By Edith Morgan
President Joe Biden’s address to Congress and America: not everyone was there. The hallowed chamber was mostly empty, as everyone was seated the mandatory six feet from everyone else. But at least all the important parts of our federal government were there, presided over – for the first time in our history! – by two women, one of them a woman of color. Vice-President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood side by side at the dais and watched the others come in. Among the special guests were the spouses of the President and the Vice President. Chief Justice John Roberts represented the Supreme Court, and a sparse number of Senators and Representatives took their places on each side: stony faced Republicans and jovial Democrats and, of course, the indomitable Independent, Bernie Sanders.
The contents of Biden’s speech were no surprise, as copies had been distributed to all before the event – although I suspect that not everyone in that great hall had really read and digested its contents. I got the message throughout that “America is back” and that our allies and friends all over the world have breathed a sigh of relief, tempered by the often unasked question “For how long?” But at least we have mended fences, reached out to friend and foe, and made clear what our values and goals are now, as of January 20.
Biden spoke directly to the American people and offered detailed plans for a near and far future designed to achieve some lofty goals. The polls indicate that the majority of Americans outside Washington D.C. agree with the plans.
Overall, each initiative is designed to get all of us vaccinated (we are rapidly getting there), make sure that we eliminate childhood hunger and poverty, and give every child in America a good start in life by offering free, public pre-school. The plan also calls for community college for all and puts into the hands of parents enough money to enable them to buy food and essentials for their families. The entire package is designed to rebuild the decimated middle class, restore its powers and, in that way, rebuild our economy that has tumbled so badly under the twin weights of the pandemic and the previous administration.
Biden addressed the question sure to be asked: how do we pay for all of this? By closing tax loop holes in the existing tax structure and making the very rich and corporations pay their fair share. Biden explained that the Trump tax cuts to the very rich simply put trillions of dollars into the pockets of those who already had more than enough money and added to the huge deficit.
The cameras panned over the attendees periodically and registered the stone-faced disapproval of Republicans, while the other side often stood and applauded. At one point the camera picked up a very tanned Republican Senator Ted Cruz – dozing off during the speech. There were frequent takes of Mitch McConnell and GOP Chair Kevin McCarthy, both sitting unmoved and unresponsive.
Thus far, President Biden has more than kept his promises to all Americans and has even exceeded his goals in the number of citizens vaccinated. He has proved that he has the momentum and vision to accomplish much of what he promised, and he has found ways of doing so without the reactive participation of the Trump Republican Party. His appointees appear to be cleaning up the Justice Department, and his Cabinet members are turning around or undoing the damage done during the past administration.
It is certainly very comforting to hear that our own tax money will come back to us to begin the enormous task of removing the devastating inequities in our economic system, while still going forward and staying competitive with the rest of the industrial world. Maybe the historians who predicted that this would be the century of China will have to take a second look! Biden forcefully reminded China that while we would cooperate where possible, there would be consequences for their violations of human rights and for their disregard for property and patent rights.
While he made no direct allusion to our border problems, he did recognize that there is a need to address the horrendous problems of violence, graft and poverty in the countries to the south of us, from where many of the refugees flee to the relative safety of the U.S.
President Biden’s first 100 days have gone well – millions and millions of us vaccinated against COVID, decorum and respect restored to the White House … We, the People, seem to be watching and approving. Slow and steady, and always with his hand on the pulse of the public, Joe Biden can accomplish much – without bombast and egomania. I, for one, have heaved a huge sigh of relief!