What a Joe Biden Presidency Will Mean for our Community,
Israel, and the Jewish People
What will a Joe Biden presidency look like, what will his policies reflect, and will it have any similarities to the Obama years?
Though he has yet to enact a single policy, he has spoken on virtually every policy issue, giving a glimpse into what his legacy might look like.
At the time of the writing of this article, Joe Biden appears to be the President-elect, but Trump has not conceded. Trump is demanding recounts and is challenging the U.S. election results in the courts. Assuming the results stand, and Biden is declared the next President, many questions must be asked about how his occupancy of the White House will affect us as a community. These include questions such as how it will impact the economy, businesses, healthcare, foreign affairs, home security, funds for private schooling, and other issues.
The Jewish State
Let us begin with an issue near and dear to every one of our hearts – our beloved State of Israel. Many of us voted for the candidate that best represents our own outlook on how Israel should be treated. What’s to be expected from President Biden in this regard?
Several media sources, including Newsweek and JTA, say that he’s likely to undo many of the Trump-era aid package freezes against bodies that are hostile to Israel. This means renewing funding of the Palestinian Authority, reopening the Palestine Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission in Washington D.C., and probably renewing funding of UNWRA – the refugee relief organization often criticized for incorporating vitriolic anti-Semitism in its school curricula.
Even while Senator of Delaware and Vice President under Obama, and later, Biden made it known that he opposes unilateral actions such as Israeli annexation of disputed territory in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority’s declaration of statehood. He has also made it clear that even as president, he would disapprove of “settlement expansion” – a catch-all for building Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, which, he said during a speech at a 2019 J Street Conference, “takes us further from peace.” Biden also insisted that Israel “stop talk of annexation,” feeling that even mentioning the prospect of annexing parts of the ancestral Jewish heartland is not legitimate.
As reported by the Intercept on July 13, 2019, a leftist activist from the IfNotNow organization, which advocates against Israel’s hold on Judea and Samaria, asked Biden about “the occupation,” and in response he said. “I think occupation is a real problem, a significant problem. I think the settlements are unnecessary…”
As for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Biden has expressed vehement opposition to the movement, as reported by the New York Times in December 2019, which cites the President-elect as making the following statement:
(BDS) singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — in a way that is inconsistent with the treatment of other nations, and too often veers into anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel. That’s wrong, and as president, I would oppose BDS efforts in Congress.
He added, however, that “steps to sanction supporters of BDS may be inconsistent with First Amendment protections of free speech, as several federal courts have concluded.”
More disconcertingly, Karine Jean-Pierre, Chief of Staff of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, penned an article in 2019 for Newsweek slamming AIPAC – the non-partisan pro-Israel lobby group. She said that Democratic candidates for President “made the right call” by not showing up to AIPAC’s annual convention that year, breaking the tradition that candidates meet delegates or deliver speeches. Jean-Pierre went so far as to criticize the organization for allowing Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak at that year’s convention, because “Israel may have committed war crimes in its attacks on Gazan protesters” and because the Prime Minister was indicted on charges of bribery. AIPAC, moreover, has, in her words, “become known for trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric” and was “the [sic] obstacle to progress,” although she did not provide evidence for these serious charges.
Israel’s safety and security in a hostile region will be a perpetual concern – particularly, Iran’s overt plans to develop nuclear weapons with which to obliterate the Jewish State. Like his former boss, Barack Obama, Joe Biden is in favor of rebooting what is now famously known as “the Iran Deal” – the deal that gave the Islamic Republic $150B in exchange for halting its nuclear weapons program. John Kerry, while serving as Obama’s Secretary of State, conceded that a portion of those funds were likely to land in the hands of terrorist groups.
President Trump, to the delight of Israel and her supporters, discarded the plan, labelling it “a disaster.” Indeed, just a year into the Trump administration, Israeli spies managed to smuggle out of Iran literally tons of data that showed that the nuclear program was secretly being continued.
Biden has vowed to return to the diplomatic table with Iran, on condition that they act in good faith with the old deal. Interestingly, he blamed Trump’s exit from the Iran deal for what he believes to be the improvement in the Iranians’ chances of building nuclear weapons.
