black men and creating then criminal records that have deprived people of access to jobs and housing and basic benefits.” – Kamala Harris, October 19, 2020
What has he done instead? He fired staffers for previous marijuana use. And he extended Trump era mandatory sentencing for drug offenders. Biden has the power to end the war on drugs, but refuses to use it. This comes as no surprise from the author of the 1994 crime bill.
The list goes on and on. I have barely even touched on Biden’s foreign policy, which has been described as Trump’s legacy. While Biden did manage to get US troops out of Afghanistan, he has continued the war there through devastating sanctions as Peter Daou describes here.
What else did Biden get done?
Joe Biden: “The reason I’m running is because I’ve been around a long time & I know more than most people know & I can get things done… And if you want to check my shape, let’s do push-ups together man, let’s run, let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test.” pic.twitter.com/goeE7WGBaZ— The Hill (@thehill) December 5, 2019
Biden’s administration has mostly consisted of broken promises and failures to pass anything. But he has gotten some things done as president. He did get the Havana Act passed. Havana Syndrome is a fabricated illness supposedly due to Cuban (or maybe Russian or Chinese or Indian) commie death rays, though even the CIA admits they don’t think that is true. Those who have suffered brain damage from these mysterious attacks will be compensated thanks to this act. This is what Biden, with his master negotiating skills, was able to get done with a Democratic majority.
In addition to the Havana Act, he has increased militarization of the police. He has also increased overall funding for police departments, in spite of calls to defund the police. He signed the largest military budget in history into law. He managed to send $200 million in “lethal aid” to Ukraine, a country which has a strong neo-Nazi presence. On December 16, 2021, the US and Ukraine both voted against a UN resolution “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” It is difficult to see how any of these policies would have been different under the Trump administration.
It’s no wonder that the Democrats had the single largest yearly drop in Gallup poll history.
In the first quarter of 2021, about 49% of Americans identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with just 40% for the Republican Party, according to Gallup. By the fourth quarter, however, that advantage had been completely lost, with 47% of Americans surveyed identifying with or leaning toward the GOP, and just 42% of Americans identifying as Democrats.
That’s a swing of 14 points in just one year, the largest shift Gallup has seen in its 30 years of polling.
Imagine an administration so bad that it actually creates Republicans – after four years of Trump. That is what is happening with the Biden administration. People lived through Trump and are still deciding that Biden is worse. This is what happens under a corporate duopoly. Both parties serve their corporate donors and do not care about the material conditions of the people. The only way this will change is through a mass working class anti-capitalist movement.
Originally published on Birrion Sondahl’s substack, An Appeal to Reason.