Biden’s First Year in Review

Media provided via The White House.

Boots stampeded the Capitol in January of 2021, and its rumblings could be felt across the world. 

They marched, believing that they were correcting a wrong, yet their footsteps and outrage soon doomed them to four years of a president none of them wanted. Like a nuclear explosion, the march went off in Washington and BOOM: it spread. The fallout reached every corner of the country, outpacing the infectious spread of Covid-19. Stances on Jan. 6 spewed like bullets whizzing in the air from one side to the other as media giants tried to convince us Americans through the TV that one side was better than the other or vice versa. 

Nearly a year has passed since the insurrection at the Capitol, marking the pre-emptive start to President Joe Biden’s term in office. Some characterize that day as a return to the heavenly days of the Obama years, while others see it as our entry into the depression they saw under the last Democratic administration. Biden’s presidency thus far has had its share of ups and downs, often taking one step forward and, at times, a forced leap backwards.

Despite the many hindrances of 2021, President Biden has, in many ways, weathered the storm. The President was able to bring vaccination rates up in largely anti-vax counties, a success that his predecessor did not accomplish. President Biden also increased funding for Covid-19 related research across the board and helped strengthen the worldwide coalition commitment to wipe out the disease. These actions have decreased infection rates, death rates, and allowed schools and businesses to re-open. For this, in part, we have President Biden to thank. Though his list of accomplishments when it comes to combating the pandemic may be long, his list of failures in other categories may be just as long if not longer. 

If raising oil prices was a science, President Biden would be Albert Einstein by now. One of his first acts as president was to execute an order to retract the building permits for the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which would have created 20,000 direct jobs and an additional 120,000 indirect jobs in some of America’s more desperate communities (CNBC, January 2021). This pipeline was meant to transport over 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day to Nebraska from Canada, and, later, to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico (NRDC, November 2021). The main concern from the administration was about the environmental impact, which makes sense, in theory. In truth, however, the pipeline, which was using state of the art technology and had little to no environmental impact compared to other means, as determined by the U.S. Department of  State (Reuters, September 2018). But we still have to bring this crude oil from Canada to refineries and, now, instead of using the environmentally safe pipeline, we have to use trains, trucks, and boats, which are most definitely worse for the environment. 

Biden cited two reasons as to why he halted construction. The first was the environmental impact and the second was because it would encroach on indigenous territories. One way to address this challenge would be to circumvent as much of the indigenous land as is economically possible, as well as reimburse the indegous groups whose lands the pipeline would go through.

Canceling the construction of the pipeline not only damaged our economy and the environment but also harmed our foreign policy standing. Another country that would have greatly benefited from this pipeline was one of our closest and oldest allies: Canada. When asked his thoughts on the cancellation of permits, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, called it “disappointing” (BBC, January 2021). 

President Biden’s oil policy, in the words of Superman, has caused oil prices to go “up, up, and away.” In October 2021, the price of oil was $3.38/gallon. Since then, the price has increased by an additional 50 percent. This is one of the rare detriments that can’t entirely be blamed on Covid-19 but instead on President Biden’s oil policies (The Post Journal, October 2021). 

Additionally, one of the President’s largest and most recent failures was the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan. Drawing troops out of Afghanistan was something that should have happened a long time ago and, for that, we do not have President Biden to thank. In fact, we may have him to partially blame. During the Obama administration, President Biden led efforts to increase the US control over Afghanistan by sending over an additional 70,000 troops (NPR 2018) to the war-torn country, 2,500 of whom we lost in the field of combat (Rollingstone 2016). The pullout itself was as unorganized as they come: our hasty departure left Afghanistan with enough of our weapons and supplies to arm a large country. The number of helicopters alone that the Taliban now owns totals 150, more than any other country in its area, making it a superpower in its region (The Guardian, August 2021). 

In addition to leaving weapons and supplies, we also abandoned thousands of Americans, many of whom are still being held hostage (Foreign Policy, November 2021). This hostage situation makes the Iran hostage crisis look like child’s play in comparison. Military leaders, not just in America but across the globe, have condemned President Biden for this retreat which rivals our pullout of Vietnam, a country where we had substantially more troops and supplies and even less support. But what has happened to the country since we left? Is it a utopia where women can go to school, and children can play on the streets freely? No, far from it. The Taliban have reverted back to their insidious reign of the 2000s: Women can not go to school and American helicopters witness daily public hangings for crimes as small as stealing (India Today, September 2021). 

Another fumble on the part of the Biden administration concerns the Southern borders. His handling of this issue can only be compared to Nixon’s handling of the Watergate scandal: deny, deny, deny. His predecessor also did not address this situation effectively but to say President Biden has done substantially better would be a fallacy on par with some of the largest lies in history. 

One of Trump’s most controversial immigration policies was the family separation policy (Vice, January 2022). President Biden eradicated this, as he said he would do on the campaign trail, but as border crossings began to increase to the highest levels they’ve ever been in history, he brought the child separation policy back under a different task force (Politico, March 2021). 

This is far from the only law that President Biden has brought back from the Trump era immigration policies. In fact, he’s brought back dozens of laws that make border enforcement much more aggressive than previous administrations. This is best exemplified by the recent whipping incident near the border (Washington Examiner, November 2021).

Children are being separated and left to fend for themselves at record numbers. People are dying trying to cross the border also at record numbers. Immigrants have been subjected to abuse on the part of President Biden’s border enforcers. But where is President Biden to be found? Eight hundred miles away in Washington (New York Times, October 2021). President Biden hasn’t visited the border once, something that his predecessor did numerous times. Instead, President Biden sent Vice President Kamala Harris to a glorified photo-op to talk about the situation, and her words seemed to give hope that something would be done. Instead, those words were shallow and, at the time of writing this article, none of these harmful policies have been reversed or effectively addressed.

President Biden’s presidency has been marked by failure after failure, and the nation is taking note. Some recent polls put President Biden’s approval rating at 40 percent, which is a net loss of -13 points. 

Many carried an immense sense of hope when President Biden took office a year ago. Now, most seem to have given up on the idea of a brighter future and instead look to who might replace Biden only a year into his presidency. Now, the question on most American minds is a simple one: what can be done?