A Year Ago, We Set Out Benchmarks for a New Administration

So, How are They Measuring Up on Our To-Do List?


Our Hopes in Early 2020

We had no idea in the JAN-MAR 2020 timeframe who would be the US President by this time. We hoped it would be just about anyone except He Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken. With that hope in mind, this blog listed, over a period of the first quarter of 2020, a set of goals that we hoped a new administration would pursue. One list was of legislative goals, the other a list of political reforms.

Something else called COVID pretty well absorbed the conscious energy for pretty much all of 2020, but these political and legislative priorities remained important for the nation.

Let’s call up that first list and see, as the 100 Days mark of the Biden administration passes, how they (and we) are doing. By the way, you may have noticed that I chose a tape measure rather than a checklist for our visual component today. Few of these matters can ever be considered completed – they are perpetual works in progress.

Still, we can measure whether the issue has been engaged or not, so let’s get to it. We will call them as OK, Work in Progress, or Not Yet.

A Model Platform to Carry Out – Health & Families
  1. Universal health care: Surely not there yet, but incentives for Obama care in the COVID relief bill are having an effect in many of the states not yet enrolled. About as good progress as one could ask for in these early days. Work in Progress. 
  2. Expanded affordable childcare: Biden has long had this as a priority. A down payment of a sort in the recent COVID relief legislation, but no real engagement on this yet. I am betting that in the end a first real program will get accomplished. Not Yet. 
  3. Protect reproductive freedom: I have no doubt of the Biden team’s commitment to this, but not much to report yet. I look forward to the day when science and pharmacology take this fight off the table and people can make their decisions without a bunch of extremists trying to interfere with this most personal decision. In the meantime, work to be done. Not Yet.
 A Model Platform to Carry Out – Economics
  1. Help with college, trade school costs: This is an interesting one. Student debt is a crushing national burden, one borne terribly by two generations. It is worse than national credit card debt. Yet, I agree with the president that writing off 100% of everyone’s student debt does not sound right. I admire Biden for saying, when asked at a public meeting about this by a student, that he was not going to do that. Something more reasonable, needs based and/or limits on how much of one’s income can be committed to repayment sounds right. Not Yet. 
  2. Fairer taxation; Wealth tax consideration: The first salvo comes in the infrastructure program. Biden calls for rescinding about half the tax gift Trump gave the wealthy and big business in his first year. This pays for the impressive infrastructure package. It is not hard to imagine who opposes this, but the country as a whole really likes it. This is only a first step. The funds to cut child poverty count as progress as well. But no engagement yet on a fairer tax system, consideration of a wealth tax, reinstating more of the inheritance tax, closing hedge fund loopholes, or other such proposals. I expect much of that will come, but nothing of substance yet. For the most part, Not Yet.
A Model Platform to Carry Out – Foreign Policy
  1. Restore our alliances: It would be hard to overstate how much damage Trump did to our alliances. Some of what was lost will never come back. No one is likely to trust American leadership so fully as before. Nevertheless, Biden has jumped inat full power, including with the appointments he has made. You can hear the sigh of relief all over the world. And not a minute too soon. The risk of an armed conflict somewhere with both Russia and China soon is high. For getting so much so right so soon, they get OK on this one.
A Model Platform to Carry Out – Domestic Policy
  1. Sensible gun laws/regulations: Not even close, but at least the president has called this out as the national embarrassment it is. So much is in flux, maybe we will finally break the code and get something sensible under way, but I am not optimistic. If we did not feel called to do something as a nation after Sandy Hook, I cannot imagine what it will take. It is our uniquely American disease. Not Yet. 
  2. Campaign finance reform: Ah, wouldn’t that be nice? Until we get some progress on this, other ills will plague us. Until the Citizens United decision is overridden by legislation and  other repairs are made, this  will fester. There are, unfortunately, people in both major parties that are not keen on fixing this problem. Progress is likely to be slow and episodic unless something breaks the logjam, and I do not see that on the horizon. Regretfully, Not Yet.
A Model Platform to Carry Out – Environment
  1. Address Climate change: We lost four vital years, and perhaps more importantly, we lost the leadership initiative. But give credit to the president for stepping up clearly, boldly, and early. His climate summit and immediate reentry into the Paris Accords are big steps indeed. His appointments speak clearly of commitment and capability to get it done. Hell of a good start, and I think in the end, the administration will win the debate that this is the only way to go, and it is a course full of opportunity. OK.
  2. Restore environmental regulations: Closely related to the previous goal, this is another area off to a fine start. All the relevant appointments are first class. Bunches of Executive Actions have been reserved. Policy guidance has been rewritten by the bushel full. Sleeper appointments buried in agencies are being dismissed. So called advisory boards are being restaffed or disbanded. Could not ask for much more in the first 100 days. OK
Overall Results?

All in all, not bad for the first 100 days. Of the 10 items we called out a year ago, about one-third can be rated as OK – about as far along as one could hope at this point. Another one is under way, and about half have visibility but no real progress as yet.

Absolutely none of this was even remotely possible in the last administration. Take a moment to celebrate what progress has already arrived, keep your fingers crossed for continued progress.

Oh, and lest we forget, while all this was going on we went from the worst pandemic profile in the developed world to one of the best, in a matter of weeks. Well done, Joe. Now it is up to the rest of us to get the damn shots!

We will take a look shortly at the political reforms list that feeds progress on this list and seeks to create a positive civic culture. We likely will revisit both these lists as we approach midterms next year.

                   Bill Clontz

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