Apr 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden bets big

Joe Biden with Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi behind him
Photo: Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden feels intensely that now is a time for proving that government can still do big things, and make tangible improvements to ordinary people's lives.

Driving the news: Last night's address to a joint session of Congress, on his 99th day in office, was an argument for liberal, small "d" democratic government — investments, as he put it, that only government can make.

  • And he sees the stakes of failing as ceding the next century to the autocrats.

I'm told Biden deliberately echoed the empathetic, quietly impassioned tone of FDR's Fireside Chats on the radio from 1933-44.

  • "In another era when our democracy was tested," Biden said, "Franklin Roosevelt reminded us: In America, we do our part. We all do our part. That's all I’m asking."

As Biden's plans come into fuller view, we see the momentous scale:

  • He’s trying to make people feel government in their lives — and feel like it's a life raft, rather than an inconvenient and incompetent mess.
  • And he's focusing on the most tangible stuff — shots in arms, $1,400 stimulus checks. Things that aren’t complicated.

Biden wants to spend a phenomenal amount of money — his accomplishments and proposals total $6 trillion — and mobilize the government to touch every corner of American life.

  • The great bet is that all this spending won't lead to runaway inflation.
Biden fist bumping
Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via AP

Warning that global strength can wane, Biden said the U.S. is "in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century":

We’re at a great inflection point in history. ... We have to compete more strenuously .... I spent a lot of time with President Xi ... He's deadly earnest on becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others ... think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies, because it takes too long to get consensus.

"Autocrats will not win the future," Biden said. "America will. And the future belongs to America."

📊 Snap polls were overwhelming: A CBS News/YouGov poll found 89% of speech-watchers thought Biden was presidential, 85% approved and 78% said the speech made them feel optimistic about America.

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