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A Look At Biden's First 100 Days In Office

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm your host, Bob Zaltsberg, cohosting with WFIU News Bureau Chief Sara Wittmeyer. This week, we're talking about President Joe Biden's first 100 days in office that will be marked next week. We have four - three guests, I'm sorry. We have three guests with us today on the show. We have Marjorie Hershey, professor emeritus at IU in the Department of Political Science. Paul Helmke is an O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs professor of practice, and he's also the director of the Civic Leaders Center. Both Marjorie and Paul have been frequent guests on our show, and we have a new guest, first time guest today, Bill Rodgers III who's at Rutgers University in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. He's a professor. He's also chief economist with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. You can follow us on Twitter at noon edition. You can send us your questions there. You can also send us questions for the show at News at Indiana Public Media dot org. So, Marjie, it's good to have you back. Paul, it's good to have you back. And, Bill, it's great to have you with us for the first time. Margie, I want to start with you to talk about President Biden's first 100 days. It's been certainly a change from what we had during - the administrations are definitely different, let's just say. 

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: OK, we've got a lot to talk about. The two most important things that the Biden administration has done are first, giving the federal government a much more active role in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, for instance, by giving states the much needed ability to predict how much vaccine they're going to receive and when it's going to arrive. During the Trump administration, it was anybody's guess which made it hard for states to plan their own vaccination programs. And that resulted in a huge increase in the speed of our vaccination efforts, which is critical for public health because the slower the vaccines are administered, the greater the chance that the virus is going to develop variants that won't be covered by the vaccine. And second, the creation and the passage by Congress in a remarkably speedy activity by Congress of the American Rescue Plan, a one point nine trillion piece of legislation - very far reaching - ranging from immediate cash payments to lower income people to additional unemployment payments, three hundred and fifty billion dollars in aid to state and local governments to help them deal with expenses from the pandemic, which were threatening to break a lot of them, more money for the paycheck protection program for small business, money for veterans health care, emergency rental assistance, disaster relief, energy assistance, money for low income households, all of these to stimulate the economy as well as to help people cope with the cost of the pandemic. There's other legislation in the pipeline, the most important of which deal with voting rights and infrastructure. And then there have been dozens of executive orders issued by the president, stopping funding for the border wall, ending the travel bans on Muslims and others, increasing the supply of vaccine, the mask mandate on federal property, rejoining the Paris climate treaty, a pretty big list. President Trump also had a pretty impactful first one hundred days. So they were remarkably different in content from Biden's. Trump's executive orders were mainly aimed at undoing President Obama's executive orders, and President Biden's have been aimed at undoing those of President Trump. But Biden has had some advantages early in his administration that his predecessors did not have. President Obama spent a whole lot of his first year trying to produce bipartisan legislation, which was a noble goal. But the Senate Republicans had already determined to vote against anything Obama proposed, so it turned out to be a fair amount of wasted time. And Donald Trump came into office without many appointees who had previous experience in a federal administration. Biden, on the other hand, appointed a lot of people to important jobs who had already served in the Obama administration. So they knew a lot about the agencies they were heading and have been much better able to get things done in them. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Paul, I'm going to turn to you and, you know, how does this first hundred days - how does this sort of shake out for you and can you give us the significance of 100 days? It seems like we always talk about that with a new president. 

