A new day dawns in AmericaWednesday, January 27, 2021
THE headlines of every major newspaper around the world poured derision on the Donald Trump presidency as he headed for the exits of the White House. Conversely, they welcomed with effusive praise the incoming Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Administration. For America's major allies there was a tremendous sense of relief that the Trump presidency had ended; that, indeed, a new day had dawned in America.
And so it was, too, for almost 70 per cent of Americans polled. For the majority of Americans there is no doubt that a sense of peace and quiet has settled over the country since the exit of Trump. Absent is the tension that one would get from an incendiary tweet, the erratic and often ill-advised firing of those who did not agree with him, or policy pronouncements not clearly worked out. No longer would one have to hold one's breath as to what moniker he would hang around the neck of anyone who openly opposed him or failed to show him loyalty in the Trumpian definition of that word.
While there is tremendous relief at his leaving, there is equal realism of what faces the new Administration. A new day might have dawned, but there remain gargantuan tasks that cry out for the attention of the Biden-Harris Administration.
To begin with, the raging novel coronavirus pandemic is front and centre. For a long time, Biden had been promoting the truth that you cannot have robust economic recovery unless you can bring the rampaging coronavirus under control. This is true for any country, including Jamaica.
Vaccines are showing great promise in this regard, but the shambolic approach of the gladly departed Trump Administration in deploying available vaccines, and getting them into people's arms, has been abysmal, if not criminally negligent.
Concomitant with bringing the virus under control is bringing relief to Americans who have been savaged in their economic livelihood by the virus. In this regard, Biden will have to be very bold and decisive in the policies that are rolled out to do what has to be done. He seems to be cognisant of this and speaks frequently to it, but he seems to have some illusion as to the level of support he can expect from the Republican party in Congress, especially in the Senate.
I believe he is a bit too optimistic of the extent to which he can enlist Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in passing bold initiatives. McConnell and other Republicans have proven themselves to be obstructionists, ever since the days of Barack Obama — whom McConnell had vowed to make a one-term president. If Biden believes that McConnell has had a “come to Jesus” moment and is now ready to work with him to enact radical policies that can benefit the American people, I have a bridge over Black River to sell him. McConnell and his ilk only understand raw power and you can be sure that he has his eyes set on the next elections in 2022 and his return to the majority leadership of the Senate.
What this means is that Biden must explore with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer every angle that he can use to get his policies through, and not allow them to be stymied or watered down by Republican recalcitrance. They must have a serious look at the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes on major Bills in the Senate, with a view to remove it. This is just a rule of procedure devised by the Senate, but is not a constitutional provision.
The kind of Republican senators who exist today — some of them hardened or radicalised by Trumpism — will not vote with the Democrats on the far-reaching radical Bills that the moment requires to prevent the country from plunging into the social and economic abyss towards which it is fast heading. Radical, transformative legislation will be required or the Democrats may find themselves in the midterm elections in 2022 in more than a spot of bother. The momentum is on their side and they should strike while they have the breeze behind their backs.
What about us in Jamaica? As we have long known, America's success economically will profoundly influence our own success here in Jamaica. This is why we watch carefully what is happening in that country, especially their fight against COVID-19. The earlier America can bring the virus under control and reach reasonable herd immunity status, the quicker the economy will return to pre-COVID-19 viability. And, the happier countries like Jamaica will be, as America is our biggest trading partner and net contributor to tourism and remittance receipts.
The Government is being urged to provide another stimulus package as many are still hurting and small businesses are hardly coping. We are now approaching the budget season, and I am not sure that the Government will want to do a package at this time or weave it into the larger budget considerations.
It is clear that a s further stimulus package will drive aggregate demand and spur revival of the economy. Despite the fallout the economy has suffered, there is indication that a level of confidence is returning. In the Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke there is a sense that he has a good grasp of his portfolio and understands what is to be done. He is not given to loose talk or to “run wid it” proclivities. The establishment of the fiscal council and an independent central bank are important tools in the toolkit of accountability. These inspire confidence that the Government is serious about macroeconomic stability and fiscal prudence. They suggest strong canons of transparency in the execution of the financial and economic affairs of the country. It will be very interesting to see what the budget will look like one year after the arrival of COVID-19 to our shores.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the book WEEP: Why President Donald J. Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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