March 2, 2022

State of the Union

“Addressing a concerned nation and anxious world, President Joe Biden vowed in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to check Russian aggression in Ukraine, tame soaring U.S. inflation and deal with the fading but still dangerous coronavirus.” AP News

Many on both sides are disappointed that Biden did not use the speech to offer a new agenda:

“[Germany’s] new Chancellor upended decades of center-left German defense and energy policy this week after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, and Mr. Biden had a similar opportunity in his State of the Union address Tuesday. He missed the moment. The President remained on the same policy course of his first year, albeit dressed up in new anti-inflation packaging. More defense spending to meet the threats from autocrats? No. A new appreciation for the contribution of fossil fuels to American and European security? Not a word. A note that government spending contributed to the highest inflation in 40 years? Nope…

“An anxious world is looking for American leadership in a dangerous new era. Instead Mr. Biden offered a rehash of his first-year domestic agenda that has brought him to his low political ebb. It’s dispiriting that a White House facing so many daunting challenges could come up with so little. The President really does need to fire some people and get better advice.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“With inflation at a four-decade high and hurting Americans’ spending power — as well as Democrats’ poll numbers — Biden used the State of the Union to put forward his plan to stop it. That plan sounded rather... familiar. ‘I call it building a better America,’ Biden said. And indeed, much of what he then laid out had been featured in his stalled Build Back Better agenda — though he did not utter that exact phrase…

“Biden said he wanted to cut the cost of prescription drugs, cut energy costs by combating climate change, and cut child care costs. A few other Build Back Better policies were briefly name-checked, but those three may be the heart of what Biden still thinks he can pass. Others that are reportedly being dropped from the bill, like paid leave and the expanded child tax credit, got only a passing mention. Biden’s attempt to claim these BBB policies would fight inflation was unconvincing. These are long-term priorities that Democrats think would be good ideas, but they aren’t responsive to the current inflationary situation… If Biden hoped to pivot and convince Americans he was taking inflation seriously, it’s not clear this will do the job.”
Andrew Prokop and Li Zhou, Vox

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“‘We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police,’ Biden said. ‘The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them.’ This is not a new position for him… But giving the law-enforcement community an honored role in the speech was a statement of Biden’s politics as much as his policy…

“When the president discussed immigration, he led with efforts to make the border more secure, and only afterwards called for a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and some other immigrants. And a section of Biden’s speech about revitalizing manufacturing and buying American goods, even inspired a ‘U-S-A’ chant—just like the one that broke out during one of Donald Trump’s State of the Union speeches. Biden didn’t embrace Republican positions, but he emphasized areas where bipartisanship already exists.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“There are parts of Biden’s agenda that, if passed, could help to lower prices for families, rapidly. Medicare could negotiate drug prices next year. Child care subsidies could take effect quickly. There is no resource limitation stopping us from lowering Obamacare premiums. The same cannot be said for Biden’s more ambitious proposals to build the productive might and critical supply chains of the United States…

“To decarbonize the economy and rebuild American manufacturing and lead again in semiconductor production is the work of years, perhaps decades. It won’t change prices much in 2022 and 2023. But it needs to be done, and not just because of Russia… As of now, whether we have the will to defend Taiwan militarily is almost secondary to whether we have the capability to sever ourselves from Chinese supply chains in the event of a violent dispute.”
Ezra Klein, New York Times

From the Right

“Joe Biden’s first official State of the Union address started strong; he spent the first twelve minutes talking about Ukraine, on which there is a surprising amount of bipartisan consensus… It went downhill once he got to the state of our union, on which Biden rambled on for another hour. He hectored Congress to pass a bunch of bills that it has already rejected. He proposed to lower the costs of various things by just calling for them to cost less…

“At times, Biden failed to recognize the inherent contradictions of his own postures. He pledged to release millions of barrels of oil from our reserves to put pressure on Russia and buoy our independence from Russian oil. That is an implicit concession that domestic production of oil is still a crucial national-security interest, one that perhaps the Biden administration should stop trying to thwart…

“Biden said that we should ‘lower your costs, not your wages’ by making more things in America, but his entire regulatory and environmental agenda is about driving up the costs of building anything here; five minutes later, without a hint of irony, he was talking about a minimum tax rate for corporations.”
Dan McLaughlin, National Review

The entire speech had this dream-like quality: Biden outlined an agenda that a popular president with substantial majorities in Congress would have a hard time passing into law, while Biden is an unpopular president with the narrowest congressional majorities in a century. He began and ended with gestures toward national unity, by invoking Ukraine and the danger of Russia at the outset and ending with calls to address the opiate crisis and help veterans. The bulk of the speech was a Democratic wishlist divorced from political and electoral reality.”
Matthew Continetti, Washington Free Beacon

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