Op/Ed: One Year of Joe Biden

Jeremy Young '24

          On January 20th, 2021, President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. This fact surprised me because, as far as I'm concerned, it seems like he has been in office for the better part of the century. Biden has had an action-packed first year: on his inauguration day, he promised to get the pandemic under control and for a rebound to the economy. One year later, COVID cases are at 72 million, up from 150 thousand in January 2021. And while the economy has grown, its growth will come to a stop soon due to the omicron surge and stimulus spending, according to CNBC. To this day, Biden’s approval rating sits at an atrociously low level at 42.2% according to FiveThirtyEight and is expected to sink even lower with Russia invading Ukraine. To be fair to Biden, he was never going to be liked by Republicans, that much was clear the day he stepped into office. But to get the party that put him in office the year earlier to turn on him takes real talent. Biden’s approval rating is down 19% from Democrats and down 32%, from this time last year among those who lean Democrat according to the Pew Research center. 

 

          The writing is on the wall for Biden and Democrats. Following humiliating losses in the once blue Virginia and a nail-biter in the very much blue New Jersey, there doesn’t seem to be any hope that Democrats will be able to hold either the House or Senate. This means, in order for Biden to get his legislation through Congress, he needs to do it between now and November. 

 

           Unfortunately for Joe Biden, he hasn’t been able to do this in his first year. Biden’s “Build Back Better Plan,” meant to rebuild the backbone of America (the middle-class) and make sure the economy works for everyone, would only cost the small price of $2.2 trillion dollars. The bill spent a better part of a year in development just for every single Republican in the House to vote against it. And it isn’t just Republicans who disagree with the enormous bill, as Senators Kirsten Sinema and Joe Manchin both voiced concerns over the bill and the latter being the one to lay the bill to rest. Biden hasn’t been able to garner the bipartisan support needed to pass a major legislature. His $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan gained the support of not a single Republican which might work while he has the majority but won’t work much longer. Biden has gone another route, signing 77 executive orders in his first year as compared to Trump’s 58, Obama’s 41, and Bush’s 56, according to CNN.  

 

             What Biden has done has been incredibly costly. Biden’s two major bills that have been passed: the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill combine to cost over $3 trillion, according to Fox Business. And while spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has had serious consequences. Excess spending, which has gone to stimulus checks and pandemic spending, has contributed to inflation. According to the BBC, “Consumer prices were up 7% from December 2020-21, the biggest increase since the 1980s.”  As prices rise, the economic growth touted by Biden will stagnate. The trillions of dollars used for these bills add to the deficit, at the end of last year congress voted to raise the debt ceiling by another $2.5 trillion dollars which is the exact opposite of what they should be doing in order to lower the deficit. 

 

              One of the issues that Biden brought up often throughout his campaign, but has been completely forgotten about since he took office, is immigration. Trump made himself an easy target with the idea of a border wall but, to his credit, at least he had a plan. According to US Customs and Border Protection, The number of border enforcement encounters was 458,088, which was under the Trump administration. In 2021, the number was 1,734,286, finishing with eight straight months of over 100,000 encounters. According to the BBC, there were about 125,000 unaccompanied minors who were taken into the government’s care in 2021. U.S. Border patrol agent encounters are off to a hot start again in 2022, as since October there have been 497,681 encounters which is more encounters than the entire year of 2017, 2018, and 2020. With this many border encounters, there were even more illegal border crossings not apprehended by border security. According to the New York Times, “It (the last 12 months), was the highest number of illegal crossings recorded since at least 1960 when the government first began tracking such entries.” 

 

                The problem with this is with so many other major news stories, immigration has been completely forgotten about, which makes people think that it has slowed down or isn’t happening. Migrant trains, which at one time were big news, are now a monthly occurrence. The states that are affected by illegal immigration, namely Texas, are now left to fend for themselves. In fact, one of the first things that Biden did in January 2021 when he took office was to take an executive order against Trump’s border wall. This is fine, the border wall had many problems, namely that it would cost $21.6 billion according to the Department of Homeland Security. But if you’re going to shoot down a valid idea, you need to have a better idea to replace it with and Biden seems to have forgotten about this. 

 

             Saying that Afghanistan was a disaster for Joe Biden is like saying the sky is blue; yes we all know how bad Afghanistan was, and there’s no debating that fact. With that being said, it keeps getting worse and worse as the months go on. With the West in complete disarray when it comes to involvement overseas, Russia was happy to move in and reassert itself. A country fearing invasion by the group that previously governed over them. A country that has seen heavy U.S. involvement in recent times. A country whose military has been bolstered by billions of dollars by the U.S. Starting to see the similarities between Ukraine and Afghanistan? Now Putin has caught Biden and the West perfectly in his trap. If Putin chooses to attack, how much will the US step in? I don’t think anyone is ready for the US to start sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Ukraine, especially after Biden was so quick to pull the plug on a few thousand troops in Afghanistan. And if the US doesn’t send in many more troops to help Ukraine, I don’t think that Ukraine would be able to hold off Russia for very long. Biden’s threats of economic sanctions won’t really have much of an impact now that Russia and China are best bros and China would bail Russia out of any economic losses. Trump was able to keep Russia under control. Putin and Trump met countless times and if you can say one thing about Trump, at least Putin respected him enough to not step this far out of line. Now Biden will have to make a decision, will he decide to make sure an invasion of Ukraine seems impossible or too costly by pouring in troops and money and risk the fear of losing thousands of lives and involvement in another overseas war or the option of sitting back and imposing sanctions which don’t hold the same weight that they once did. 

 

            The problem with Joe Biden is he is out of touch. Democrats had no better options and Republicans faced a perfect storm of a pandemic and economic turmoil. Biden fits the role perfectly as a placeholder, an in-between of the radicals of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Biden was not elected to implement radical policies, with a Senate split at 50-50 it was obvious that America was not ready for the rash and costly decisions. Voters have turned on Biden and turned hard as according to the Gallup organization, after gains at the end of 2021, Republicans hold an advantage over Democrats, the largest in the last 25 years. 

 

            With the clock running down and midterms and eventual presidential elections on the horizon, Biden is quickly finding himself with little to no accomplishments to point to. The time is now for Biden as he still has the opportunity to force through any of his legislatures, but if things continue the way they are, don’t expect the majority to last much longer for Democrats. And looking even farther down the road I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about an 82-year-old president in office come 2024. For now, Biden is going to have to accept that he has failed miserably when it comes to domestic policy and try to salvage the situation in Ukraine before it becomes even worse. Because if there's a way to lose the support of the public fast, getting involved in a bloody and drawn-out war is the way to do it.