What Biden Has — and Hasn’t — Done

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

There’s something strange in the D.C. air these days. It smells a bit like … competence.
Seriously, it has been amazing to watch the media narrative on the Biden administration change. Just a few weeks ago President Biden was portrayed as hapless, on the edge of presiding over a failed presidency. Then came the Inflation Reduction Act, a big employment report and some good news on inflation, and suddenly we’re hearing a lot about his accomplishments.
But I still don’t think the media narrative gets it quite right. Biden has indeed accomplished a lot — in some ways more than he’s getting credit for, even now. On the other hand, America is a huge nation with a huge economy, and his policies don’t look as impressive when you compare them with the scale of the nation’s problems.
Furthermore, at this point Biden is arguably benefiting from the soft bigotry of low expectations. His policy achievements are big by modern standards, but they wouldn’t have seemed astounding in an earlier era — the era before the radicalization of the Republican Party made it almost impossible to pursue real solutions to real problems.
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So, what has Biden accomplished?
As I see it, he came into office with three main domestic policy goals: investing in America’s fraying infrastructure, taking serious action against climate change and expanding the social safety net, especially for families with children. He got most of two and a bit of the third.

Last year’s infrastructure bill gets remarkably little media attention; only about a quarter of voters even know that it passed. But we should remember that Barack Obama wanted to invest in infrastructure but couldn’t; Donald Trump promised to do it but didn’t (and “It’s infrastructure week!” became a running joke); then Biden got it done.
By contrast, the Inflation Reduction Act, which is mainly a climate law, has received a lot of attention, and deservedly so. America is finally taking action against the biggest existential threat of our times. Energy experts believe that it will have large direct effects in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
These are significant achievements, and a big contrast with the last administration, whose only major domestic policy change was a tax cut that had almost no visible positive effects.
But when I see news reports describe these laws as “massive” or huge, I wonder whether the writers have done the math. The infrastructure law will add roughly $500 billion in spending over the next decade. The Inflation Reduction Act will increase spending by roughly an additional half trillion. A law to promote U.S. semiconductor production will add around $50 billion more. Overall, then, we’re talking about a bit more than $1 trillion in public investment over 10 years.



To put this in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office expects cumulative gross domestic product to be more than $300 trillion over the next decade. So the Biden agenda will amount to around one-third of one percent of G.D.P. Massive it isn’t.

True, some of what Biden has done may have effects much bigger than the dollar sums might suggest. There are reasons to hope that the climate law will have a sort of catalytic effect in promoting a transition to clean energy. And some economists believe that boosting the budget of the resource-starved Internal Revenue Service will greatly reduce tax evasion and hence increase revenue.
And can we say a word about foreign policy? Biden got immense flak over the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, although the critics offered few suggestions about what he should have done differently. But the narrative on foreign affairs has changed, too; I’m no expert, but it looks to me as if the Biden administration has done a remarkable job assembling and holding together a coalition to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression.
OK, I can already hear people yelling in response to any citation of Biden’s achievements, what about inflation? Indeed, the Biden administration failed to appreciate the risks of an inflation surge. However, so did many others, including the Federal Reserve (and yours truly). And it does seem worth pointing out that other countries, notably Britain, are also suffering from high inflation, even though they didn’t follow anything like Biden-style policies. In fact, Britain’s inflation problem looks worse than ours, on multiple dimensions.
And both the public and financial markets expect inflation to be brought under control. So it doesn’t look as if this admittedly big misstep will do enduring damage.
Again, I don’t want to sound Trumpian and claim that Biden is doing an awesome job, a perfect job, the best job anyone has ever seen. What he has done — and was doing even before the media narrative turned — is deal, reasonably effectively, with the real problems America is facing.
The thing is, what we’re getting from Biden should be routine in a wealthy, sophisticated nation; indeed, it was routine before the G.O.P. took its hard right turn. At this point, however, competent, reality-based government comes as a shock.

 

FAUlty Gator

HR Legend
Oct 27, 2017
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And some economists believe that boosting the budget of the resource-starved Internal Revenue Service will greatly reduce tax evasion and hence increase revenue.

So, will the money added by catching some tax evasion outweigh the salaries and benefits of the 87,000 new agents added? I honestly don't know.
 

tarheelbybirth

HR King
Apr 17, 2003
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True, some of what Biden has done may have effects much bigger than the dollar sums might suggest.
This has to be a given. There will surely be a multiplying effect on every dollar spent. Modernizing infrastructure will certainly spur growth as will the promotion of the semiconductor industry. Lack of semiconductors has sure been a drag on the economy. Green energy is an absolute growth industry but I wish we could promote nuclear or all the green energy in the world isn't going to get us where we need to be.
 
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Mike Zierath

Family, football and fishing.....
Staff
Jun 3, 2002
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In our world of immediate satisfaction, if it doesn’t happen right now….you are failing.

I'm guilty….definitely wasn’t happy with the job that was being done based on results….and then overnight, puzzle pieces start fitting together! The last few weeks have been a complete 180, as far as the Biden administration is concerned. It’s looking very much like things are swinging in the right direction and that’s a good thing for all of us.

as I’ve said many times…..it didn’t matter who would have been in The White House after the last election, what we have seen and are going through was inevitable, given the circumstances. Biden inherited a catastrophe from the outgoing administration because they didn’t have policies in place to deal with what was coming at them.

But, it’s gonna be great, you’ll see! Better than ever! And we can all look at the determination of this administration, to do what’s right, and turn this ship around and get it headed back towards respect and admiration from the rest of the world, (which is how it should be), the selfless hours of service, as the driving force.

we can all learn something from this! Nothing good happens over night and patience is a virtue!
 

Mike Zierath

Family, football and fishing.....
Staff
Jun 3, 2002
17,651
10,887
113
59
Flower Mound, TX
And some economists believe that boosting the budget of the resource-starved Internal Revenue Service will greatly reduce tax evasion and hence increase revenue.

So, will the money added by catching some tax evasion outweigh the salaries and benefits of the 87,000 new agents added? I honestly don't know.
I’m truly interested in finding out where they are going to find these 87,000 new agents!
 

CarolinaHawkeye

HR Legend
Gold Member
Feb 5, 2003
44,401
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Iowa
In our world of immediate satisfaction, if it doesn’t happen right now….you are failing.

I'm guilty….definitely wasn’t happy with the job that was being done based on results….and then overnight, puzzle pieces start fitting together! The last few weeks have been a complete 180, as far as the Biden administration is concerned. It’s looking very much like things are swinging in the right direction and that’s a good thing for all of us.

as I’ve said many times…..it didn’t matter who would have been in The White House after the last election, what we have seen and are going through was inevitable, given the circumstances. Biden inherited a catastrophe from the outgoing administration because they didn’t have policies in place to deal with what was coming at them.

But, it’s gonna be great, you’ll see! Better than ever! And we can all look at the determination of this administration, to do what’s right, and turn this ship around and get it headed back towards respect and admiration from the rest of the world, (which is how it should be), the selfless hours of service, as the driving force.

we can all learn something from this! Nothing good happens over night and patience is a virtue!
I'm still a little wary that Joe is up for the job. But so much better than the alternative.
 

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