When Joe Biden framed himself as a “modern-day Franklin Delano Roosevelt” last August, it “seemed presumptuous, almost megalomaniacal”, says René Pfister in Der Spiegel. The Democrats picked Biden to be a predictable, non-threatening candidate who could safely beat Donald Trump. But in his first 100 days – a milestone he reaches next week – Biden has done more than some of his predecessors managed in an entire term.
His $1.9 trillion stimulus package gave every American who earns less than $75,000 a year a $1,400 cheque. His proposed infrastructure bill – at least $2 trillion – includes the repair of 10,000 bridges and the installation of 500,000 charging stations for electric cars. It will mean that, this year, America will rack up debt equivalent to more than 10% of GDP. In peacetime, FDR never went above 6%. And on Thursday, Biden pledged to cut US carbon emissions by at least 50%, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030. What “Obama talked about so eloquently”, he’s actually doing.
Public approval for these radical policies “is almost surreally high”, says Paul Krugman in The New York Times. More Republican voters support the infrastructure bill than don’t. The “secret of Biden’s success” is partly identity politics: “only an old white guy can sell a new New Deal”. Another is the Republicans’ transformation into a “cult” fixated on culture wars. America’s economy is growing at its fastest rate since 1984 – if the expected economic boom materialises, Biden’s popularity will only increase.
Along with the big spending has been vaccination success, says Emily Tamkin in the New Statesman. Biden promised 100 million Covid jabs in his first 100 days, but is on track to deliver twice that. His “action-packed” legislative agenda is more pragmatic: if the Republicans get majorities in the House or the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, Biden won’t be able to get much done afterwards.
Not that he’s achieving anything on the foreign front anyway, says Freddy Gray in The Spectator. Germany has ignored Biden’s pleas to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia. And for all the claims he would bring back “civility” to diplomacy, he has already called Xi Jinping a “thug” and Vladimir Putin a “killer”. His border policy has been a “catastrophe”: in March, nearly 200,000 people were stopped trying to enter the country, including tens of thousands of unaccompanied children. But with the world’s strongest economic recovery, the impressive vaccine rollout and the “gargantuan” spending, he can still be hailed as a 21st-century FDR – “just about”.
The big picture
Unlike Biden’s paper-thin margins, FDR had big majorities in both houses of Congress, says Michael Hirsh in Foreign Policy. He rammed through 15 major bills in his first three months. The humourist Will Rogers joked at the time: “They are passing bills so fast they don’t even vote on them; they just wave at them as they go by.”