Pandemic response, economy highlight Biden’s first 100 days

President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, April 28, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi watch. Photo: The Associated Press
By News@TheU

President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, April 28, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi watch. Photo: The Associated Press

Pandemic response, economy highlight Biden’s first 100 days

By News@TheU
How is President Joe Biden doing after 100 days in office? University of Miami scholars offer their observations.

It is customary to take stock of a sitting U.S. president after the first 100 days in office. His actions during this time set an agenda and tone that could be indicative of his style as a political leader and sheds light on the administration’s priorities.

President Joe Biden was elected after a contentious and divisive election, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with mounting unemployment and economic instability, racial divisions that led to multiple national protests, and a siege upon the United States Capitol that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers wounded.

During his inaugural address, Biden called for a return to civil decency saying, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.” 

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 52 percent of adults approve of the job Biden is doing, with 42 percent saying they disapprove. He also received high marks for his handling of the pandemic and the economy, but a low negative rating for his work with immigration.

In these first 100 days, Biden has signed more than 50 executive orders, 23 of which are direct reversals of former president Donald Trump’s policies. Most of these actions have addressed the novel coronavirus, immigration, and equity.

Biden defends the number of executive actions he has issued as necessary to undo what he considers “bad policy” inherited from Trump, especially on immigration, according to CNN.

University of Miami experts provide commentary on Biden’s actions so far.

The Economy  

From the economic point of view, the first 100 days of Biden have been dominated by a successful vaccination campaign that is leading to a fast reopening of the economy, supported by two massive fiscal packages. The first one is the already approved $1.9 trillion stimulus plan providing direct help to companies and individuals. The second one is the $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan (also known as the American Jobs Plan) that is not yet approved, intended to enhance a more competitive and sustainable economic environment.

Certainly, a successful vaccination campaign is needed for a faster reopening of the economy. The unprecedented $4 trillion expansion on government expenditures through the aforementioned two large packages has benefits and costs. In the short run, the economic stimulus will allow the U.S. to avoid a deeper recession with the hope of moving back to the growth path. The International Monetary Fund has projected that the U.S. economy will grow much faster than other developed economies, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be smaller than previously thought.

However, the massive increase in U.S. expenditures together with the increase in government debt and the historical low interest rates might be fueling a disproportionate increase in asset prices (e.g., stock market and housing). Financial bubbles can have damaging effects on the financial sector in the event of market corrections. Indeed, here is the risk of inflation, and the need to return to a more sustainable long-term fiscal policy. Higher inflation and higher taxes could derail some of the projected gains from the fiscal expansion plan. 

In summary, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future of our economy, and the performance of financial markets. In particular, some sectors have been badly affected, and, as in previous recessions, some jobs will be lost—leading to more income inequality in our society.

—Alex Horenstein, assistant economics professor, and Manuel Santos, professor and chair of the Department of Economics, Miami Herbert Business School


Gun control

Before President Biden took office, he had been making statements about the need for gun reform and an expanded set of gun reform laws. As he took office however, the rise in shootings and homicides the U.S. witnessed in 2020 has continued well into 2021, with recent mass shootings occupying the headlines.

On April 8, several weeks before his first 100 days in office, President Biden announced several key policy changes including a rule to stop "ghost guns" that are built from kits without serial numbers, new regulations aimed at stabilizing braces for pistols, publication of model "red flag" laws that allow the temporary removal of guns from people at high risk of harming others or themselves, investing in intervention programs in violence-prone communities, and a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking.

Although this falls well short of the more important changes needed to make additional dents in the gun problem, such as background checks, he faces a bigger mountain to climb to push for more gun control, especially in the Senate. The gun violence problem in the U.S. is not cured simply by adding background checks and additional efforts at curtailing assault weapons—though these are important steps. The more important action takes place at the community level and involves a mixture of both police and especially non-police efforts aimed at the social ills that generate the conditions for violence to occur and the individuals who succumb to those pressures and use violence to end disputes. 

—Alex R. Piquero, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences


Immigration

“The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants” blends stirring rhetoric about our immigrant roots with specific promises—a lot of them. Now, a 100 days later, it is time to ask how far we have come. No longer are travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries banned from visiting. Federal prosecutors have stopped filling their dockets with cases involving minor immigration violations—the practice that separated children from their parents. Venezuelans now have temporary protected status. But other promises remain unfulfilled.

Citing challenges at the southern border, President Biden has yet to fully end the wait-in-Mexico policy. And children, numbering in the thousands, remain in detention, although for shorter periods of time. He has not restored asylum eligibility for survivors of domestic violence and others who rely upon the “particular social group” category for asylum, such as people fleeing gang violence. After pledging to restore slots for overseas refugees to 125,000, the president announced he would keep the cap of 15,000.

Every day, for-profit detention centers incarcerate tens of thousands of men, women, and children. There can be no question that the president “believes we must do better to uphold our laws humanely and preserve the dignity of immigrant families, refugees, and asylum-seekers.” But it is equally clear that it will take more than 100 days for the president to make good on his promises.   

—Rebecca Sharpless, professor of law and director of the Immigration Clinic, School of Law


COVID-19 response

When President Biden came into office approximately 100 days ago, he inherited both a benefit and a challenge associated with COVID-19. On the one hand, he and his administration had access to vaccines with proven efficacy as well as government contracts for acquisition of the vaccine. The burden now was to roll out the vaccine in an efficient and fair manner. 

