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Opinion: Biden leaves Trump’s dystopia in the dust

“I need you,” Biden said, leaning into his lectern, “I need every American to do their part.” He said that if everyone agrees to get the Covid-19 vaccine, if everyone wears a mask like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us, “by July the 4th, there’s a good chance,” that we can get together with neighbors and friends in small groups.
Biden was 20 minutes into his speech before he mentioned that he had just signed into law a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 economic relief package that is, in fact, one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern history — one that will change the lives of tens of millions of Americans — and that he made it happen less than two months into his presidency.
Instead of a self-serving, boastful address, he offered a moving, compassionate and at the same time uplifting and inspiring speech, acknowledging the losses we’ve all suffered, not only the more than half a million deaths in the pandemic, not only the millions of jobs lost, of family events foregone, but very simply, “the loss of living.”

When Biden speaks about the pandemic, when he implores Americans to do their part, when he speaks about losses, and about his determination to defeat the virus, there’s a striking earnestness in his demeanor. He promises to tell the truth. We’ve all learned to become cynical, skeptical of politicians, but Biden sounds, as he might say, like the real deal.

Listening to this brand-new President, watching what he has done so far, it’s impossible not to wonder how many lives would have been saved if the United States had had a reasonable, competent, stable president when the coronavirus struck. How many who died would be alive today?

It was exactly one year ago that the pandemic was declared; one year ago that the former president gave a national address filled with lies, empty promises, and incoherent information.
What followed was our excruciating, dystopian year, during which the worst public health challenge in a century overlapped with a narcissistic, incompetent presidency. As a result, the United States became the epicenter of the global pandemic, with more cases and deaths than any country on Earth, despite having the most advanced medical facilities, some of the world’s top scientists, and the greatest economic resources. Americans lost trust in government. Even the advice from the experts was manipulated for political ends.
Now, Biden has put America’s resources to use and the results are tangible. The United States will have administered more than 100 million shots of the Covid-19 vaccine by Friday.
Then there’s the massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Package, a bold piece of legislation that economists say will not only turbocharge America’s recovery, but will give it such impetus that it will boost economic growth around the world. For the first time in many years, the US economy could potentially grow faster than China’s, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve president.
More importantly, beyond economic statistics, the measures within the bill are expected to slash the country’s poverty by about a third, put small businesses on a stronger footing and help local governments become more solvent.

That’s the short term. The longer term is more of a mystery. More of a risk. This is a grand experiment. Will growth become self-propelling, long lasting and smooth, or will the economy overheat and bring high inflation?

Will the large budget deficits cause interest rates to spike? (It’s worth noting that Republican officials agonizing over the deficit had no such anguish when Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut cost about as much as Biden’s rescue bill.)
Biden needs to team up with Mexico

Contrary to the caricature his predecessor tried to paint, Biden has so far shown a mixture of pragmatism, idealism, and risk-taking. It’s very early, but he has already racked up quite a few successes.

As Biden reminded America, he has high ambitions for the country. Defeating the coronavirus is the first order of business. But there are other, perhaps more difficult, challenges. Biden says he wants to unite the country. As Republicans in Congress complain he has pushed legislation without a single Republican vote, Biden points to the polls, all of which show strong majorities of Americans support his economic plan and approve of his handling of the pandemic.

“National unity,” he said, “isn’t just how politics and politicians vote in Washington…Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans.”

The pandemic is not over. Thousands of Americans are dying every week, tens of thousands still becoming ill every day. But, the trajectory now is a different one. The worst of the dystopian days is behind us.

History, Biden said, will record “we faced and overcame one of the toughest and darkest periods in this nation’s history. The darkest we’ve ever known.” But now, “there is light and hope of better days ahead. If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon. Our economy will be on the mend. Our kids will be back in school.”

Although he had much to brag about, Biden did not come to praise himself. He came to ask for help, and to boost his country’s spirits.

“This country can do anything,” he declared, “hard things, big things, important things.” It’s early in his presidency, but he sounded believable.

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