>>PAUL HELMKE: Yeah, it's - I always think it's interesting that we focus on on a 100 day type mark. And I mean, a lot of it in American political history goes back to Franklin Roosevelt and all the things that he pushed for and tried to accomplish in the first 100 days of his administration back in March and April, May of 1933. Sometimes people talk about 100 days as referring to when Napoleon returned to France after exile before he got defeated of Waterloo. So I'm not sure that's the best hundred day comparison. But it always strikes me as a little strange. It's - a lot of it is symbolic. A lot of it could be posturing. This has been a very significant hundred days because the Democrats control not only the White House, but also the House, just barely in the Senate, even more narrowly on a 50 50 thing. And I think sometimes I try to point out for people who are frustrated that, you know, this is something that could easily be different. If the Georgia races had not gone the way they had, you wouldn't have any Democrat - any Democratic measures getting through the Senate. If there were an illness or, you know, a tragic death by one of the Democrats, you'd have a situation, too. I think, you know, near the start of Biden's term, we saw Senator Leahy from Vermont hospitalized. And I think folks forget how tenuous this control is. And I think that's one of the reasons there's a focus on the 100 days or on getting a lot done at the start. You don't know how long that control is going to be there. It could easily change with the 2022 elections, but it could change just, again, if someone dies or there's a replacement. Same sort of thing happened after Ted Kennedy died, for example, early in the Obama administration. So it's interesting that we focus on this, but I think it's been one of the most impactful hundred day measures that we've seen. All of the items that Marjorie mentioned - you know, that one point nine trillion American rescue plan is really significant. The Indiana legislature has passed the Indiana state budget yesterday, and a lot of it relies on the federal money coming in. The Indiana budget only had two or three folks voting against it in both the House and the Senate because there's so much money there. And that certainly is doing a lot for the economy, a lot for unemployment, a lot for income inequality, so significant. One other - two other things just briefly that I think are crucial. The president announced the timeline to get out of Afghanistan, and this is a little bit of an extension of what President Trump was pushing for. But I think the aim to get out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is a significant step for the country and one that can still be debated. But, you know, clearly that's a different position than perhaps we've had as a country. It's a final position for the country. Reengaging with other countries on climate change, like what's going on now is significant. Trying to reset the relationship with Iran is going to be significant. These are major changes from before. So America's role in the world appears to be different now than it was before. One of my major concerns has always been gun violence prevention. And there's only so much a president can do through executive orders. But President Biden has announced he's trying some executive orders to deal with gun violence prevention. He's pushing proposals that have been adopted by the House for approval in the Senate. That's still going to be tough to get in the Senate. But I think it's important to have a president who uses the bully pulpit to push on these things. President Obama did not talk about gun violence prevention at all during his first 100 days or even his first term in office, hardly. So to have a president bring this up, I think, is significant. Last thing I want to say, and I think this might be one of the most significant things in the last hundred days, is just sort of lowered the tone of disagreement in the country. It's just, you know, it's - when things happen, you know, we get more of the traditional you know, here's a presidential statement. Here's a presidential address. We don't run to the Twitter feed every day to see what the reaction is going to be. It's kind of nice to have boring come back and in some semblance of let's just, you know, let's handle the issues. And if we disagree, we disagree. But let's not have these intense fights every day over significant things or insignificant things. I think sort of lowering the temperature in the room, trying to get everyone to calm down - I think that's been one of the president's most significant accomplishments. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thank you, Paul Helmke, from the O'Neill School. Now, Bill Rodgers is joining us from Rutgers University and he's in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. And he's also chief economist with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. So what about this first hundred days, Bill, and how is it going to affect the economy? 

