Biden’s Address to Congress: The Good, Bad, Missing, and the Unsure

Follow WeTheCommoners Blog on WordPress.com

By Quentin Choy

April 29, 2021

Yesterday, Joe Biden gave an address to a joint session of Congress after his first 100 days in office. He flaunted his successes and laid out what issues he and his administration wants to tackle next.

In my last post, “Biden Prepares to Address Congress; Compared to Lyndon Johnson,” Biden was compared to Lyndon Johnson due to his agenda which aims to expand the welfare system and backing legislation that will support creating jobs, infrastructure, and providing free preschool and community college.

After watching the speech, I am optimistic about Biden’s plans and honestly believe that if he can actually pass some of this agenda rather than just discussing it, he could be one of the best modern presidents. However, all this talk is empty unless he manages to deliver.

Some key aspects of his speech were that he used populist rhetoric. Whether or not he means the things he said, I don’t know.

The rest of this post are key quotes from Biden’s address under certain topics and my opinion on whether his mention of these things were good or bad. I’ve commented in italics under the “bad” quotes explaining my reasoning, and I’ve bolded quotes that I felt were crucial to his speech, were overwhelmingly positive, and likely stuck a chord among working-class Americans.

Good:

Populist Rhetoric:

  • “And it [the American Jobs Plan] recognizes something I’ve always said in this chamber and the other.  Good guys and women on Wall Street, but Wall Street didn’t build this country.  The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class.”
Courtesy of Getty Images/AFP
  • No one — no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.
  • I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000.  It’s — but it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share. Just their fair share.” 
  • “A recent study shows that 55 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid zero federal tax last year.  Those 55 corporations made in excess of $40 billion in profit.  A lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.  And they benefit from tax loopholes and deductions for offshoring jobs and shifting profits overseas.  It’s not right.”
  • “We’re going to reward work, not just wealth. “
  • And the IRS is going to crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes.  It’s estimated to be billions of dollars by think tanks that are left, right, and center. “
  • “I’m not looking to punish anybody.  But I will not add a tax burden — an additional tax burden to the middle class in this country.  They’re already paying enough.  I believe what I propose is fair.”
  • “When you hear someone say that they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent or corporate America, ask them: “Whose taxes you want to raise instead?  Whose are you going to cut?””

Biden owned his presidency:

Biden avoided ever mentioning Barack Obama or Donald Trump by name which would have made his presidency seem reactionary in terms of countering Trump and trying to succeed Obama. Instead, by avoiding their names, Biden made his presidency and agenda his own.

On the coronavirus pandemic:

“We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and “We the People” did not flinch.”

“The pandemic has only made things worse.  Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic — working- and middle-class Americans.  At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion — in the same exact period.”

On healthcare and prescription drugs:

“Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices. And, by the way, that won’t just — that won’t just help people on Medicare; it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.” 

“This is all about a simple premise: Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege in America.”

On the American Families Plan:

“I wonder whether we’d think, as we did in the 20th century, that 12 years is enough in the 21st century.  I doubt it.  Twelve years is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century. That’s why my American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting as early as we can.”

“The research shows when a young child goes to school — not daycare — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go to college or something after high school.”

“I’m proposing legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5.  The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.”

“The American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave  and medical leave — family and medical leave.  We’re one of the few industrial countries in the world. No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.

“But let’s extend that Child Care Tax Credit at least through the end of 2025.” 

On the American Jobs Plan:

“These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree; 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America.” 

“So, how do we pay for my Jobs and Family Plan?  I made it clear, we can do it without increasing the deficits.”

Courtesy of Newsweek.

On foreign policy

“Today we have servicemembers serving in the same warzone as their parents did.  We have servicemembers in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11.”

On the root causes of immigration:

“We have to — also have to get at the root problem of why people are fleeing, particularly to — to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador: the violence, the corruption, the gangs, and the political instability, hunger, hurricanes, earthquakes, natural disasters.”

On cancer and medical research:

“I’ll never forget you standing and mentioning — saying you’d name it after my deceased son.  It meant a lot. But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer.  I can think of no more worthy investment.  I know of nothing that is more bipartisan.  So, let’s end cancer as we know it.”

On democracy and the insurrection:

“The insurrection was an existential crisis –- a test of whether our democracy could survive.  And it did. But the struggle is far from over.  The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic — still vital today. Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?”

“America’s adversaries –- the autocrats of the world –- are betting we can’t.  And I promise you, they’re betting we can’t.  They believe we’re too full of anger and division and rage. They look at the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy.  But they are wrong.  You know it; I know it.  But we have to prove them wrong. We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.”

Bad:

  • On the Constitution:
    • “This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue.  And no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.  You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.”
    • “We’re not changing the Constitution; we’re being reasonable.”
    • Biden should never say anything regarding changing the Constitution. I’m imagining how it sounds to a small-government conservative or to someone skeptical of Biden and his agenda being too radical. Even mentioning the Constitution and saying that “we’re not changing the Constitution; we’re being reasonable,” makes me believe that he wants to do so.
  • On the minimum wage:
    • “And, by the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk — (laughs) — let’s raise the minimum wage to $15.”
    • Biden had a chance to fight for this issue and get it passed in his American Rescue Plan aka the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. 
  • On race:
    • “And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism.  We’re not going to ignore that either.”
    • While I agree that white supremacy is a threat and that it should be treated as terrorism, it can alienate white voters who abhor white supremacy as well. Instead, it would be better to tie in white supremacy with specific examples and names such as in the Atlanta shooting. 
  • On guns:
    • “Look, I don’t want to become confrontational but we need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democrat colleagues and close the loopholes requiring a background check on purchases of guns.  We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  And don’t tell me it can’t be done.  We did it before, and it worked. Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon.  What do you think — deer are wearing Kevlar vests?  (Laughter.)  They’ll tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.”
    • While Biden made some sense discussing the use of guns in violence against women and the buying of “ghost guns,” his sarcastic comments about hunters further antagonizes law-abiding gun owners, and while some reform can be made, he likely solidified their opposition to a president they view as being “after their guns.” He also describes some people who “shouldn’t be able to buy a gun,” which violates citizens’ 2nd Amendment Rights.

Unsure:

  • “In my discussions — in my discussions with President Xi, I told him, “We welcome the competition.  We’re not looking for conflict.”  But I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board.  America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies from state — to state-owned operations and enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property. I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe — not to start a conflict, but to prevent one.”
Xi Jinping, President of China. Courtesy of BBC.
  • Only in this comment did most Republicans stand and applaud President Biden. This comment makes me fear that removing troops from Afghanistan will only be used to increase presence and potential provocation in China or Russia.
  • Biden mentioned plans to “Buy America” but he said there will be very small exceptions, which I am unsure of.

Missing:

  • Sharing COVID-19 vaccines with other countries and suspending patents on the vaccines.
  • Efforts to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Image Courtesy of CNN.

Follow WeTheCommoners Blog on WordPress.com

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: