Joe Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday morning at the U.S. Capitol in the early hours of Thursday morning here in South Korea becoming the United States' 46th President. Ending four tumultuous years of Donald Trump, a new era begins for Americans under Biden, after what may have been the most chaotic transition. As he steps into the Oval Office, Biden has to hit the ground running, as he deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a pandemic-crippled economy with an unemployment rate that has stood at around 7 percent for months.
He also inherits a nation that's been fragmented socially and ideologically with the impact of the pandemic magnifying the divide.
We discuss the challenges ahead for the new U.S. President with Henry Olsen, Washington Post columnist and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. It's lovely to see you again. Happy New Year.
We also have Sharon Wright Austin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Happy New Year.
1. Henry: Joe Biden was sworn into office earlier today in Washington D.C. where you are. How was the inauguration for you, after watching the months of unrest that led up to this day?
2. Henry: Joe Biden’s number one agenda is to tackle the virus and save the ailing economy. He’s pledged to provide 100 mil. COVID-19 vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, and plans to pump up production of key materials and equipment, testing and contract tracing and stimulus checks for American households and of course support for businesses and workers with children. All of this amounts to a $1.9 trillion relief package. Are you optimistic about this plan, and can Biden get enough backing from Congress?
Sharon: Beyond the initial stimulus package, Biden’s administration is expected to push for higher corporate taxes, infrastructure, clean energy, and healthcare. While Democrats will control both the House and the Senate but by a razor-thin margin. Which agendas do you think will have a tough time passing through Congress?
Sharon: Martin Luther King Jr. Day this week highlighted how crucial it is to root out systematic racism in the country, in order to overcome division in the nation. From homeownership, access to health care, wages, and other socioeconomic and political rights, it’s clear that black Americans and other Americans of color have been disadvantaged and discriminated against even in this day and age. What disparities were brought to light by the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and the recent insurgency staged by white supremacists?
What kind of remedies do you hope Joe Biden will implement as ways to root out systemic biases against people of color?
5. Mr. Olsen: Joe Biden faces a challenge no U.S. president has ever faced before, as his predecessor and his supporters have denied the outcome of the election. Can Biden move forward without addressing the 70 million Donald Trump voters, many of whom are those who feel left behind and ostracized by the elites of society? How should he start to bring healing to the nation?
6. To both: What role do you see Kamala Harris playing? Is she going to be more active than her predecessors, and what kind of agendas do you hope she will push for?
That was Henry Olsen, Washington Post columnist and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Sharon Wright Austin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.
Thank you both for your time.