Apr 29, 2021

Axios AM

🎂 Happy Thursday! Today is the 100th day of President Biden.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,197 words ... 4½ minutes.

🗳️ Please join Axios' Hans Nichols and Alayna Treene tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET for an Axios News Shapers event on Biden's first 100 days. Sign up here.

1 big thing: Biden bets big
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/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.

  • 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, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

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.
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."

đź“Š 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.

2. Here comes the reopening boom

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Declining COVID cases, rising vaccination rates, trillions in government spending and an accommodative Federal Reserve are colliding to create a year of U.S. economic growth for the record books, Axios editor in chief Nicholas Johnston writes.

  • Why it matters: A sustained, surging economy is the best way to erase the pandemic's brutal legacy of business losses and unemployment.

Goldman Sachs, in a research note literally titled "Anatomy of a Boom," predicts more than 7% growth in 2021 — a sustained pace not seen in more than 30 years.

  • The bank writes that hopes of a post-vaccine economic rebound are changing from "from forecast to fact."

The Fed upgraded its view of the economy yesterday. This week's consumer-confidence measure is the highest since the pandemic began.

The bottom line: Get used to lots of economic charts going up and to the right.

3. $400,000+ zone for tax hike is per individual, not per family

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP

President Biden's promise not to raise taxes on Americans who make less than $400,000 applies to individuals — not married couples filing jointly, a White House official clarified for Axios' Hans Nichols.

  • Why it matters: The declaration means a hypothetical couple, with each spouse making $399,999, wouldn't escape the tax increase even though they individually earn less than $400,000.

Their combined income would be $799,998, which the White House believes is sufficient for them to help underwrite the expanded social safety net the president is proposing.

  • Biden wants to raise the top rate from 37% to 39.6% for families with taxable income above $509,300, and for individuals above $452,700.
  • That $509,300 limit means that two married individuals, who each have a taxable income exceeding $255,000, would see the portion of their earnings above that figure taxed at the highest rate.

Keep reading.

4. Pictures of America: About last night

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP

Vice President Kamala Harris greets House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the first time two women were behind a president for an address to Congress.

Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) chats with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as they await President Biden's address.

Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell listens to Biden's address.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren talk at the Capitol after the speech.

5. GOP response: "America is not a racist country"

Sen. Tim Scott speaks last night. Photo: Senate TV via AP

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate's only Black Republican, delivered his party's response:

Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them — and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress. ...
Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.

Full text.

6. Our weekly map: COVID cases are finally falling
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New COVID infections fell by roughly 16% over the past week in the U.S. — a big improvement after weeks of stasis, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon write.

  • More than half of American adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and that seems to finally be putting a dent in the size of the country’s outbreak.
  • The U.S. averaged about 55,000 new cases per day over the past week, down from about 66,000 per day the week before.

The number of new infections declined in 26 states and rose in only four.

  • New York and Michigan saw the biggest improvements: New cases were down about 30% in each state.

Share this map.

7. Roaring '20s, in 3 sentences
Data: FactSet. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
  • U.S. factories are humming, but "the recovery’s speed has left many employers scrambling for workers or for parts." —N.Y. Times
  • Amazon "is rolling out raises to more than 500,000 of its hourly workers a few months early, spending $1 billion on pay bumps designed to juice hiring." —Bloomberg
  • "Apple, Facebook soar past earnings expectations." —Reuters
8. Facebook touts tech innovation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook's earnings call yesterday was a huge departure from its pitch to investors over the past year. Instead of reiterating its progress in trust and safety, the tech giant touted investments in innovation and new technology, Axios Media Trends expert Sara Fischer writes:

CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly addressed the ongoing COVID crisis in India and Brazil, before quickly pivoting to three main focus areas:

  • Immersive tech (AR/VR): Zuckerberg said Facebook's Oculus Quest 2 headset "is doing better than we expected." CFO Dave Wehner said Facebook Reality Labs has been one of the company's biggest investments.
  • Commerce: More than 1 billion people visit Facebook's Marketplace tab each month. There are more than 1 million monthly active shops on the platform, and over 250 million monthly active visitors to shops.
  • Creators: Earlier this week, Facebook unveiled new monetization tools for creators to make money off of e-commerce.

Keep reading.

9. Exclusive data: Biden staffing makes history

President Biden after his speech. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images

President Biden put his Cabinet in place faster than any other administration since President Reagan, the White House Office of Presidential Personnel says in a report provided first to Axios.

  • Biden has announced his intent to nominate 233 people for Senate-confirmed jobs — more nominees than any past administration at the 100-day mark, according to the White House.

Of Biden's roughly 1,500 agency appointees, which the White House said was double the previous 100-day record:

  • 58% are women.
  • 18% identify as Black or African American.
  • 15% identify as Latino or Hispanic.
  • 15% identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander.
  • 3% identify as Middle Eastern or North African.
  • 2% identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.
  • 14% identify as LGBTQ+.
  • 4% are veterans.
  • 3% identify as disabled or having a disability.
  • 15% were the first in their families to go to college.
  • 32% are naturalized citizens or the children of immigrants.

Read the fact sheet.

10. 1 boat thing

Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

The new Banque Populaire XI Ultim multihull sailing boat is shown this week in a boathouse prior to its launch in Lorient, western France.

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