On his 99th day in office, President Joe Biden used the language of hope and change because the “power of positive thinking”, as Norman Vincent Peale pointed out, is enormous. So is Mr Biden’s spending plan. At $4 trillion, split into two bills, it is simply enormous.
The theme, clearly, was hope and change. But those are the most overused words in public life. Is there something to be said for scepticism that Mr Biden was using the language of magical thinking?
That might be valid criticism, but the Republican Party isn’t making it. Instead, it responded with the usual trigger words: “socialist”, “Washington schemes”. It’s not able to get its tongue around Mr Biden’s supposed socialist radicalism. After all, Mr Biden’s proposed $1.8 trillion American Families Plan would merely bring US child, parental and worker benefits into line with most other wealthy nations. It’s not like the hope and change raises the bar or anything, creating a whole new template for looking after your people.
As Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, recently noted, “I would describe Bidenomics as ambitious but not reformist. America badly needs new investments in people and infrastructure but I would like to see a more of a strategic plan behind these proposals.”
That said, the words used by this president, when taken together, somehow suggested a remaking of America. As The Huffington Post put it, “If all of the proposals Biden mentioned in the speech somehow became law, it would amount to a transformation of the social safety net and a massive expansion of educational opportunities in the country”.
Everyone knows that’s not going to happen — Mr Biden’s bills are not the radical changes delivered by FDR’s New Deal, which created Social Security, or LBJ’s Great Society, which produced Medicare and Medicaid. But, as the pundits say, the American Families Plan would be on a par with the 2010 Obamacare bill. President Obama managed to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. President Biden would manage to reduce the number of women who aren’t in the labour force, long-term.
It would be hope and change, spoken in a lower key.