>>BILL RODGERS III: Yeah, what a tough act following my two colleagues here. They did a great job of summarizing and going pretty deep with regards to, you know, their perspectives on what's happening. So I'll try to probably amplify some of what they've said. And then I think there are a few areas that I could kind of explore. But in my notes preparing for today, at the top of the page and in bold letters and underlined was the word mood - mood, M O O D. And this was just shared, that's for me, number one, the biggest change in this one hundred days that the previous administration - it got to a point you just didn't know what you're going to wake up to or what tweet you were going to see that was either abrasive, that was maligning or attacking women, attacking minorities, attacking people with disabilities. And that was - that was very, very problematic. It was very, very hurtful. With that said, I do understand that what motivated the previous president for running was America, even though we were having this great economy, we were - economic insecurity was still quite rampant throughout the United States. For example, the Federal Reserve - they had - one of their surveys found that prior to the pandemic that about 35 to 38 percent of Americans could not afford to cover a four hundred dollar unexpected bill. The United Way of northern New Jersey that I do a lot of work with created this concept called ALICE where it's basically a concept around living wages. We have about thirty five to thirty eight percent of our households that can't afford where they're living. They don't have enough resources. So the other thing we have to do about this one hundred days is we have to cast it in the context of where we were prior to the pandemic, that economic - yes, we had a great expansion, but economic insecurity was still quite a challenge for many, many Americans. And so the attraction to this president and towards candidate Sanders was that people have been feeling like they've been bullied, they've been bullied by globalization, immigration and trade and bullied by technology and then also feeling like they have to be politically correct because of the changing demographics in our country. So this president, who really understands - in his administration really understands that they have to change the mood, they really have to change the mood. With regards to the hundred days, the hundred days was very important in the context of the three Rs. What are the three Rs? The three Rs are relief, recovery and re-imagination. All of the public health officials, Dr. Fauci and others, were saying that January, February, March, were going to be really, really tough, tough months because of the winter and then hence people being inside and potentially at greater risk with regards to the pandemic. And so that first hundred days was what we were doing here in New Jersey with our governor - I'm on his restart commission - and his phrase is, public health will create economic health. Public health will create economic health. And the first hundred days, particularly the one point nine trillion dollar piece of legislation - that really is all about creating public health which will then lead to economic health. And the census poll survey that they've been doing since the beginning of the pandemic should be - it's begun to show that people's ability to meet their expenditures actually has gotten better in the last few weeks of the survey. And I attribute that largely to this one point nine trillion. All this is not going out, but the checks - the fourteen hundred dollar checks have gone out, unemployment insurance benefits are continuing to be paid. There's an agreement that they're going to go until September. So it's reducing that uncertainty. It's reducing the fear. And as was said earlier, there is a great deal of money in that that was also going to provide assistance for states, more assistance with fighting the pandemic, and so, you know, and so what this really is all about is providing those additional parts of the bridge to recovery, to a prosperity, to a shared prosperity - a recovery where all Americans will benefit. And the one item that I don't think I heard that was talked about that was in the one point nine trillion dollar package, and that is the child tax credit. That is the child tax credit. There are estimates suggesting that will have a massive impact on reducing child care - child poverty. And also, there's investments in the CARE economy that one - this pandemic educated us on so many issues. But one thing it really also helped people understand is the challenge that families face with trying to have dual earners that are both working and having children. And so the CARE economy is so important because more than half of our labor force are women. And also men now are much more involved in child care and home - and work at home. So that was another really, really important piece that was done in this first 100 days. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Our guests have done a great job of framing this discussion. Sorry, Sarah, I didn't mean to step on you there, but I want to give our our contact information again in case you have a question. You can send it to us at noon edition on Twitter. You can also send us questions to the show at news at Indiana Public Media . org. Sarah, go ahead. Sorry. 

>>SARAH WITTMEYER: Bill, I want to ask you a follow up, a question we just got in from Twitter. The person says, has the US taken too many steps backwards to arrive at a state of unity that existed before 2016? 

>>BILL RODGERS III: Well, I like to think of it as there's the old family oil filter commercial, and I think maybe many of us are old enough to remember this. And that was where the old sage mechanic was talking to his client about his car and said, you really need to change your air filter. You really need to change your air filter. And the guy's like, well, you know, himming and hawing. He says, well, the mechanic says, you can pay me now or you can pay me later. And so that's kind of the way I think about that question. And I don't think it's too late. I think we just have to get back to doing what the United Nations calls, and that's investing in human priorities. What do I mean by human priorities? These are investments in education and training. But most important, these are investments in social capital. And it's not hard to see that in that one point nine trillion dollars, that is - those are down payments or sort of renewed investments in human priorities, in the social capital, in communities. And then this infrastructure package, the American jobs plan - that also is a package that is very focused on investing in human priorities. And why do I focus on this? Well, when I've looked at some of this in the past and whenever we slow down our investments in human priorities, where it could feel like, oh, my gosh, we can't make up for past ground - income inequality, economic insecurity expanded, and prior - and during the Trump administration, that was happening. We were seeing a third slowdown. And so these major sort of shifts in investment, in people and communities, I think are going to do the job. A lot of the money is spent prudently, wisely. It's targeted in the right places that we can really return to a place like we had in the 1990s of a shared prosperity. 

