Opinion: Biden’s State of the Union — Promises With No Action

President Joe Biden spoke for an hour, yet delivered no substantive action to help the American people and the rapidly rising inequality our country faces.

Earlier this month, Joe Biden gave the annual Presidential State of the Union address on the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was underwhelming to anyone who wanted Biden to use the myriad of executive actions he can take to mitigate the current social and economic issues plaguing the nation. He stirred up enthusiasm for the U.S. support of aid to Ukraine, promoted the same law and order rhetoric that has defined his political career, and made many of the same promises he campaigned on in 2020, highlighting how unsuccessful the administration has been so far.

Joe Biden (middle), Kamala Harris (left), and Nancy Pelosi (right) sit as Biden delivers State of the Union.
Joe Biden addressed lawmakers and the nation earlier this month at the State of the Union. (Credit: Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times)

While Biden bemoaned the current poverty in the nation, advocating for a national 15 dollar minimum wage, the extension of the Child Tax Credit, and the PRO Act, which makes it more accessible for workers to form unions, the reality is that Biden will not and seemingly will never fight for these policies when push comes to shove. He blames clearly obstructionist Democrats like Sens. Manchin, D-WV, and Sinema, D-AZ, and the Senate parliamentarian for why legislation cannot pass, but they are not the root of the problem.

The reality is that Biden does not have the political courage or desire to ignore the non-binding rulings of the parliamentarian, a glorified Senate staffer to pass a 15 dollar minimum wage through budget reconciliation (a process where a policy only needs 50 out of 100 senators to vote for a bill instead of the usual 60). Biden promotes powerless bipartisanship over executive action and leveraging senators like Manchin and Sinema to vote in accordance with Democratic He also refused to call out Manchin and Sinema in his address for advocating against the Democratic priorities of abolishing the filibuster, instituting a 15 dollar minimum wage, and passing the watered-down infrastructure bill that ignores the realities of climate change.

“I’m offering a unity agenda for the nation,” said Biden. “Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools that we have been provided by this Congress, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines.”

However, the Biden Administration has not made any substantive progress. When running for president, Biden and many progressive groups insisted that he was going to create transformational change as president, comparing him to FDR and making his neoliberal policies sound like a new “New Deal.” Many media networks claimed he was going to turn around the COVID-19 pandemic with a science-based approach. But, none of that happened. During the two years of the Biden presidency, COVID cases spiked to never-before-seen levels while the administration did not extend the Child Tax Credit, offer relief, or cancel student debt.

Migrants from Central America, requesting asylum into the United States, protest for the Biden administration to let them into the United States.
Migrants from Central America, requesting asylum into the United States, protest for the Biden administration to let them into the United States. (Credit: Reuters)

His administration is a continuity of the past one, not in terms of rhetoric, but in terms of policy. Biden signed limited executive orders at the start of his term that walked back some high-profile Trump policies like the ban on funding for abortion providers. At the same time, he has kept in place the racist, draconian, and cruel “Remain in Mexico” and Title 42 policies that condemn asylum seekers to violence and danger while they wait for a decision to be made on their status.

Furthermore, Biden has continued the Trump prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an action that will set precedent for publishers and journalists in the United States and around the world to potentially be imprisoned if they reveal U.S. government secrets. He also failed at improving as Biden has continued Trump’s deadly blockades and sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela, and his refusal to end sanctions on Iran has harmed negotiations over reentering the nuclear deal. His one improvement, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, has been marred by his vindictive sanctions and the stealing of the Afghan central bank’s funds, causing mass starvation among the Afghan people.

“I think there’s some themes [in Biden’s speech] that… left a little bit to be desired,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “The piece on immigration was really just glossed over and we have anywhere between 10 to 13 million immigrants in this country that feel desperate for a path to citizenship.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking during interview with MSNBC News.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responded to Biden’s State of the Union, critiquing many lackluster policy commitments while also advocating for many of Biden’s current policy achievements. (Credit: MSNBC News)

Overall, the Biden presidency does, in fact, leave much to be desired. With few policy achievements and a lack of willingness to make his Rooseveltian comparisons come true, it seems evitable that the Democrats will lose seats in the midterms, leaving them unable to pass any partisan legislation, which will make it even more unlikely that the administration will actually achieve Biden’s primary Build Back Better policy.