What a difference competent leadership and 100 days make! It is difficult to comprehend just how dysfunctional the situation was before President
brought together a seasoned, diverse and capable team to rebuild confidence in the potential of our federal government. Over these past few months, the American people have witnessed the practical, experienced and thoughtful leadership that I have always known in Biden—a chief executive who forcefully exudes certainty, stability, integrity, and competent governance.
First, in the face of unprecedented challenges—the public health crisis and the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, followed by an incoherent federal government response—Biden gave us a robust plan to both tackle the virus and give Americans the economic support they desperately needed. The administration quickly put in motion a comprehensive effort to win the battle against Covid-19. They cleaned up the previous administration’s sclerotic response with clear and decisive action, administering more than 200 million vaccines in less than 100 days and vastly exceeding expectations for rapid and effective deployment. Today, more than half of all U.S. adults have gotten one shot, two-thirds of all seniors are fully vaccinated, and daily deaths are down 75% since Jan. 20.
Second, the Biden team shepherded through Congress a smart and effective economic recovery package, the American Rescue Plan, funding widespread vaccine deployment and economic lifelines for millions of business and individuals. Among other provisions, the law lowered health care costs for millions, contained the largest investment in childcare since World War II, provided critical assistance to enable reopening the majority of K-8 schools and will cut child poverty in half by 2022.
Now, President Biden is pursuing a large-scale, smart initiative for which I have long advocated: a focused, long-term economic competitiveness strategy that does more to support our workers through massive and historic investments in America’s job creation engines of the future. The American Jobs Plan includes shrewd investments in our infrastructure, both physical and digital; in clean energy innovation; in early stage technologies such as 5G, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence; in regional economic development; in inclusive upskilling, education and workforce adaption; and in strengthening our social safety net by providing access to programs and health care for those who need it most. All told, the Biden economic plan will help create more than 19 million new jobs, with roughly 75% of them for workers with no more than a high school diploma.
Third, when it comes to America’s stature as a leader in the world, we are back to solid diplomacy without the inconsistent and unnecessary drama of the past. Biden has made some significant early moves to reassert U.S. global leadership: rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and hosting a global climate summit to drive concrete commitments to reduce carbon emissions; quickly pivoting over the past week to step up to provide assistance and vaccine support to India and other nations ravaged by Covid-19; delivering a strong, clear response against Iranian provocation in the Middle East; and demonstrating to the Chinese that America is going on offense to fight market manipulation, stand up for human rights, and strategically invest in our economic future at home to ensure our country remains the world leader in innovation. Importantly, Biden has pursued these objectives with the needs of the American people at the forefront, by rebuilding alliances with critical partners in Europe and Asia rather than going it alone, so we can be successful in our many global missions especially that of expanding opportunity and democratic values.
Each week, I talk to many CEOs and business leaders who tell me this early work is paying off for their workers and building confidence. Across the country, hiring is picking up; more new jobs were created in the first 100 days of the Biden administration than under any president in history. And while we still must do much more for the 8-plus million people out of work due to the pandemic, the U.S. economy is expected this year to have its fastest growth rate since the early 1980s. What’s more, hunger is decreasing and the number of American families behind on rent dropped by more than 2 million in March. Business optimism is rebounding in both the manufacturing and service sectors and the S&P 500 has broken at least 21 records since President Biden took office, the most in a president’s first 100 days since John F. Kennedy.
While much progress has been made in a mere 100 days, the work has just begun. Biden and his team keenly understand that this is a moment of opportunity for American renewal—to conquer a ravaging pandemic, to finally address our nation’s aging infrastructure and to invest in our people and in the building blocks of America’s competitiveness.
Make no mistake, Joe Biden is clear-eyed that this work is not easy and requires compromise. But his strong and effective leadership over the past few months makes me more optimistic than ever about our nation’s future and America’s place in the world.
Penny Pritzker is founder and chairman of the investment firm PSP Partners and the 38th U.S. secretary of commerce.
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