Climate and welfare first: where is Biden heading?

Joe Biden has completed 100 days in office as US President. At the start of his term the focus was on getting the Covid crisis under control, but now he is making waves with government investment schemes, tax hikes, climate policy and foreign policy statements. Europe's media discuss the credibility and wisdom of his initiatives.

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NZZ am Sonntag (CH) /

Shaking off the freeloaders

US climate policy is moving away from voluntary pledges and towards tariffs and preferential treatment. The NZZ am Sonntag analyses the change:

“All international agreements were ultimately based on voluntary reduction pledges. But they were never able to solve the central problem of freeloading: all countries benefit from climate protection, regardless of whether or not they themselves make an effort. ... The US wants to lead the renewable energy revolution because otherwise it can't win the strategic race with China. ... The US government's climate policy is more a stimulus programme than a programme of making sacrifices. ... Freeloading is no longer an option in such a world because it will be punished with trade barriers. ... Climate policy is now strategic power politics.”

Respekt (CZ) /

Greener than the country will allow

Unfortunately Biden's noble goals in the fight against climate change are not supported by a majority in the US, Respekt points out:

“We must remove our rose-coloured glasses and take a realistic look at the US's return to the climate policy scene. Biden talks like a Western European, but he governs a country where only a quarter of voters consider climate policy important. The president has not presented a systematic plan to achieve his goals so far. For that he needs laws. However, the Democrats don't have a sufficient majority for a carbon tax or emissions trading.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Modelled on China's state capitalism

With his idea of a strong state the US president is also taking a leaf out of China, Le Temps believes:

“China has not only caught up by skilfully exploiting the neoliberal era of globalisation, it's on the verge of taking the lead in key future-oriented sectors. To respond to this challenge, Joe Biden declared that the investments he is putting forwad 'only government can make'. Government is the solution, no longer the problem. The ideological divide of this century is no longer between capitalism and communism. However, there could be a duel between two types of state capitalism: one democratic and one authoritarian.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Mountain of debt grows and grows

Biden is simply having the money press print the cash he needs for his investments, banker Alexander Eberan writes in a commentary for Wiener Zeitung:

“Joe Biden wants to boost the US economy with a massive infrastructure programme, and he's casting it as the biggest labour market programme since the Second World War. ... This is without a doubt an ambitious goal, one that, besides a huge amount of effort, requires above all one thing: a lot of money. Money that, due to the sluggish economy and the Covid pandemic, has already been coming out of the printing press hand over fist. The printing presses will continue to produce dollars at high speed on the basis of such announcements, further increasing the debt level which currently stands at around 100 percent of GDP.”

Blog David McWilliams (IE) /

A new era in monetary policy

Joe Biden is initiating a revolution in monetary policy, business journalist David McWilliams surmises in his blog:

“MMT [Modern Monetary Theory] contends we have got macroeconomics back to front, asserting that rather than worrying about where we get the money, the central banks simply print it. ... Joe Biden - the world's most unlikely radical - is a convert to MMT. He is to MMT what Ronald Reagan was to monetarism. Biden's agenda is to compress inequalities, rip the economy away from Wall Street and give it back to the man on the street by using government spending as an arm not just of economics but democracy underpinned by fairness.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

State more active than it has been in decades

The US is moving closer to the European concept of the welfare state, notes El Periódico de Catalunya:

“His speech to the two houses of Congress on Wednesday confirms the reorientation of his programme towards social democracy and buries the stereotype according to which the welfare state, as we know it in Europe, is incompatible with the White House. ... Both dimensions of the objectives listed by the president in the areas of education, labour law, family support and others, as well as the already announced plan to improve infrastructures of all types, give the state an active role the likes of which have not been seen since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan said: 'the government is the problem'.”

Pravda (SK) /

Welfare measures face stiff opposition

Biden has already achieved a lot, but he faces an uphill battle regarding economic and social policy, Pravda notes:

“He succeeded almost effortlessly in vaccinating against the pandemic. ... In the economy things are more complicated. The Republicans reject his proposals. The Europeans can only smile knowingly. What's called socialism in the US has been considered a standard component of the European welfare state model for many decades. ... Biden's efforts to find compromises will no doubt not always be crowned with success. But the goal is to stabilise the mood in the US, which is now shaky to say the least. The return of another Trump would be a disaster for the United States, but also for us.”

