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Biden’s Ambitious Agenda Is More Truman Than FDR

Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar plans to revive the economy, fix America's infrastructure and ease poverty have spawned comparisons between him and Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the 100-day mark of the Biden presidency, David Gergen, who has advised presidents of both parties, wrote, "Biden is off to an excellent start — arguably, one of the best since Roosevelt."

And Biden hasn't discouraged such talk. He now has a giant portrait of FDR in the Oval Office, right across from the Resolute Desk.

But while there may be likenesses between those two presidents' agendas, the less glamorous Harry Truman also deserves inspirational face time. Truman and Biden both came from modest small-town origins. Unlike the aristocratic Roosevelt, they knew firsthand about middle-class striving.

It's not surprising, then, that the Biden agenda seeks to recreate the Golden Age for the American middle class — the postwar years of 1947 through 1973, when productivity doubled but so did the median compensation of full-time workers. Truman was instrumental in launching it.

Truman understood that the well-being of workers depended on factors beyond the magic of the market. Widespread prosperity needed a third player in addition to business and labor. That player was a government willing to impose social norms through tax policy, the minimum wage, and protection for organized labor.

As World War II was ending, impatient workers launched destabilizing strikes. And so, in November 1945, Truman held a conference to create a new labor policy through which postwar abundance would be broadly shared. The participants came from business, the labor movement and — at Truman's insistence — government.

The business community came eagerly on board. As Eric Johnston, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the conference: "Labor unions are woven into our economic pattern of American life, and collective bargaining is a part of the democratic process. I say recognize this fact not only with our lips but with our hearts."

Truman proposed a national health care plan, which didn't happen, and higher taxes on the top incomes, which did. Biden's agenda both strengthens the Affordable Care Act and seeks to raise taxes on the top incomes.

Unlike Roosevelt's New Deal, Truman's Fair Deal took a strong stance on civil rights. New Deal programs broadly discriminated against Blacks. The National Recovery Administration, for example, gave preferences to white job seekers and allowed lower pay scales for Blacks.

Roosevelt appointed a few Blacks to token jobs. Truman put nonwhites in positions of real power, notably William Henry Hastie, the first African American federal appellate judge.

Biden just announced a racially diverse slate of judicial nominees. It includes sending Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered a springboard for the Supreme Court.

Biden is pursuing racial equity in some controversial ways. The COVID-19 relief bill includes a $5 billion fund for minority farmers only. And the infrastructure package says that 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy must go to "disadvantaged communities." How that would work is unclear.

The offshoring of American jobs and technological change of course accelerated workers' loss of economic security — and helped end the Golden Age. But the ditching of norms that only government could enforce also played a part.

Ronald Reagan cut taxes on the rich. Then George W. Bush did, and then Donald Trump. The federal minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 an hour. In 1973, it was equivalent to $9.81 in today's dollars.

Biden seems to be summoning his inner Harry Truman and bringing back the third player. In assuring a stable and happy middle class, the market has a job to do, but so does government.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Biden’s Big History Lesson For Republicans

Embedded in Joe Biden's first speech to Congress was a crucial lesson in our nation's economic history that every American ought to understand.

Explaining why he proposes to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the construction of new power grids, broadband internet connections and transportation systems, the president reminded us of the public investments that have "transformed America" into a prosperous world power. It is a lesson too often and too easily forgotten amid the incessant propaganda, imbibed by almost all of us from an early age, about the "magic of the free market," the "dead hand of government" and various equally hoary conservative cliches.

Markets are marvelous, but government has been essential in growing and regulating the economy from the republic's very beginning. Biden cited the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system, the construction of public schools and colleges that enabled universal education, the medical and scientific advances that sprang from the space program and defense industries - but his speech could well have continued for quite a while in that same vein. Political leaders from Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy all have promoted public investment in research, infrastructure and people as the prerequisites of progress, and sometimes even national survival.

What progress requires, however, changes in every generation along with technology and society. Today, we face rapid climate change that jeopardizes the future of human civilization, creating threats that range from flood and fire to pandemic, famine, drought and mass migration. We must swiftly rebuild our basic infrastructure, which is crumbling after decades of neglect. And we have to bring the entire country into the modern digital economy before inequality permanently damages our democracy.