To that challenge, it would appear that the Biden administration has done a relatively good job, with approximately 3-4 million individuals receiving a vaccination per day. The roll out has exceeded initial expectations. As of the writing of this, more than 70 million people have been fully vaccinated, a little over one-fifth of the U.S. population. The positive trajectory is very encouraging, but now comes the challenging part. To achieve effective herd immunity, minimally, 70 percent of the population and potentially as high as 90 percent of the population must be immunized to conquer the pandemic. 

So, three hurdles must be overcome: one, convincing certain elements of the population to become vaccinated; two, access to the vaccine by those in lower income and rural areas who lack access to vaccine distribution sites; and three, the dilemma regarding the global situation as even though we may achieve important milestones in vaccinating, the rest of the world lags our progress. The next few months will be critical.

—Steven Ullman, director of the Miami Herbert Business School’s Center for Health Management and Policy 


Climate change 

The health of our planet is at a tipping point, and the evidence is undeniable. Data from all over the world measuring factors as wide-ranging as temperature, humidity, sea level, mountain glaciers, polar ice sheets, and ocean chemistry, all point to the damaging role humans are having on the climate.

While we are nowhere near to reaching the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to effectively curbing the effects of climate change, President Biden in his first 100 days in office has at least demonstrated his administration’s serious commitment to dealing with the problem.  

On the first day of his presidency—in fact, just hours after being sworn in—he signed an executive order to have the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement aimed at limiting global warming. He invited 40 world leaders to his Leaders Summit on Climate, which was held virtually on April 22 and 23. Even before Biden took the oath of office, he sent a clear signal of his intentions to address this critical issue by appointing John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate and by placing subsequent appointees with a climate focus in important offices throughout the administration. 

These appointments are indicative of the placement of smart, diverse, and capable people in top positions throughout Biden’s administration. Hopefully, this will lead to key policies that will not only address climate change on a global scale but will also lead to meaningful change in the state of Florida, where sea level rise is a major concern. 

—Amy Clement, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science


Infrastructure 

The American Jobs Plan (AJP) is a huge step forward in its priorities for healthy, connected communities. The plan’s citing of highway removals in New Orleans and Syracuse illustrates this. A community coalition in New Orleans, The Claiborne Avenue Alliance, has been building advocacy for reconnecting the historic Claiborne community and is an exemplar of understanding infrastructure as a framework for flourishing. 

One of the great strengths of the AJP is its capacity to establish collective baselines for water and energy; physical and virtual connectivity; and a healthy and resilient built environment, with access to education, health care, housing, and employment. The key to its success will be through an implementation that is responsive to and expressive of the unique character of each community’s location, history, and shared vision.    

— Joanna Lombard, professor at the School of Architecture with a joint appointment in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Miller School of Medicine


Technology  

As part of his infrastructure initiative, President Biden has also pledged to expand high-speed broadband internet access to the entire nation. 

Biden’s goal is a positive one, although if America is truly going to make broadband accessible to everyone, it also needs to be less costly. 

In the United States, a lot of people still don’t have Internet access. So, this is an equity issue—not just in rural America, but in urban America too, where people cannot afford broadband internet. And COVID-19, in particular, demonstrated how important it is to have an internet connection.

Biden has also pledged to subsidize internet costs. But this may be a more controversial move. When the internet was created as a way for government researchers to communicate, it was done so with the principle of “net neutrality” to guarantee equitable use of the platform. But as technology advances—and businesses like Netflix, Google, Amazon, and others start relying on the bandwidth of the internet to advance their business goals—the government will be forced to reimagine net neutrality. Because these companies are all competing for viewers’ attention, government subsidies for people to access the internet could be seen as giving an advantage to certain companies. Therefore, the federal government may have to create a new business model for public and commercial entities to share bandwidth space.

How do we create an equitable sharing of the bandwidth? Everyone needs to start thinking about this.

The administration also should consider investing in more detailed technology education programs, so that young children will learn how to use the internet safely and responsibly.

We need to step it up, so that everyone is more techno fluent. That should start early, so kids understand their digital signature. We also need more teachers who can explain responsible use and what it means when location services are on, or cookies are tracking you on the internet. If we want to be on the cutting edge and at the forefront of technology, we need to deal with these [digital privacy] issues too. 

—Nicholas Tsinoremas, vice provost for research computing and data and director of the Institute for Data Science and Computing


Foreign policy  

President Biden has made competing with other major powers—most notably China and Russia—central to his foreign policy. During his first months in office, Biden has escalated confrontational rhetoric with Russia, intensified economic sanctions on the country, and maintained the enhanced U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe that was established by his predecessors. 

As for China, Biden has made competing with the country a focal point for his administration—for example, explicitly justifying his infrastructure plan in those terms. To these ends, one area where Biden departs at least rhetorically from his predecessor is in his focus on cooperating with American allies and partners.

The difficulty is that while many of their neighbors are concerned about Russia and China, few want to openly antagonize either country and many have deep economic ties with them. Navigating this balancing act—working with partners to pursue common goals, while recognizing that those partners may not always see their interests in competing with Russia and China the same way Washington does—will be an enduring challenge. 

—Brian Blankenship, assistant professor of political science, College of Arts and Sciences