The Biden Agenda in 2022
Biden has been in the White House for nearly a year and by most measures, 2021 has been a disaster. Inflation is up, Covid isn’t under control, hostilities between the US and Russia have grown, while the China/Taiwan issue isn’t any closer to being solved. Meanwhile, Americans saw a withdrawal from Afghanistan that demonstrated America’s weakness in world politics.
At home, Biden’s keynote “Build Back Better” legislation is dead. The keynote 2021 election in Virginia, a moderately Democratic state, went Republican. A Civics poll shows Biden’s approval at 36% and disapproval at 55%. His approval in the key Democratic demographic of 18 to 35 is 28%. Hispanic voters give Biden 48 percent approval. Young Black voters only give Biden 36%.
A recent Zogby poll shows independent voters prefer Republican control of Congress by 45% to 27%.
Obviously, Biden’s key domestic agenda is to boost his poll numbers and solidify support amongst Democratic voters. Fixing problems like inflation aren’t a top priority at this time.
President Clinton’s economic advisor put it bluntly in a Bloomberg interview. In talking about Biden’s economic agenda, he called it “a political response.”
“If I thought we could sustainably run the economy in a red-hot way, that would be a wonderful thing…the consequence of an overheated economy is not merely elevated inflation, but constantly rising inflation,” Summers continued.
“There are no examples of successful inflationary policy that has worked out to the benefit of workers.”
No wonder the “Build Back Better” legislation failed. The $2.2 Trillion legislation would enshrine several Democratic goals like climate change, immigration, health care, and taxes. There was little for average voters and economists indicated that this bill would boost inflation. But the death blow came from Democratic West Virginia Senator Manchin who indicated it was too expensive and would not receive his vote. Since the US Senate is tied 50-50, with VP Harris casting the tie breaking vote, Manchin’s vote to oppose the legislation meant that it was bound to lose 49-51.
The Biden Administration will try to sidestep legislation with regulations that will make some of his leftist Democrat voters happy. The administration has issued some regulations that will boost inflation, by requiring new cars sold in 2026 to increase their fuel efficiency by nearly 50%. Biden also wants electric cars to be 50% of all cars sold by 2030, even though they were only 4% of car sales in 2021. These requirements will drastically increase the cost of automobiles and increase the transportation sector of the inflation index.
Since most American voters base their vote on economic issues, Biden has little choice but to hope to use issues like climate change and immigration to energize Democratic voters to come to the polls in November. He will also rely upon attacks on the Republicans to sidestep the oncoming midterm landslide. However, most voters will base their decisions on increasing costs at the grocery store and gas station rather than political ads.
Biden’s International Agenda
It’s a truism that when a national leader is in trouble domestically, he focuses on international issues. We can expect Biden to do the same.
One area where the Biden Administration has had some success is in checking China’s ambitions towards Taiwan. In the last year, the US has managed to turn the support of Taiwan into a global issue. During Biden’s last trip to Europe, he managed to receive commitments from several European nations to deploy warships in the South China Sea theater.
Biden has also had the US Navy transit the Strait of Taiwan in 2021 more than Trump did in 2020.
Now several NATO nations have decided that Taiwan’s independence is critical, especially since Taiwan is a major semiconductor manufacturer.
Last month, the German Navy’s flagship, the FGS Bayern, moved into the Southeast Asia Theater and conducted exercises with the American, Canadian, Japanese, and Australian navies. Germany has made it clear that they intend to make regular deployments to the region.
The Bayern is primarily an anti-submarine warfare ship, but it also has anti-aircraft defenses.
The Dutch warship HNLMS Eversten was also part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth task force that carried out exercises in the South China Sea area.
Canada also deploys warships to the region.
While the US and NATO have managed to act in unison in regard to China, acting in concert in regard to Russia is more difficult. Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and the Biden Administration is trying to wean them from dependence on Russian energy.
Here are the facts that concern the US. The EU imports 70% of its natural gas. Russia supplies 35% of the EUs natural gas. The US provides 16%. The rest comes from other sources, including the Middle East.
As Europe enters the winter and problems exist with the reliability of Russian natural gas sales, the Biden Administration faces a problem that has international implications. Natural Gas prices in Europe are up 800% this year. Much of the problem is opposition by Biden to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Meanwhile, Russia has cut the amount of natural gas transiting through Ukraine.
As tensions grow between NATO and Russia, the Biden Administration is trying hard to be sure that EU nations don’t back down to Russia for fear that they will lose a critical energy supply. In fact, seven American LNG carriers bound for Asia have turned around and are now heading for Europe.
More natural gas carrier ships are expected to be diverted from China and Asia in the upcoming weeks. This, may in turn, relieve pressure on Europe’s energy problem and the resultant pressure by Russia.
Of course, Russia remains a problem even without the natural gas issue. Ukraine reports that up to a quarter million Russian forces are currently stationed along the Ukraine border and Putin is insisting that NATO pull its forces back from Russia’s borders.
This is probably a bluff by Putin. A major invasion by Russia would mean economic sanctions and Russia is more dependent on European business than it was back in the Cold War era.
This is one area where Biden can benefit. The US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and it can move military units in days. A show of force can probably limit what Putin can do.
While Biden is acting firmly with China and Russia, it is vacillating in the Middle East. It finds itself wanting a nuclear deal with Iran but can’t be perceived as backing down to Iranian demands.
The US remains committed to eliminating ISIS but with the collapse in Afghanistan, Islamic radicals have a new base. They also have a weakened Biden who is unlikely to make any dramatic move in the Middle East in 2022.
An important part of the Biden agenda is not mentioned by the media – the president’s declining mental state. An American president must be seen as decisive. He must be able to act quickly in the face of Russian or Chinese aggressive policies.
It is quite possible that hostilities could break out due to an escalating move by Xi or Putin. They may think that Biden will not react if Russia takes a small slice of the Ukraine or Xi invades some small islands in the Taiwan Strait. And, while there is the international aspect of Biden’s mental condition, there is also the domestic aspect.
Biden is a drag on the Democrat Party’s chances in 2022. However, VP Harris is even more unpopular than Biden. Democratic leadership has already floated the idea that VP Harris can be tempted to resign for an appointment to the Supreme Court. Biden could then appoint a more popular person as Vice President and then announce that he is resigning due to health.
The problem with this solution is that the people handling Biden (the first Lady and the White House Chief of Staff) will not want to surrender power. How will their desire to remain in power impact the Biden agenda in 2022?