When Republicans say Biden wants to spend too much on a "liberal wish list" and we should do nothing more than repave roads and repair bridges, because that's "real infrastructure," their complaints only expose their ignorance. The expansion of rural broadband is just as necessary as fixing a bridge on a country road, and the replacement of lead pipes in city water systems is just as critical as filling potholes on an urban highway. The long list of projects enumerated in Biden's proposal, from new schools to veterans hospitals, from upgrading water systems to capping old oil and gas wells, and yes, for providing child and elder care — these are harbingers of a future that works.

We ought to have started this transformation years ago, even before the former guy uttered his false promises about infrastructure. But interest rates are still low — and more importantly, the billionaires whose fortunes derive from public investment can certainly pay for its upkeep and expansion. Biden correctly observed that while most Americans suffered from lost jobs and income during the pandemic, the richest families saw their wealth increase by a trillion dollars, after pocketing a Trump tax cut that awarded them trillions more. Are we all in this together? Not unless the super-rich pay their fair share.

It's nice that some Republicans — though not all, apparently — understand that we can't just let everything fall apart because we don't like taxes or we distrust government. Unfortunately, their comprehension of what infrastructure means is quaintly out of date. While the president warmly welcomed Republican proposals because he's interested in achieving a measure of bipartisan agreement, what they have offered so far is absurdly inadequate.

So, he offered a clear warning as well. Doing nothing — like the Republicans and their incompetent leader over the past four years — is not an option.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

If Biden Were Republican, Press Would Tout Him As ’The New Reagan’

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Viewing the world through the prism of the GOP, Politico announced President Joe Biden's speech to Congress Wednesday night, where he presented a sweeping, optimistic view for America's rebound from Covid-19, was a big win…for Republicans. Pushing the absurd storyline that Biden's speech hurt him because it highlighted his agenda (he's been trying to keep it hidden?), Politico declared the GOP had seized the night. Or, as its headline announced, "Biden Gives Republicans What They've Been Waiting For."

That is some tortured logic. Especially considering that people who watched Biden's First 100 Days speech loved it, as he outlined new initiatives for cheaper childcare, smoother roads, faster internet, and promised to combat climate change.

The Politico misstep this week didn't occur in a vacuum. The Beltway press hasn't figured out how to cover the low-key president, who so clearly does not crave attention or insert himself into every news cycle. Journalists mistake Biden's No Drama persona as him being some sort of placeholder figure. Just 25 percent of Biden's early news coverage from mainstream media outlets has been positive, according to a new study from Pew. Yet Biden keeps posting big win after big win — a vaccination rollout that's become the envy of the world, an economy that's roaring back to life, and signing into law the largest social spending bill in U.S. history.

Politico actually posted this April headline: "How Good News Could Complicate the Biden Agenda." Apparently, too much good news is bad news for the White House.

Let's face it: If Biden were a Republican and had posted the same jaw-dropping first 100 Days, the Beltway press would be marveling at his accomplishments and crowning him a political phenomenon. They'd also be making the case for why he was the next Ronald Reagan, whom the media still tout as a universally loved, master communicator.

Back in the early 1980s, the Beltway press fell all over itself praising the new Republican president, showering him with fawning coverage that set the tone for his eight years in office.

"When Ronald Reagan arrived in January 1981 to begin his term as the fortieth President of the Unite States, he was blessed to inherit a national press corps that had long since abandoned the mildly adversarial posture of the late Nixon years in favor of a more deferential attitude towards conservative ideology and authority," Mark Hertsgaard wrote in his seminal book on Reagan and the press, On Bended Knee. "It's hard to say whether White House cajoling or news media self-censorship was the stronger goad in producing the extremely friendly news coverage that greeted the Reagan administration in 1981."

He noted, "While top Reagan officials later affirmed that press coverage of the administration had been fair and balanced throughout the first term, both [David] Gergen and [Mike] Deaver cited these first six months as an especially friendly time."

Truth is, Reagan's first 100 Days were nowhere near as successful as Biden's. Consider:

• 200 million vaccine shots have been administered to Americans.

• A recent Pew poll found that a stunning 72 percent of Americans, including 55 percent of Republicans, say Biden has done an excellent job managing the Covid vaccination.

• Biden has witnessed unprecedented growth on Wall Street, better than any of his predecessors going to back 70 years.

