On taking the oath of office, Jan. 20, Joe Biden may not have realized it, but history had dealt him a pair of aces. The COVID-19 pandemic had reached its apex, infecting a quarter of a million Americans every day. Yet, due to the discovery and distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the incidence of infections had crested and was about to turn sharply down. By May, the infection rate had fallen 80percent, as had the death toll.
Thanks to the Operation Warp Speed program driven by President Donald Trump, the country made amazing strides in Biden’s first 100 days toward solving the major crises he inherited: the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu of 1918-1919 and the economic crash it had engendered.But Biden’s pace car has hit the wall.
Where economists had predicted employment gains of a million new jobs in April, the jolting figure came in at about a fourth of that number. One explanation: The $300-a-week in bonus unemployment checks the Biden recovery plan provides may have been a sufficient inducement for workers to stay home until their benefits ran out.Workers might reasonably ask: Why go back to work when we can take the summer off, with full unemployment, plus $300 a week?
After the crushing jobs report came the inflation figure from April. Consumer prices had risen 4.2percent, the highest rate in a dozen years. April’s combination of inflation and near-stagnant job growth recalls the “stagflation” of the Jimmy Carter years, which led to the Democratic rout of 1980 at the hands of Ronald Reagan. And while we may not be suffering from stagflation just yet, the present symptoms in the U.S. economy are certainly consistent with it.
The bad news from the inflation front also sent the Dow and other markets plunging and raised fears of future Fed intervention to raise interest rates to choke off the inflation. Moreover, rising prices, driven in part by our historic federal deficits, stiffened the spines of Republicans in their resistance to Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs program, his $1.8 trillion in added domestic spending and his $4 trillion in taxes to pay for it all.
Sen. Mitch McConnell came out of Wednesday’s White House meeting with Biden to say that any tampering with the Trump tax cuts crosses a “red line” for him and Senate Republicans. The odds on Biden getting any of his taxes has just fallen dramatically. And he may be forced to come down closer to the GOP proposal if he hopes to get any of his infrastructure package through.At present, Biden does not have a single sure Republican vote for his spending proposals—and even some Democrats in the evenly divided Senate oppose his plans for social spending and higher taxes.
Added to this economic news was a stunning ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which feeds fuel to states from Texas to New Jersey. Within days, the shutdown of the pipeline had induced panic buying of gas at the pumps, resulting in a sweeping closure of gas stations from Delaware to the Gulf Coast.
As alarming as the ransomware attack was, more alarming is what it portends if cybercriminals abroad can, with the flick of a switch, inflict such instant damage on the U.S. economy. If cybercriminals can pull this off, what cannot our adversaries, with their sophisticated and superior weapons of cyberwarfare, not do to the United States?But that was not the end of the bad news for Biden this week.
A shooting war erupted between Hamas and Israel after a dispute over ownership of homes in East Jerusalem led to clashes between Arab protesters and Israeli police at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The clashes brought barrages of over 1,000 rockets directed at Israeli towns and cities including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Ben Gurion International Airport was forced to shut down. Those who believed Trump’s Abraham Accords, where Israel was recognized by the UAE, Bahrain,and Morocco, had ensured a more tranquil future suddenly seemed to have been as wrong as previous generations of optimists.
Today, even inside Israel, Arabs and Jews, both Israeli citizens, are battling in the streets.Meanwhile, in Kabul, three bombs outside a high school killed 50 people and wounded scores more, many of them teenage girls—aportent of what may be coming when the Americans and allied troops are gone from the country by the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
But the defining crisis of the Biden presidency may be the crisis on America’s southern border, where another 170,000 illegal immigrants entered the country in April after an equally high number in March. That is an annual rate of 2 million people walking into our country uninvited, the advance guard of a Third World invasion that will change the character and composition of the United States. The America we grew up in is disappearing—without our consent.
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Flickr-Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0