All presidents take office and vow to swiftly put an ambitious agenda into practice. But for Joseph R. Biden Jr., the raging coronavirus pandemic and associated economic pain mean that many things must be done quickly if he is to get the economy going. Speaking Thursday on his $ 1.9 trillion spending proposal, Mr Biden repeatedly stressed the need to act “now”.
However, putting together a majority in Congress could take time: compromises and concessions are required to get the votes it needs to advance the law.
The new president is expected to reverse many of Donald J. Trump’s policies that override those of the Obama administration, of which Mr Biden was vice president. But in some business-related areas – like trade relations with China and the European Union – he is unlikely to bring the United States back to pre-Trump order. It is also unlikely to withdraw from the Trump administration’s efforts to contain the power of big tech companies.
Here are some of the policy areas that need Mr Biden’s attention and will determine the success of his presidency.
– Peter Eavis
Fix the economy
Twelve years ago, President Barack Obama inherited a free fall economy. Mr Biden is luckier: the economy recovered significantly after the collapse last spring, which is largely due to government aid in the trillions. However, progress has slowed in recent months, and in December it reversed as employers shed jobs amid the resurgent pandemic.
Mr. Biden’s first assignment will be to fix the ship, which he is proposing through a $ 1.9 trillion spending plan he announced last week. Once the immediate crisis is over, Mr Biden will face perhaps an even more difficult set of challenges: healing the scars the pandemic has left on families and communities, and addressing the profound problems of inequality that have existed for decades but the pandemic exposed.
– Ben Casselman
Tackling Big Tech
The recent decisions by Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies to cut off President Trump and right-wing groups have greatly escalated the debate over online language and the influence of Silicon Valley.
At the center of the debate is a law called Section 230, which exempts websites from legal responsibility for the content they host. Republicans and some Democrats are calling for the law to be revised or repealed, while the mighty tech companies are likely to resist major changes. The Biden administration also inherits the federal government’s antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook, as well as a congress that continues to question the power of the industry.
– Cecilia Kang
Mr Biden has repeatedly stated that federal tax law favors the rich and big businesses and proposed several measures to make them pay more and fund spending on clean energy, infrastructure, education and other parts of his national agenda. He wants to take back some of Mr. Trump’s tax cuts for 2017 for those earning more than $ 400,000 and increase interest rates for corporations, high-income investors, and heirs to a large fortune. Mr Biden must overcome opposition from business lobbyists and align his proposals with competing plans by leading Congressional Democrats, who also want to levy taxes on business and the rich, but often differ with Mr Biden on how.
– Jim Tankersley
China has emerged even stronger from the pandemic, presenting a more formidable US economic competitor. Exports to the United States are soaring despite Mr Trump’s tariffs. After years of heavy investment in the training and automation of workers, China’s manufacturing sector has proven to be extremely competitive.
Jan. 19, 2021, 2:54 p.m. ET
Trump’s export restrictions and problems with the Boeing 737 Max have depressed China’s imports of high quality manufactured goods from the US, mainly semiconductors and aircraft. China’s rapidly growing military power and a growing willingness to confront nearby democracies will give the Biden government a difficult decision on whether to allow more tech sales that could make China even stronger.
– Keith Bradsher
Revaluation of trade
The Biden administration has set ambitious goals for revitalizing American industry and working with allies to combat China. The immediate challenge is deciding what to do with many of Mr Trump’s trade actions, including tariffs on Chinese products valued at more than $ 360 billion and the resulting trade deal that will induce China to sell American products in the Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of to buy. And it also needs to find out how to reassure allies like Europe that have been affected by Mr. Trump’s aggressive approach to trade.
– Ana Swanson
Supervision of finances
Mr Biden has promised tighter supervision of the financial system. His priorities include reversing the Trump administration’s withdrawal of risk-taking rules by banks and harmful practices like payday loans, and curbing the activities of non-bank financial technology companies.
