US President Joe Biden before his State of the Union address

US President Joe Biden before his State of the Union address

The economic situation

Sofia Dreisbach

North American political correspondent based in Washington.

Joe Biden has not missed an opportunity in recent weeks to emphasize how good the American economy is doing. Just on Friday, the President said in connection with the latest jobs report: “I’m pleased to say that our nation, that our economy is strong.” Unemployment has fallen to 3.5 percent – the lowest rate since 1969 More than half a million jobs were created in January. In addition, Biden emphasized, inflation and fuel prices have been falling for six months. Proof for the President that his massive $1.9 trillion stimulus package and the so-called Inflation Reduction Act have been effective.

But the reality of life for Americans is also that fuel and food prices are still much higher than before the peak of the economic crisis. In a survey of Washington Post and the broadcaster ABC, four out of ten respondents recently stated that they were financially worse off since Biden came into office. Republicans take every opportunity to recall the record inflation of recent months. In his State of the Union address, Biden must strike a balance between highlighting economic successes and showing compassion for those Americans who are still struggling.

America’s leadership in the world

When Biden steps up to the lectern in the House of Representatives tonight, it hasn’t been two months since that same spot Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged for support for his country. It was the first foreign visit by the Ukrainian president since the beginning of the war and yet another example of America’s leadership in the alliance of Western partners against Russia. “You know what?” Biden called out to the assembled Democrats at a party event on Friday, “America is back and leader of the world again.” Whether it’s Europe or from Australia to India, everything is taken care of. “We unite the world.” The latest escalation with China after the flight of the spy balloon offers Biden another opportunity to act resolutely as commander-in-chief against Beijing – the declared most dangerous opponent.

However, America’s cohesive support for Ukraine, totaling around $27 billion so far, could crack in the future. Some right-wing Republicans are increasingly railing against billions in aid for Kyiv in times of economic difficulties in their own country. How much power this group of Republicans has in the House of Representatives, they have during the speaker election Kevin McCarthys proven. Before the change at the end of last year, Congress quickly passed another aid package for Ukraine. But in the future this could become one of the biggest controversial issues – with consequences for world politics.

Migration policy between Trump and human rights activists

Along with inflation, border policy is likely to be the issue Republicans bring up most often and loudest against President Biden. In this case, however, the numbers are less on his side. In Biden’s first year in office, 1.7 million irregular immigrants were apprehended, and by 2022 nearly 2.4 million – the highest number ever recorded on the southern border. “China has a better view of our borders than the Biden administration,” the border guards’ union scoffed after the recent incident. Fitting into this narrative is that after two years in office, Biden only traveled to the border for the first time in January. In Texas, he was greeted by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott with a list of demands and public accusations that Biden was responsible for the “chaos”.

At the beginning of his term of office, the President promised Donald Trump’s reverse “inhumane” migration policies. A turning point followed in early January. In view of the tense situation, Biden announced that he would punish illegal migration more drastically in future and create more incentives for legal entry. This was not enough to appease Republican voices, but it drew criticism from human rights activists and some Democrats.

The classified documents and a second term

The 80-year-old Biden will probably officially announce his presidential candidacy again in a few weeks. He was never particularly popular in the polls over the past few months, but with cautiously increasing approval ratings, Biden could be dealt another blow by the affair involving secret documents found on him. As much as the White House never tires of emphasizing that they behaved in an exemplary and cooperative manner when it came to classified information, most of the information came out involuntarily and piecemeal. That does not reflect well on the President, who is keeping a low profile. Now, as in the case of Donald Trump, there is a special investigator.

In a recent poll by the AP-NORC Center, only four in 10 Democrats support a second term for Biden. Many voters, especially younger ones, express concern about Biden’s old age. At 80, he is already the oldest president in American history. If he ran again, he would be 86 at the end of his term. When asked about it, Biden always assures that he will resign if he is no longer able to work. But his Republican opponents are already maliciously pouncing on the president’s slips of the tongue and stumbles at public appearances. In the congressional elections in November, however, Biden and his party were able to deliver visible results: instead of the predicted Republican superiority, the Democrats were able to hold the Senate. The Republicans won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

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