>>SARAH WITTMEYER: I wanted to ask Marjorie and Paul, perhaps too - you both mentioned executive orders, and I know the number of executive orders varies widely by president in the substance of them as well. But it seems like you're saying Biden has gotten a lot accomplished, but how significant is it that it's mostly all been done through executive orders? 

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Well, it's very significant, Sarah. And let me just mention, this ties in with the previous questioner's mention of this sense of national unity we had before 2016. I wish I had seen some of that. I think it's been really quite a long time, maybe since 9/11, since we've seen national unity. The only question now is, do you like whatever is happening at the moment or you dislike it? If you like it, I suppose you think it's national unity. But we've had a very divided nation for a very long time and increasingly so, party polarization, ideological polarization. And as a result, in addition to the fact that the two parties are really pretty much equal or close to equal in strength at the national level - not at the state, but at the national level - that means that Congress is very closely divided and there just isn't a whole lot of alternative for presidents other than to issue executive orders, because they're not going to get anything through Congress, especially given the problem of the filibuster when a minority in the Senate can totally block action from occurring. So it's not surprising that executive orders have - although they haven't really increased, there were a lot of executive orders issued during the New Deal, but those were mainly procedural and administrative executive orders. The increase has been in substantive executive orders, those that refer specifically to policy change. 

>>PAUL HELMKE: Marjie's covering most of this and so is Bill. I want to - one thing on the other polarization, and I agree we haven't really had a whole lot of unity since early and after September 11, but I think one of the significant things, and Bill touched on this, too, with with the comment on mood, is that President Biden seems to be wanting to try to appeal to all of America, whereas I think President Trump was always more about energizing his base. And, you know, that's always been sort of an issue in politics. Do you try to go for everybody, particularly, you know, go toward the independents and the middle? Or do you try to just basically gin up your base? And I think this different approach from President Biden will be paying off in terms of issues of unity. His approval ratings are higher than President Trump's ever were. There was a poll that came out, I think, just yesterday or today that it showed that young people are as optimistic now and supportive of what the government's doing as they've been in the last 21 years. Those are significant steps, I think, for the long range. And I think it's interesting when you try to look at what the Republicans - how they're trying to message President Biden, they're still trying to - you know, I don't think they know how to attack him. They're trying to say that he's - that he - you know, I mean, they're having trouble attacking him. I think their line seems to be that he's really the puppet of the socialists, the so-called socialists in the party, that are just using him as a tool and that they'll either depose him or or shut him aside as soon as they can, and that there's this secret socialist plot to do all sorts of things - you know, that's not selling to the American people now. And I think Biden's coming across generally as the grandfatherly healer in chief that's trying to move the country forward. And I think that's going to pay off. Now after the 20 - whether that translates into legislation getting through or to whether that translates into electoral victories in twenty twenty two is a different issue. But for right now, I think people like it, particularly when there's all this money being spread around. It really does help people think more positively about the future. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I want to follow up on that with you, Paul, because, you know, as the former mayor of a decent sized city, a good sized city, Fort Wayne, Indiana, you see this money coming from the federal government, and you mentioned you alluded to the state legislature ending its session yesterday and there was very little debate on the budget because there was a lot more money to spend and a lot of it's coming from the federal government. I mean, what does this create in terms of the leaders around the country, people who are elected in state legislatures, people that are elected as mayors and governors, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, but now all of a sudden they have money to spend from the federal government? Does that help bridge this divide? Or is it just going to be a talking point in the next election that, well, the federal government was spending wildly? 

