America 'on the move again', says Biden
Washington, United States: In a rousing speech to Congress on Wednesday, President Joe Biden triumphantly announced that the United States is "on the move again," calling for trillions of dollars to restore the post-pandemic US middle class and give new life to "forgotten" jobs.
Biden told Congress and the country on primetime television that "in America, we still get up," praising the effectiveness of mass vaccination against Covid-19.
"America is ready for takeoff," he said. "We are working again, dreaming again, discovering again, leading the world again."
On the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden called the vaccine rollout one of the "greatest logistical accomplishments" in US history.
In an address delivered Wednesday evening, the president said he inherited a country in turmoil, facing the deadliest pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the “worst assault on our democracy since the Civil War.”
However, Biden rapidly shifted his position, arguing that the national initiative would now concentrate on restoring the economy and combating inequality with "the biggest employment package since World War II."
In a line that may have come from his populist Republican predecessor Donald Trump, Biden said that working-class Americans had been marginalized as the top 1% became wealthier and that his policies would give them a shot.
"You feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that's rapidly changing. Let me speak directly to you," Biden said, before going on to promise Americans "good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced."
No more solo America
On foreign affairs, he emphasized Washington's resumption of international relations shattered by Trump.
"No one nation" can succeed alone, he said, in a rebuke of Trump's isolationist policies.
Among his numerous references to archrival China, Biden said that, while Beijing seeks dominance, "we welcome the rivalry" and "are not looking for war."
On domestic concerns, Biden argued for the Democrats' long wish list, which included police reform, pro-immigrant legislation, and gun control – some of the most contentious issues in American politics.
"We have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve -- to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system," Biden said, urging the Senate to pass a police reform bill already approved in the House.
He urged Republicans and Democrats to collaborate on one of the country's most contentious issues, saying, "Let's end our frustrating war on immigration."
Republicans, on the other hand, showed no sign of responding to Biden's calls for unity, accusing him of giving lip service to the notion while pushing a leftist agenda.
"Our best future won't come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you -- the American people," Tim Scott, the Republicans' only Black senator, and a rising star, said in an official party rebuttal after Biden finished.
"President Biden promised you a certain style of leadership," he explained. "Three months later, the president's and his party's decisions are driving us further apart."
Indeed, new taxes
Presidents in the United States normally bend over backward to stop or at least conceal tax rises.
However, Biden is betting on public support for his concept of relying on the superrich to finance his current new spending proposal, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which he announced in his speech.
The bill, which would need to be approved by a profoundly divided Congress, will invest in early childhood education, childcare, and higher education.
To pay for this, the highest income tax rate will be raised from 37 percent under Trump's proposal to 39.6 percent before Trump.
The Biden proposal would also close loopholes and capital income tax cuts, raising "billions," according to the White House, through a tightened tax system on inherited wealth.
Americans making less than $400,000 a year, on the other hand, will face no additional taxes.
"My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It's time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out," Biden said. "What I've proposed is fair."
The proposed new spending spree comes after Congress passed a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Package, which pumped stimulus into nearly every sector of the economy, and is now discussing a proposed $2 trillion-plus infrastructure plan.
The atmosphere for Biden's first address to Congress as president represented the tumultuous times in which he ascended to the presidency.
Since the January 6 riot, when Trump supporters rampaged toward what the Republican wrongly says was a stolen election, security has been at an all-time high around the Capitol building.
While Covid-19 is on the defensive – vaccinated Americans were told Tuesday that they can now do most things outside without masks – the pandemic loomed largely.
Instead of the regular 1,600 or so politicians and guests crowded into the House chamber, Biden looked out on a small group of about 200.
Only Chief Justice John Roberts, one of the Supreme Court's nine members, was present.
Only the defense and state secretaries were present, implying that the traditional practice of naming a "designated survivor" – someone who would take over the nation if the entire government died inside the Capitol – was unnecessary.