Many times, both major political parties in America said that the 2020 election was the most important of all-time. The Biden campaign claimed that “the soul of the nation” was at stake. Trump said a Biden win would make the nation go socialist.
For all that fuss, a lot of issues that are literally life and death for many people haven’t changed at all. That should cause alarm for many Democratic Party supporters and provide comfort for many Republicans. Unfortunately, many people on both sides of the aisle united in turning a blind eye to these matters.
10. Tariffs on China
In July 2018 Trump began a trade war with China by imposing tariffs on $350 billion in goods from the People’s Republic, which in turn caused the Chinese government to impose similar tariffs on goods from swing states that voted Republican. Considering that the stock market dropped for weeks straight after and that the war was still going by the time the pandemic reached America in 2020, it would seem like an easy win for Biden to lift them and help American businesses in swing states. Biden’s administration has been consistent in saying it will not do so.
As it happened, this policy was one of the matters where there was widespread disagreement with Trump among the establishment GOP. In July 2021, a collection of seven Republican senators including recently re-elected Joni Ernst and Thom Tilis, wrote a letter to Biden urging him to end the tariffs. When that wasn’t enough, thirty organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, joined the chorus to end the tariffs. But apparently for the White House the tariffs are too useful as a negotiation tool with China.
9. Cuba Sanctions
Throughout Barack Obama’s terms as president, he was exceptionally soft on Cuba. It began in April 2009 when he lifted travel and financial restrictions. It continued through 2011 when he allowed student and missionary visits, in 2015 when trade restrictions on cigars and rum were lifted, in 2016 when an ambassador was appointed, etc. In 2017 to reward anti-communist supporters that helped him win Florida, Trump announced that he would restore all sanctions on Cuba. It would be reasonable to assume that after his election Biden would want to restore the previous Democratic president’s relationship with the island nation. Especially since, in September 2020, Biden said he would reverse those policies as they had “inflicted harm on Cubans and their families.”
Then March 2021 rolled round, and Biden hadn’t touched Trump’s sanctions, prompting a letter of protest from 80 House Democrats. It became news again in July 2021 when Cuban protests urged House Foreign Affairs chairman Gregory Meeks to urge Biden to repeal the sanctions. Instead the administration imposed new sanctions on Cuba a few days later, admittedly on specific leaders instead of on the people themselves. If this is an attempt by the Biden administration to win over Cuban exiles in Florida, a number of them have expressed that they don’t feel the treatment of Cuba is sufficiently forceful.
8. Qualified Business Income Deduction
For 2017, the signature accomplishment of the GOP was unquestionably passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act after the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Immediately there were a flurry of criticisms from the left, with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities claiming that the act repealed so many credits that it functionally raised taxes for so many middle and lower class families that it was more like a tax transfer than an across-the-board tax cut. Still apparently benefiting the wealthy disproportionately is something that the Biden administration can at least partially get behind as evidenced by the inclusion of the Qualified Business Income Deduction in its first budget.
As reported by Fox Business, in 2018 the QBID sent tax breaks of roughly $17.8 billion to taxpayers that were making more than $1 million a year, which was roughly 44% of the total cut, and those making between $1 million and $500,000 got roughly $3.6 billion. Perhaps that seems insignificant compared to Biden’s efforts to raise corporate tax rates (though still under the rates from Obama’s time in the Oval Office) but all those deductions and other adjustments add up.
Having just brought up Obama again, one of the most often mentioned faults that left-leaning critics found with his administration’s performance was when eight whistleblowers were prosecuted, which was unthinkable at the time because as The Guardian pointed out that was twice the number that had been prosecuted under all previous administrations combined. This continued under the Trump administration when the news media was constantly reporting leaks, one of the higher profile targets being Daniel Hale of “Drone Papers” fame. For those who don’t know, he was one of the main reports on the extent of Obama’s atrocious drone overuse and misuse (the infamous “90% civilian death rate” stat comes from his leaked findings).
Even better known is Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who released the Collateral Murder video and the emails of the Clinton campaign. Despite considerable pressure to pardon both, particularly Assange who a UN expert claims since 2019 has been psychologically tortured while imprisoned, Biden has pardoned neither of them.
6. Immigration Judges
Another area where Biden’s not distinguishing himself from Trump came to light in May 2021. Roughly two-thirds of the 520 immigration judges on the bench in America were appointed by the Trump Administration, and there were 100 additional seats for the Biden Administration to fill when it came into office. The first seventeen selected turned out to have all been selected by the Trump administration, mostly former employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement instead of experience with migrant court.
There have been significant other legal battles that have featured the current Department of Justice advocating for policies from the previous administration. For example, Politico reported that a carryover policy favoring higher wage immigrants for visas is being defended. Title 42, another carryover which is used to deny asylum seekers due to the pandemic, has also been defended on a legal basis by the new administration.
