Biden's big bet on Big Government

Biden's big bet on Big Government

There are many differences between America's two main political parties, but the most fundamental is this: Democrats say government can and should act boldly to improve people's lives and strengthen the nation. Republicans insist that government itself poses the greatest threat to individual liberty and the nation's lasting competitive strength. The past 100 days make crystal-clear which side of that argument President Joe Biden lives on.

Ronald Reagan's presidency in the 1980s seemed to finally settle this question in favor of less government. Bill Clinton, the first post-Reagan Democrat in the White House, famously told Congress in 1996 that "the era of big government is over." A generation later, outside of his ambitious healthcare reform plan, fellow Democrat Barack Obama was notably cautious on this question.

But the pandemic has given Biden an opportunity to show government can go big. Historically big.


Biden has focused almost entirely on two priorities: COVID vaccinations and economic recovery. Thanks in part to groundwork laid by the Trump administration, the president's focus on the pandemic has helped the United States become a vaccine success story. Biden first got a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan through Congress. Later he proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill and the so-called American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion investment which includes both tax breaks and deep investment in education.

Biden's pandemic stimulus plan was about two and a half times larger than the plan his former boss Obama proposed in response to the global financial crisis despite much larger Democratic majorities in both houses in 2009. In fact, no US president has proposed anything on this scale since the days of World War II and the Marshall Plan. Biden has also announced his intention to end the war in Afghanistan, the longest in US history, by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks later this year.

Politically, this strategy is working. Polling from Fox News, CNN, NBC, Washington Post-ABC, and Monmouth all give Biden solid favorability scores and place support for his plans in the mid-60s. A recent CBS/YouGov poll found that 77 percent support the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Investors seem to like these plans too. The US stock market closed Biden's first 100 days in office with the strongest start to a presidential term since Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. All of this encourages Democrats to hope that their core voters, weary of their caution, will reward their boldness.

But Biden knows it would be foolish to declare that the era of "big government is over" is now over, and his ambitious push is less a sign of strength than of urgency. Unlike under similarly ambitious presidents of the past, like Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, Democrats have razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress. Clinton (1994) and Obama (2010) saw their party suffer blowout losses in their first midterm elections. If they lose control of either house in November 2022, Biden's window of opportunity will close until at least 2025.

The new president knows he hasn't won over GOP lawmakers or voters — just 11 percent of Republicans think he's doing a good job — and that the electoral college and control of state legislatures give Republicans important and lasting electoral advantages.

There are also distractions and dangers ahead. Much of what Biden has proposed so far can be achieved without Republican support, but that's not true for gun restrictions or immigration, a subject that Republican voters consider a priority and which Biden hasn't done much about. Racism poses challenges well beyond the powers of any policymaker, and even passage of a new voting rights act will be a heavy lift. And the withdrawal from Afghanistan will not go smoothly if Taliban forces become more aggressive before US troops have left.

Finally, economic expectations are now sky-high, consumer sentiment is on the rise, and any failure to sustain what has been billed as a coming boom will weigh on Biden's popularity.

Presidential terms are judged on what is accomplished over 1,461 days, not 100. Much of what Biden has proposed remains in the blueprint stage, and the end of the pandemic will leave many Americans less reliant on government action.

Bottom line: The debate over government's proper role in American life has raged since the early days of the republic, and that fight will continue. Biden has months, not years, to make his case for a more activist federal government. Eras in American politics don't last as long as they used to, and Republicans are waiting anxiously in the wings.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

After Biden's first visit, do his European allies feel that America is back?

I think they do. Wasn't particularly surprising, we've heard that message before. But now it was, sort of more concrete issues. I'm not certain there was, sort of major, major, major progress. But there was the beginning of a dialogue on trade and technology issues with Europe, clearly on security issues with NATO, and quite a number of other issues with G7, and general satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting with Putin. So, altogether good.

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Listen: Former US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder weighs in on US President Joe Biden's first trip abroad, which included a very important first stop at the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, and the way forward for the US and its closest friends. Did he convince allies that "America is back" and ready to resume its leadership role in global affairs? And if so, does it even matter if Americans still need to be convinced that US engagement in the world is vital? Daalder speaks with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

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