• Jobless benefits have fallen to their lowest of the pandemic.

• Retail sales recently soared 10 percent as Democratic-backed stimulus checks hit bank accounts.

• Biden has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and rallied world leaders in the process.

• His $2.2 trillion infrastructure proposal remains widely popular with voters.

Yet, Biden is still often met with media shrugs. The New York Times recently claimed, "Joe Biden never captured the hearts of Democratic voters in the way Barack Obama once did." This, just months after Biden scored 81 million votes, more than any candidate in American history.

ABC News tweeted this GOP-friendly take over the weekend: "BREAKING: 52% of Americans approve of Pres. Joe Biden's first 100 days in office—the third-lowest of any president at that milestone since Harry Truman."

First of all, a recent Pew poll had Biden at 59 percent, which put him on par with George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at their 100 Days mark. More importantly, Biden is immediately 15 points more popular than his Republican predecessor, but ABC decided to pretend Biden's polling numbers are weak.

In terms of Biden's overall approval, his current, solid-but-not-spectacular numbers should to be put in context. We've entered such a polarized era in American politics that the days of a sitting president coasting along at 65 percent are a relic of the not so distant past, simply because across-the-aisle support is so rare today. It didn't used to be. Just 20 years ago, W. Bush snagged 39 percent support among Democratic voters during his first 100 days in office.

Understandably, Democratic voters resisted Trump's radical and corrupt presidency in a nearly uniform manner. Now Republicans consistently oppose Biden's center-left presidency simply because he's a Democrat.

Despite that extreme polarization, Biden's approval ratings remain sturdy as his agenda wins bipartisan support. We're watching a president who goes deep each time he comes to the plate. The press covers him like he's hitting singles.

CNN Poll: GOP Efforts To Discredit Biden Are Failing

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans have been adamant that President Joe Biden's popularity will fall as they vilify his policy proposals, including the coronavirus relief package Congress passed in March and the infrastructure bill congressional Democrats are currently trying to pass.

Yet a new CNN poll released Wednesday found that their strategy has not worked, as Biden — and his policies — remain popular nearly 100 days into his tenure, despite the GOP's best efforts.

According to the CNN poll, 53 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden has done in his first 100 days in office. That approval rating tracks with Biden's approval rating average from FiveThirtyEight, which has hovered around 53 percent since he was sworn in on January 20 — a level he has maintained despite GOP criticism.

Other polls show that despite Republicans' attacks on his policies, both the coronavirus relief package and the infrastructure bill are even more popular than Biden is.

A CBS News/YouGov poll taken between April 21 to April 24 found 58 percent of adults in the United States approve of Biden's infrastructure plan, even though Republicans have been attacking it by saying it is not about infrastructure.

And that same poll found that 66 percent of adults believe the coronavirus relief package — which extended unemployment payments, authorized another round of direct checks, and made a child tax credit more generous to help alleviate childhood poverty — has been "helpful to the economy."

In all, that's a bad sign for Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told Politico that Biden's "policies are going to be our road to comeback."

Polls show the GOP's strategy of attacking Biden's infrastructure plan because it includes things they argue aren't infrastructure while simultaneously attempting to vilify it because it raises taxes on corporations and the rich is also rife with peril.

A Morning Consult poll from April found that voters believe things like care for the elderly, internet access, and water pipes are infrastructure, despite GOP claims that they aren't.

And voters support raising taxes on those groups. A Monmouth University pollfrom Monday found that 64 percent of Americans support raising taxes on corporations, while 65 percent support raising taxes on those earning more than $400,000 annually.

The fact that Republicans can't seem to make a dent in Biden's popularity appears to be pushing them toward a strategy of running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2022 midterms.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee that seeks to elect Republicans to the House, released a memo this week saying Pelosi is unpopular and that tying her to Democratic candidates could help in the quest to win back the House.

But it's unclear that will be the political winner that Republicans think it is.

Stu Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political handicapper, told the American Independent Foundation that, at this stage, he doubts running against Pelosi would be what changed GOP fortunes in the midterms.

"They've got Nancy Pelosi on the brain here, but the reality is that 2022 midterms is likely to be about Joe Biden," Rothenberg said, referring to Republicans. "And, I'd have to see some numbers that would really blow my mind to think that running against Nancy Pelosi would be more effective than running against Joe Biden."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.