During last year’s presidential election, Joe Biden promised to end America’s “artificial trade war” with Europe. His predecessor, Donald Trump, had imposed $7.5 billion worth of tariffs on European aluminum and steel.
Biden has relaxed the tariffs, but not abolished them. The EU has completely pulled down its retaliatory tariffs on bourbon whisky and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Over the summer, I wrote here that President Joe Biden’s child benefits — $300 per month for children under the age of 6 and $250 for kids up to the age of 17 — help American parents pay for child care, but don’t make child care less expensive.
America has the worst health-care system of eleven rich nations.
The Commonwealth Fund, a century-old foundation dedicated to improving health care, places the United States behind Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in its latest report. The Netherlands and Norway share first place.
America is the world’s top innovator of new medications and treatments. The best medical schools are in the United States. The country spends relatively more on preventative care than most. But this doesn’t outweigh its poor scores on the Commonwealth Fund’s other criteria: access to care, administrative efficiency, equity and outcomes.
In practical terms, this means especially low-income Americans don’t get the health care they need, either because it’s too expensive, too complex or both. Preventable deaths, including infant and maternal mortality, are higher in the United States than in other wealthy countries. Life expectancy is lower.
The United States Senate is expected to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill this week with funding for everything from broadband Internet to road safety.
The bill, which is believed to have the support of enough Republicans to overcome a forty-senator filibuster, falls short of the $2 trillion President Joe Biden had proposed to spend on (green) infrastructure over four years.
The compromise bill has $550 billion in new spending. The rest consists of existing infrastructure funds which are either being diverted or renewed.
European judges have discovered they can compel politicians to take action against climate change.
France’s Council of State has given the government of Emmanuel Macron an April 2022 deadline (one month before the election) to ensure the country will meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.
Germany’s Constitutional Court issued a similar ruling in April and gave the government an end-of-year deadline to update its policy.
A Dutch court has gone further, ordering Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, to reduce not just its own carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent but those of its customers and suppliers as well.
European leaders are “weak”, the American president is “bold”. It’s a trope so old, at this point it tells us more about the people who perpetuate it than about elected officials on either side of the Atlantic.
Romano Prodi was “weak“. José María Aznar was “weak“. François Mitterrand was “weak“. His successor, Jacques Chirac, lacked “gravitas“.
A year before the election of Donald Trump, Robert Kaplan disparaged the “grey, insipid ciphers” who wandered Europe’s halls of power. An article in Foreign Affairs accused the continent’s “cowardly” leadership of rendering the EU “irrelevant”. A 2005 op-ed in The New York Times lamented the “weakness” of European leaders at the very time President George W. Bush called for a “renewal” in transatlantic relations. (The same George W. Bush who two years earlier had created the deepest crisis in transatlantic relations since the end of the Cold War by invading Iraq.)
Here we go again. Jef Poortmans, a commentator for Belgium’s Knack magazine, compares Joe Biden’s “zeal” with Europe’s “washed out” leadership. Timothy Garton Ash, whose expectations the EU has never met, argues the bloc faces “one of the biggest challenges of its life” (again). Philip Stephens contrasts Biden’s “ambition”, “audacity”, “energy” and “resolve” with the “defensive incrementalism” of his European counterparts, in particular Angela Merkel.
The “real significance” of Biden’s agenda, writes Stephens in the Financial Times — a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue program and a $3 trillion education and infrastructure bill — “lies in a bold reassertion of the responsibilities of government.”
The United States Senate has approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus recovery plan, more than twice the size of Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus.
With the exception of a $15 hourly minimum wage, the soon-to-be-law includes nearly all the provisions Biden had called for, including additional spending on health care, extended unemployment insurance (if cut by $100 per week from the original version) and rental assistance. For detail, check out my post about the bill from January.
The appointment of Jake Sullivan as Joe Biden’s national security advisor is a strong hint that the new president’s focus on domestic issues — COVID-19, the economy, racial equity — will influence American foreign policy in the next four years.
While at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace during the Trump Administration, Sullivan co-authored a report that argued American foreign policy had failed the American middle class. As Biden’s closest foreign-policy advisor, he can push for the return to Obama-style multilateralism, but this time with a laser focus on the interests of middle America.
Charles de Gaulle’s great achievement, to paraphrase his British biographer, Julian Jackson, was that he reconciled the French left to patriotism and the French right to democracy.
The history of France since 1789 has been a consistent struggle between a universalist left and the conservative right; between republic and monarchy; the Enlightenment and Catholicism; labor and capital; Paris and La France profonde.
History hasn’t ended. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen embody opposite visions of France today. But de Gaulle narrowed the divide and helped Frenchmen and -women think of each other as opponents rather than enemies.
That America could use a whiff of Gaullism isn’t my idea. Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist of The New York Times, called for an American de Gaulle two years ago.