Corporate Tax Hikes
In terms of what happens here at home, Biden is likely to implement much different policies than those followed during Trump’s presidency in areas such as taxes, healthcare, and school vouchers.
Federal tax increases would affect the “wealthy and big corporations,” as described on Biden’s website. He plans to raise the corporate tax to 28 percent from Trump’s 21 percent, which Trump had already reduced from 35 percent. In addition, Biden’s plan is to require a minimum tax of 21 percent on all foreign earnings of U.S. companies, and impose a tax penalty on corporations that ship jobs overseas. With personal taxes, his goal is to raise the top individual rate back to 39.6 percent from 37 percent.
On the controversial topic of healthcare, Biden is set on reversing Trump actions that stripped away parts of Obamacare, and wants to expand eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid. He plans to give Americans a public health insurance option like Medicare, and wants to expand coverage to low-income Americans who would be eligible for Medicaid if not for their state’s refusal of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility. Biden’s plan will cover birth control and abortion, as well.
Medicare would, under Biden, extend to those aged 60, and make dental, vision and hearing coverage standard in traditional Medicare, instead of requiring the purchase of a supplemental policy.
School Choice Vouchers
An issue of great importance to our community is that of school choice vouchers. Joe Biden is on record of being opposed to school choice vouchers. In January 2020, Biden tweeted, “When we divert public funds to private schools, we undermine the entire public education system. We’ve got to prioritize investing in our public schools, so every kid in America gets a fair shot. That’s why I oppose vouchers.”
It is interesting to note that despite Biden’s opposition to vouchers, when it came time to send his two sons to high school, he chose the private option.
School choice vouchers generally allow lower-income students to put state dollars meant for their education towards private schools. Voucher proponents say it’s a way for lower-income students to escape troubled public schools for private schools that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Though not even sworn in yet – and in actuality, the results haven’t even been certified yet by the electors – we can still get a sense of what direction President Biden could take over the next four years, and of some of the changes that might be taking place.
Why Trump Lost (Experts weigh in)
David Axelrod, chief strategist for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, and Senior Advisor to the President, said that while COVID-19 may have been an issue for voters showing up to the ballot box, the shift occurred because “Trump beat Trump.” That is, it was more about personality than policy, for many voters. To his mind, early Coronavirus fumbles, along with the mishandling of nationwide protests against police brutality, made the success of Trump’s economic policies less appealing.
BBC New York correspondent Nick Bryant noted that being a political outsider who would say “what no one else would” helped Trump in 2016, but it hurt him in 2020. Despite an enthusiastic base who would come out and vote for him under any circumstances, his aggressive behavior and off-putting personality hemorrhaged some support – especially in the suburbs, Bryant believes. In 2016, Republicans who didn’t care for Trump were willing to give him a chance. By 2020, many were not, for reasons anywhere from perceived indifference to racial tensions, to the alienation of moderates.
Jonah Goldberg – conservative columnist, author, political analyst and editor of National Review – noted that Trump underperformed in a year that Republicans did better than expected in other ballots (Congress, Senate, statewide races). Again, he believes it was a case of Trump supporters believing that his antagonism and gruff were just what the country needed, but it did not translate well with independents and fence-sitters. The election became more about who Trump is, and not so much about his accomplishments, according to Goldberg. What the results of the election tell us is that Americans might be happy with Republican policies or legislature, but they were not happy with Donald Trump.
Brett Stephens, Pulitzer Prize winning American conservative journalist, editor, and New York Times columnist, is effectively a “Never Trumper” who is aligned ideologically with most of the administration’s policies, but was not a fan of the president. He surmises that Trump might have gained a little ground in a few demographics, such as Jews, Latinos, and African Americans, but he lost ground with white men – especially those with college educations – and seniors. Stephens says there are two major reasons he lost: uncontrolled rhetoric, and his party’s lack of condemnation of it. 2016 might have been the year for novelty, of “anything goes,” but 2020 appeared to be the year voters tired of the bluster, he explains.