Above photo: President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual event with the Munich Security Conference in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 19, 2021, in Washington. Patrick Semansky | AP.
Biden kicked off his campaign by telling wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” under his presidency.
After one month in office, it appears as if that is one campaign promise he is likely to keep.
One month into his presidential career and Joe Biden has already left a trail of broken promises on progressive legislation. Yesterday, it was reported that the president held a closed-door meeting with a group of mayors and governors. At the first sign of pushback from Republicans in the room, he immediately dropped his support for the $15 minimum wage on the basis that he needed bipartisan support to pass it. Given that Democrats control the House, Senate, and the White House, this position seems surprising. “I really want this in there but it just doesn’t look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” the 78-year-old Delawarean said, according to those present. “Right now, we have to prepare for this not making it,” he added. As Politico noted, there was no further negotiation on the minimum wage after that; the topic was simply dropped.
Trump-Lite at home and abroad
The president’s professed desire to end the war in Yemen has also been liberally watered down. In his statement, Biden stressed that support for Saudi “defensive” operations would continue and that only “relevant” arms sales would be stopped. This was essentially a return to the Obama-era position on Yemen.
Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin spoke with the Saudi defense minister and assured him of the United States’ continued commitment to their partnership. Austin went on to publicly condemn alleged Houthi attacks in Saudi Arabia, reiterating that the U.S. would help Riyadh defend its borders. Consequently, the worry is that the Saudi onslaught will merely be reframed as a defensive campaign, and business will continue as usual. On Iran, the president has declared that Trump-era sanctions will not be lifted, something that Iran considers a prerequisite for any negotiations on a new nuclear deal.
Student debt is a major problem in all 50 states. Between 2008 and 2015, total loan debt doubled, with many Americans now retiring without having paid off their debts. Biden is defying many powerful Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in categorically rejecting a proposed debt forgiveness program of up to $50,000 per person. “I’m prepared to write off a $10,000 debt, but not 50,” Biden told a CNN town hall on Tuesday, insisting that he does not have the authority to do so, something strongly contested by many experts. This will no doubt disappoint 44.7 million student loan borrowers, who owe an average of around $32,000 each.
Worse still, on Wednesday White House officials walked back even the $10,000 figure, suggesting that the president would not do this through executive action but instead go into negotiations with Republicans with this as his first offer.
If there was one area many were confident Biden would be radically different from Trump it was immigration. However, the administration issued new guidelines for ICE yesterday that make clear that the president has jettisoned his previous commitments to halting deportations. The news was met with dismay from the American Civil Liberties Union, which stated that it represented “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies.” Earlier this month, ICE deported 72 people, including 20 children as young as six months old, to protest-wracked Haiti.
Picking a few easy battles
All of this comes on the heels of the stimulus check debacle, where Biden and other top Democrats promised that $2,000 checks would be sent out “immediately” upon a Democratic victory. Yet $2,000 turned into a means-tested $1,400 check, which is still yet to be agreed upon, with payments not expected until mid-March at the earliest.
The former vice-president has followed through on a number of promises to rein in the worst of the Trump administration, including rejoining the World Health Organization and rescinding bans on Muslims and on transgender military service. However, those measures will likely not be enough for most Americans. Biden began his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in June 2019 at a Manhattan hotel, telling wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” under his presidency. After one month in office, it appears as if that is one campaign promise he is likely to keep.
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.