Even his detractors, pre-eminently Donald Trump, will concede that Joe Biden has scored an achievement five days before his inaugural.
While the outgoing President had stumbled while trying to address coronavirus, Mr Biden on Friday unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan for the economy of an America blighted by the pandemic.
This is a positive initiative before the next President steps into the Oval Office. If passed by Congress, it will include $1 trillion for households, with direct payments of $1,400 to all Americans. The relief proposal includes $415 billion to fight the virus and $440 bn for small enterprises. Mr Biden, a Democrat, does have a point to prove. It bears recall that he had pledged to counter the pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States.
He campaigned last year vowing to do a better job handling the virus than the outgoing President. “I promise we will not forget you,” was his message to the electorate.
The direct payments of $1,400 would come on top of $600 provided in a relief bill enacted last month. Mr Biden’s proposal comes even as a winter surge of the coronavirus on either side of the Atlantic breaks records; a renewed lockdown is already in force in Boris Johnson’s Britain.
Each day brings well over 200,000 new cases in the US and the daily death toll sometimes tops 4,000. These are staggering figures by any reckoning. Mr Biden signalled his intent with a heady primetime speech on Thursday night from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware ~ “A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste. The very health of our nation is at stake. We have to act and we have to act now. There will be stumbles, but I will always be honest with you about both the progress we’re making and what setbacks we meet.”
The coronavirus package must be viewed in the context of his presentation. In terms of pump-priming, Mr Biden’s plan envisages $20 billon to vaccinate Americans. In a moment of blistering candour, Mr Biden lamented that “the vaccine rollout has been a dismal failure thus far.” His administration plans to deliver 100 million jabs in 100 days.
Altogether, Mr Biden’s is a remarkably comprehensive plan of action. US officials have acknowledged that the vaccination programme has not been working as smoothly as planned, and a goal to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020 was not met. The crucial question now is whether Congress will accept the plan.
Republicans are likely to object to piling up trillions more in debt that the US has already incurred to tackle the pandemic, and the incoming President acknowledged his plan “does not come cheaply”. But he will be helped by his fellow Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, if only by narrow margins.