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OPINION: The beginning of the Biden era

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Aya Cathey, a freshman studying journalism, reviews U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden’s plans for his first 100 days in office, focusing on four priority issues: COVID-19, economic recovery, climate change and racial equality.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

After defeating incumbent Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election, U.S. President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021. 

Biden is moving forward with transition plans, despite President Trump’s refusal to concede or grant him access to the federal resources allocated for the transition of power. As stated in his campaign, Biden’s first goal is to build an administration that will “look like America.”

So far, he has hired nine senior White House officials and is scheduled to announce his Cabinet picks in the weeks following. Of his transition staff, 46% are people of color and 52% are women. In comparison, 41% of his senior staff are people of color and 53% are women. This list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Ron Klain, former White House Ebola response coordinator and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, serving as the White House chief of staff 
  • Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager and the first woman to lead a Democrat campaign to victory, serving as deputy chief of staff 
  • Annie Tomasini, Biden’s traveling chief of staff, serving as director of Oval Office Operations
  • Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, as the White House Office of Public Engagement director

Biden’s transition team also announced several of Jill Biden’s top staffers, including Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, a former U.S. ambassador to Uruguay as chief of staff, and Anthony Bernal, the first lady’s chief of staff during the campaign, who will be a senior adviser.

Before his 100th day in office on April 29, 2021, Biden vows to create an effective COVID-19 response plan, rally bipartisan support on immediate issues and build a diverse presidential cabinet. Over the course of his campaign, he has made lengthy and ambitious promises, ranging from large-scale economic initiatives to criminal justice reform. 

But the sheer volume of his plans could prove difficult to execute, especially considering the extensive damage created by the Trump administration and amid a pandemic that claims hundreds of American lives every day.

COVID-19: Coronavirus legislation and task force 

Biden has made a long list of promises for his first 100 days, but his top priority is the coronavirus pandemic. According to their website, the Biden-Harris administration vows to “listen to science, ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals and promote trust, transparency, common purpose and accountability in our government.” Unlike the Trump administration, Biden is also a huge proponent of the CDC guidelines, including social distancing, stay-at-home restrictions and nationwide mask ordinances.

Their plan to beat COVID-19 consists of access to free and reliable coronavirus testing, investment in at-home tests and instant tests and restoring personal protective equipment (PPE) access, especially in vulnerable populations. This plan also includes a $25 billion vaccine production and disbursement sub-plan that calls for an eventual vaccine free for all Americans. 

Biden also hopes to repair transparency between Congress and their constituents by publicly releasing clinical data for any FDA approved vaccine, rejoining the World Health Organization and keeping Anthony Fauci as the government’s top infectious disease expert.

After becoming president-elect, Biden announced a team of advisers who will lead his pandemic response, five of whom are women and nine people of color. Three co-chairs will head the task force: former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University physician and professor Marcella Nunez-Smith. 

The additional 13 members are all respected scientists, doctors and public health experts. Among these include Luciana Borio, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Zeke Emanuel, former health adviser of the Obama administration, and Rick Bright, an immunologist. Bright filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration for ignoring early warnings of the coronavirus pandemic.

Economy: Economic recovery

The Biden-Harris “build back better” economic plan is extensive and multifaceted. In the face of the pandemic, his team pledges to secure immediate relief to working families and small businesses, extend COVID crisis unemployment insurance and create jobs through a Public Health Jobs Corps.

After the pandemic is under control, the Biden plan intends to conquer the job crisis by establishing a national minimum wage of at least $15 per hour, creating union jobs in manufacturing and technology, and investing in sustainable infrastructure and clean energy.

His “made in all of America” restoration plan involves two cabinet-level working groups that will promote union organizing and collective bargaining in the public and private sectors, increase union density and address economic inequality. The president-elect plans to enact several policies that will raise taxes on individuals with an income above $400,000 and raise the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%. This plan also dedicates $700 billion to domestic manufacturing and research and development. 

Based on the Tax Foundation’s general equilibrium model, Biden’s plan would lead to an approximate 7.7% decrease in after-tax income for the top 1% of taxpayers and about a 1.9% decline in after-tax income for all taxpayers on average. In doing so, Biden hopes to close the racial wealth gap and encourage investment in Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs and communities.

Climate Crisis: Clean energy plan

The Biden-Harris climate change plan is the most progressive plan ever proposed by a president-elect. His plan is ambitious, setting out to achieve a 100% sustainable economy and net-zero emissions by 2050. In addition, Biden intends to make investments in climate infrastructure and provide widespread access to clean air and clean water in the U.S.

This clean energy plan, which aims to promote the intersection between the environment and the economy, encourages an “all of government” approach. It calls for a $2 trillion investment over the course of his term and the establishment of three new federal groups, the Environmental and Climate Justice Division (reporting to the Department of Justice), the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (reporting to the Council on Environmental Quality).

As promised in his campaign, Biden plans to immediately re-enter the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accord of 2015. President Trump formally withdrew from the landmark agreement last year, and the mandatory year-long waiting period, as enforced by the U.N., ended on Nov. 4. 

In addition, Biden’s climate plan also calls to reduce dozens of Trump’s executive orders and replace them with several initiatives that will simultaneously tackle the climate crisis and the job crisis. These efforts include investing in roads, water systems and universal broadband; creating one million new jobs in the auto industry and auto infrastructure; and providing every American city with 100,000 or more residents with zero-emission public transportation.

Racial Equality: Ending social and economic divides

Biden’s administration strives to uplift BIPOC communities by removing economic barriers, expanding access to opportunity and addressing racial disparities in health and health care.

Within his first 100 days, Biden vowed to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and pass the Equality Act, which would protect U.S. citizens from discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. The president-elect also plans to prioritize minority-owned small businesses, increased homeownership in minority communities and universal access to affordable higher education.

The multifaceted racial equity initiative focuses on three key points: business, housing and education. His business plan allocates $30 billion to a small business opportunity fund, $50 billion toward investment in Black and brown entrepreneurs, and another $100 billion to low-interest loans and educational opportunities for new entrepreneurs. 

His housing plan hopes to create $1.5 million new homes and public housing units and calls for an end to discriminatory housing policies. Lastly, his education plan sets out to expand student loan forgiveness and make public universities and private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000. 

Harris will lead the criminal justice plan, given her extensive criminal justice system experience. She hopes to encourage Congress to pass police reform legislation that will place a nationwide ban on chokeholds, end transfer weapons of war to police forces, and create a national police oversight commission. 

On drug policing, the administration wants to decriminalize the use of marijuana, legalize it for medical purposes and end longer sentencing for crack use over cocaine. According to their website, Biden and Harris also plan to reduce incarceration rates by preventing crime and reducing violence in communities, but the plan’s details are quite abstract.

Without control of both chambers of Congress, Biden will have to rally moderate Republicans’ support and negotiate with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. This will not be easy, especially with issues that have already been shot down, such as policing reform and public health care. On top of this battle, Biden will have over 4,000 jobs to fill, 1,200 of which have to be confirmed by the Senate.

While these plans all sound incredible, we have a long way to go. Real progress and change are on the horizon, but as his voters and now constituents, we must hold Biden accountable for delivering transformative action throughout his entire term.

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