Politics Update – Jan. 29

Lead+Opinions+Editor+Mia+George+and+Opinions+Editor%3A+Print+Daniel+de+Beer+break+down+the+most+important+political+stories+of+this+past+week.

Helen Roth

Lead Opinions Editor Mia George and Opinions Editor: Print Daniel de Beer break down the most important political stories of this past week.

Sal Cerrell and Cameron Spurr

Biden starts with a bang

Van Jones said it best. On CNN, former President Obama’s senior advisor, gave a refreshing take on the new administration’s adherence to normality: “It’s mesmerizing just to watch a functional government doing functional, government-type things. There was a press conference, and there was a human, and that person said words, and the words made sense. Then someone asked a question and the person answered it.” 

Indeed, over President Joe Biden’s first week, watching the news or a press briefing itself feels like a whole new experience. It was shocking when instead of calling reporters the enemy of the people, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki actually responded coherently to questions.

This normalcy is exactly what is expected from the Biden presidency, especially after the extraordinary (to say the least) four years of former President Donald Trump.  He moved quickly to fill bureaucratic posts that Trump had left vacant for much of his presidency, per a Politico report. In doing so, his appointments made his administration the most diverse in two decades, according to the Economist

He also signed into law a series of executive orders that reentered the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization, repealed the ban on Muslim immigration into the country, and required those on federal property to wear masks in the prevention of COVID-19. 

However, despite the ceremonious first week, the Biden administration still has tremendous challenges to overcome.

While Democrats can rightfully call out Republicans for playing politics on key issues, they too are guilty of the same crime.”

First and foremost, Biden must unclog Congress. The legislature is tied up in partisan bickering over procedural niceties, owing to the slender margins of the Democratic majority. Trump’s impeachment has slowed the passage of key legislation and confirmation of cabinet secretaries, and thus delayed Biden’s first promise to Americans: passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that would help both individuals and businesses recover from the pandemic. The bill would also set aside funds for school reopenings, vaccine distribution and food subsidies to struggling families. Biden’s promise on those three issues is dependent upon the passage of this bill. 

As of now, many Republicans in the Senate are hesitant to sign off, mainly because Democrats in the House have decided to insert an amendment that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a longstanding goal of the progressive left. 

While Democrats can rightfully call out Republicans for playing politics on key issues, they too are guilty of the same crime. Impeaching Trump after having left office is entirely motivated by the fear the former president may seek a second term in 2024 – a purely political consideration. Impeachment would not remove him from office, nor strip him of the perks a former president receives. Both have already occured. It also has no chance of success based on a recent procedural vote in which no Senate Republicans voted in favor of its constitutionality. 

Nevertheless, Democrats have chosen to waste legislative time attempting to impeach a former president that has no chance of conviction. They’ve also played politics with tacking on the minimum wage raise to a stimulus bill millions of Americans are dependent on. 

Let’s be clear. The U.S. should raise their minimum wage. Despite having the 17th highest minimum wage in the world, it has failed to raise in over a decade. This means it has waited longer than the 60 nations below it to raise minimum salaries. However, it’s political controversy will lead to a prolonged debate that will only stagnate the short-term relief Americans are desperately seeking. Democrats must have the ability to compromise on these issues – it’s a necessary part of governing that neither party seems to understand. 

Biden must reinforce this to his Democratic colleagues, particularly to progressives in the House. The issues they are highlighting are important, but are not worth holding up a bill that would deliver $2 trillion – equivalent to 10% of the American economy – to desperate individuals and families. 

Despite Biden’s promise to unify the country, he must start by unifying Congress on a basic set of priorities. There will still be disagreements – it’s a democracy – but he must get the two sides talking before he can pass the legislation America so desperately needs. 

Wall Street under attack… from Redditors

Wall Street often perceives itself as untouchable. Big investors make high-level trades from their skyscraper office buildings, quite literally looking out on the American public from their ivory towers. Though untouchable, they are not invincible, something proved this past week by of all things, a group of Reddit users. 

The fiasco concerns a trading phenomenon called short-squeezing. The company’s stock that is being squeezed is GameStop. With the advent and growth of e-commerce options in the gaming industry, GameStop has struggled, and its share price has followed. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this depreciation even further. A handful of Wall Street hedge funds saw an opportunity to make some money by betting that GameStop’s stock would continue to depreciate. 

The political aspect of the GameStop debacle has revealed some irony; after years of fighting against government regulation, these hedge funds and others on Wall Street want the government to regulate the type of action the Reddit users took. Any “every day” American who despises Wall Street is likely relishing in the hedge funds’ cries for help.

In their battle, hedge funds seem outnumbered. Whether jokingly or otherwise, public figures, politicians and more have pitched in to rip off the hedge funds. There was no surprise when U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez jumped at the chance to poke fun at Wall Streeters.

A handful of Wall Street hedge funds saw an opportunity to make some money by betting that GameStop’s stock would continue to depreciate. ”

Wall Street is very capable of imploding its own system, and as what many think is a negligible consequence to them, hurting the American public. But this time, the public has found a way to break through that force field of invincibility, crumbling those ivory towers.