Kurier (AT) /

Progressive politics only deepen the divides

The pace set by Biden doesn't exactly make his goal of "healing" the nation any easier, writes the Kurier:

“As if he were going through a checklist, Joe Biden has ticked off all the key points of progressive politics in staccato in his first 100 days in office. ... The 78-year-old, who had gone through his political life as a rather ideology-free master of political compromise, is now presenting himself as a man with political convictions. ... But Biden wants to govern across party lines; he wants to win over Republicans and convince them to support his plans, for example in climate policy. However no US president has succeeded in this for decades; the rifts are too deep, not only between the political parties but also between the people in the country. Political compromises will not be enough.”

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (PL) /

Not so ambitious - yet still unrealistic

The US's poor climate track record makes it easy for Biden to sound brash and determined, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna demonstrates with a comparison:

“At the climate summit he organised, he announced that America will emit only half as many greenhouse gases in 2030 as it did in 2005. That sounds ambitious, but it really isn't. In practice, it means that in a decade America will reach the same levels as Poland has now. ... But we can't expect the impossible from Biden either. The problem is that even what he has promised seems unrealistic. America would simply have to change too much for that to happen.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Higher minimum wage alone won't end inequality

With his plan for a gradual increase in the minimum wage from the current 10.95 to 15 dollars an hour Biden has been able to appease his leftist critics, writes Naftemporiki:

“The fulfilment of the demand for a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour is a great victory for the new and feisty labour movement that has emerged in the US in recent years. ... Biden has delivered this, yielding to pressure from the left while trying to block any further radicalisation of the Democratic Party. Of course, raising the minimum wage alone is not enough to curb the growing social inequalities in the United States, which it seems not even the pandemic and the restrictive Covid measures have done anything to lessen.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Using social policy to combat extremism

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is impressed by Biden's ambitious programme:

“He has taken Roosevelt and the New Deal as his model to transform America into a modern state, through ambitious social and economic policies that support not just the poorest, but also - and especially - the middle class. ... He wants to build a country that is not divided into the few who earn a lot of money with shares and apps and the many who pack boxes in Amazon warehouses. ... Sensible economic and social policies are in Biden's view an insurance against political extremism. ... Recent years have shown how crucial it is to protect the US from this poison.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Not cool, but a man of integrity

Columnist Chams Eddine Zaougui is also impressed in De Standaard:

“He's not cool, not hip, young or woke. He's not eloquent or charismatic. But Biden has decades of experience in the political arena, and, at least as important, life experience. ... [And his personal fate has taught him] things that you don't learn at Harvard or in a debate club, but that determine how you look at life and what really counts. Admittedly, it's premature to call Biden a great president. But let's give him the credit he deserves: he's much more than an anti-Trump. He is a man of integrity, courage and intellect.”

Trends-Tendances (BE) /

He learned his lessons from Obama's term of office

Trends-Tendances explains:

“If Biden is moving as swiftly as he is, it's because he was Barack Obama's vice-president and he saw that although the latter made fine speeches, he made hardly any economic progress. As surprising as it may be: Barack Obama was a media icon, but what he accomplished was far from outstanding. Joe Biden knows that he has to act fast if he wants to change things. Right from the start of his term - and on a mass scale. In this way 'sleepy Joe' is proving that youthfulness is not a matter of age, but of attitude!”

La Repubblica (IT) /

More radical than many had expected

Biden's honeymoon with the Americans is not as happy than one might think in Europe, notes US correspondent Federico Rampini in La Repubblica:

“We see this in a poll that is above all suspicion of hostility towards the president: that of the Washington Post, a progressive newspaper that is sympathetic towards the Democratic administration. With the exception of Donald Trump four years ago, no American president since the post-war era has reached the symbolic date with such a low approval rating. Securing high marks on vaccination and the economy, Biden is stumbling over the migrant emergency at the Mexican border. Plus part of the country thinks he's more radical than expected.”