By 2018, Immigration and Custom Enforcement had become the least popular federal agency in America, with a Pew Research poll finding that 44% approved of it while 47% disapproved. Unsurprisingly this did nothing to stop the Trump Administration by increasing its budget by billions of dollars while there was a Republican majority in both congressional chambers. However, the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi continued approving budgets that provided billions of additional dollars to the Department of Homeland Security, which in turn meant large budget increases for ICE despite its strong disapproval among the Democrat base.
In 2021 the Biden Administration made no attempt to reverse this course. About the only thing that could be said for it was that it only wanted an $18 million increase instead of an increase in the hundreds of millions or billions, though it was an increase of over $1.6 billion over what it was the last time Biden was in the White House. All of this after Biden campaigned so extensively on immigration reform — not that this has prevented the administration from practically having an open border policy.
Controversies over the Trump administration’s treatment of refugees and applicants extended past the man himself and made members Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller also prominent figures. The reduction of the refugee quota for America to 15,000 for 2020 was the lowest in American history, and Reuters reported that Biden promised on the campaign trail that he would raise it to 125,000. Then in February 2021, the Biden administration announced that it actually would keep refugee levels at the levels from the previous year, despite 35,000 fully-vetted refugees being in queue around the world. It wasn’t until July 2021 that Biden made any announcement that the number would be expanded as he caved to public and party pressure.
At the time of writing the Biden Administration has a newfound refugee crisis wherein thousands of Afghan people that assisted US occupation are seeking shelter from the Taliban in the US. So far 2,000 of the estimated 20,000 applicants have arrived in the US, but Biden has expressed some “concerns” about accepting the rest that are quite reminiscent of his predecessor.
3. Unauthorized Strikes
Perhaps the single most terrifying moment of the 45th administration for millions was on January 6, 2020 when General Qasem Soleimani and five others were assassinated at Baghdad Airport, and many believed the economic ripples would necessitate World War 3. As the situation deescalated, many noted that the strike was of questionable legality as there had been no Congressional Approval. It seems as though when he saw that Trump could get away with unlawful air strikes on a whim, Biden decided to try that too.
On March 1, Democracy Now reported how a series of airstrikes that Biden began in February which killed 22 people were of dubious legality, and certainly not conducted with congressional approval. This spotty record with strikes included one in Syria on June 28 where a child was killed, which was reminiscent both of when the first raid of Trump’s career was a February 2017 raid where multiple children were killed and when an Obama-ordered raid killed a sixteen year-old American in Yemen in September 2011. It seems that no matter who sits in the White House, as long as the US military insists on bombing the Middle East the blood of children will flow, and it doesn’t matter what Congress has to say about it.
2. Citizenship for Troops
One of the pathways to citizenship that have been promised to immigrants is that military service guarantees citizenship. The Trump Administration demonstrated such hard opposition to this that in 2018, despite difficulties meeting recruitment quotas, dozens of immigrant service members who enlisted under the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest Program were abruptly discharged without explanation, and other changes to the program included putting 1,100 applicants on hold from being sent to basic training so that could meet the requirements.
On August 18, 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Pentagon for continuing to enforce the policy. It was the organization’s second such lawsuit as courts had already sided with them that the policy was illegal. While the Biden Pentagon released a memo saying they would rescind the policy, the ACLU has found that they are not honoring the court order, let alone their stated plans. Even allowing for some degree of nativism, it is surprising to see the American military do something that could so easily be described as disrespecting the troops.
1. Clashing with the Press
This last one is by far the least important, but it seems the most telling because it has received such a disproportionate amount of attention through both administrations. Trump’s administration was notorious for a combative relationship with the mainstream media, with phrases like “fake news” being popularized from a press conference in January 2017 on. Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were both lampooned at length. HIs supporters were notorious for hating the press, to the extent they would physically attack them at rallies.
Yet Biden and press secretary Jennifer Psaki have had more than a few moments of meanness against the mainstream media too. In June 2021 he snapped at a CNN reporter for the president’s past comments about Vladimir Putin. When another reporter asked him if he could ask a question about Israel during a series of airstrikes against Palestine, Biden said “No you can’t. Not unless you get in front of the car as I step on it.” That could be dismissed as Biden only joking, but that was a common defense of the Trump Administration too. Meanwhile Jen Psaki has so often been combative with the press that “Psaki Bombs” has become a popular phrase for when she gives a hostile answer. It’s curious that a supposed return to decorum has been part of the Biden Administration’s appeal when moments like these are available on video as plain as day.
Dustin Koski collaborated with Jonathan “Bogleech” Wojcik on Return of the Living, a book about ghosts in the centuries after all life on Earth has ended.