Mr. Biden’s team also has to deal with the unregulated “shadow banking” system of hedge funds, private equity firms and money managers who hold trillions of dollars and have the potential to cause tremendous market turmoil. In a broader sense, his ambitions to close the racial wealth gap and tackle climate change are likely to influence his approach to financial regulation.
– Emily Flitter
Inauguration of the President ›
Answers to your Inauguration Day questions:
What will the initiation look like?
Joseph R. Biden Jr. will become President of the United States in a reduced dedication ceremony on January 20 at noon. While key elements remain traditional, many events will be scaled down and “reinterpreted” to better adapt the celebration to a nation battling the coronavirus. Mr. Biden will be sworn in shortly before noon by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on the Western Front of the Capitol. The new president is then expected to deliver his inaugural address and conduct a military troop review, as is tradition. But instead of a traditional parade before spectators cheer along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new President, Vice President and their families walk to the White House over a mile away, there will be an official escort with representatives from all branches of the military one block.
Will President Trump Attend?
President Trump announced on Friday that he would not attend Mr Biden’s inauguration. Mr. Biden called this decision “one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on. Still, it is a major break with tradition when a president skips the ceremonial heart of the country’s democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.
Who will attend And can I participate?
George W. Bush has confirmed that he will travel to Washington for Inauguration Day with Laura Bush, the former first lady. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are also expected, along with former first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. There are no tickets available to the public this year. The planners urge people to stay home and attend virtual opening events to prevent large crowds that could easily spread the coronavirus. The events will be broadcast live by the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the New York Times.
Why is an inauguration of the President so important?
The 20th amendment to the Constitution requires that the term of office of each elected President and Vice-President begin on January 20th of the year following the election at 12:00 noon. Every president has taken the oath of office and they cannot take their positions without doing so. It symbolically marks the peaceful transfer of power from the current president to the next. Inauguration day will be all the more important this year as Mr Biden is rising to the presidency at a time when political division has threatened the nation’s democratic institutions and his predecessor has made extreme efforts to stay in power.
Help small businesses
Small businesses employ roughly half of America’s non-governmental workers, and an estimated 400,000 have permanently closed since the pandemic began.
Mr Biden has called for $ 15 billion in direct grants to at least one million of the hardest hit small businesses – that would be up to $ 15,000 per recipient – and a federal investment of $ 35 billion in state and local Funding programs. It also seeks 14 weeks of paid care and sick leave for workers during the coronavirus crisis, with the government taking over the bill for organizations with fewer than 500 employees.
– Stacy Cowley
Relief of household debt
Total household debt fell during the pandemic, but job losses plunged millions of families into poverty. In addition to checks for $ 1,400 per person and expanded unemployment benefits, Mr. Biden is seeking $ 30 billion to help troubled households catch up on overdue rents, water and energy bills. He also suggested a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
Mr Biden plans to extend moratorium on federal student loan payments; he hasn’t said how long. While Mr Biden is helping clear $ 10,000 per person in federal debt, he hasn’t included it in his American bailout plan. Progressives in Congress can insist that they be included in any stimulus package.
– Stacy Cowley
Mr Biden’s goal of creating a carbon-free electricity system by 2035 requires a radical overhaul of the energy industry, requiring hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, as well as new measures like strengthening the electricity grid in states like California. Some critics have argued that the goal is not achievable.
A major shift to renewables and electric vehicles will reduce the demand for oil, gas and coal and threaten some businesses. It could also result in job losses as people trained to work with fossil fuels may not have the skills required for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
– Clifford Krauss and Ivan Penn
The transport sector has received billions in federal aid, but is still affected by the pandemic. The Biden administration needs to decide whether to do more to help her, including more financial aid and requiring travelers to wear masks.
Mr Biden’s promise to repair and upgrade the country’s highways, railways, transportation systems and other infrastructure is a priority for businesses too. The transport sector is an important contributor to climate change, which Mr Biden has pledged to tackle aggressively. Doing this without causing major job losses will be a major challenge.
– Niraj Chokshi