>>PAUL HELMKE: I think it's very significant. I mean, when you've got money, you can get things done. And whether it's a Republican mayor or governor or a Democratic mayor or governor, it gives you a chance to do a lot of things in your community. And I think it's going to be a major accomplishment for the Biden administration. The one challenge they have, and I know they're aware of this, is letting folks know where the money's coming from. You know, one of the criticisms of the Obama administration's efforts after the Great Recession were that people didn't realize where the money was coming from, what the federal government was doing to help on issues, and so they got very little credit. If you're going to spend the money, I think it's really appropriate to let people know that the government's doing it. And if people start thinking more positively about government and what government is able to accomplish, that's going to help incumbents at all levels regardless of party. So I think that's - you know, this is a pretty significant step. It's - you know, the executive orders, you can argue back and forth how significant they are. Getting this one point nine trillion package through - this is one of the largest expenditures we've ever seen. And it's going to be significant clearly for a number of years at all levels. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We now have a huge infrastructure proposal that's going that's being discussed now. And I think I saw or heard our Senator Todd Young talking about the Republican counterproposals - like, I don't know, five hundred billion rather than two trillion dollars. Bill, what's in this infrastructure proposal? And what about this argument or discussion that not all of it or a small amount of it is for what people consider traditional infrastructure, like roads and bridges, compared to other infrastructure? You might call it human infrastructure. 

>>BILL RODGERS III: Yes, but I guess before I answer, you know, to dive into that, I just want to say or share with folks that I think that President Biden when he was vice president - sort of he's now experienced a kind of a deja vu and a lot of folks who were also involved with the Obama administration who have come back - there's a level of deja vu. And I actually was on the transition team for President Obama and we had started out our conversation on what we were going to do. And I was quickly working with labor secretary, and we were talking about what we were going to do in terms of rolling back our predecessors, what we felt were labor unfriendly worker non-supporting types of initiatives and laws and policies. And then the Great Recession hit. And one of the lessons learned out of that Great Recession when we did put forward the American Reinvestment Recovery Act was that - the hindsight was that was too small. That was too small. And going into this pandemic, when they were doing the transition I was a part of helping out with some of the policy development, in particular on the labor side - the labor and workforce side of things - the growing consensus was we have to go big. And Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen echoed that. We have to go big or go bigger, excuse me, than what we did with the Great Recession, partly because of just the swiftness of how the economy was closed down and then just the broad reaching - its broad reaching effects. And then third, what I described earlier, the preconditions that you had thirty eight percent of your households in the United States who couldn't, prior to the pandemic, even in the best economy since World War Two, couldn't pay a simple bill of hundred dollars - unexpected bill. So the lessons learned on regards to the size of what we need to do - and also lessons learned around, don't monkey around trying to negotiate with people who don't want to negotiate, who publicly have said to you or said, we want you to be a one term president. And so this time it was, you know, the house is not smoldering. The house has been on fire, is on fire, and that the administration and the Democratic Congress and Senate used the reconciliation approach to get that one point nine trillion through. Now, in terms of this next step, with regards to the infrastructure package, as you said, yes. It has traditional sort of bricks and mortar like bridges, highways. But it also has investments in the infrastructure such as the information highway - 5G, I believe, the care economy, right? And I'm one that I believe all of those, especially in a 21st century economy where you have fewer manufacturing jobs where largely it's service based where we are now going to continue to be in the era of pandemics, where you have a little more than half of your labor force are women and a large share of them are parents, and also dads are now much more involved in doing raising children and being at home and doing nonpaid work - we live in a very, very different economy. So what infrastructure used to be back in the 1990s or 1980s - building a highway, building a bridge - yes, that's still infrastructure. But we now have these new service-based type of activities that if we don't provide the support, if we don't provide the support, we will continue to have a digital divide where young children who are affected by a pandemic who don't have access to the Internet or poor access to the Internet - I see with some of my students, my Reutgeur's students who are challenged with being just as productive. And that's the key word here. It's productivity. It's anything that is in that item that can really talk about how it helps to improve worker productivity, family productivity, and also that - because why is that important? Productivity growth is one of the key ingredients to economic growth. And then the second thing that has to also happen as this administration seems to be championing on, particularly around race and gender is, yes, just because you grow - we've learned over the last decade or so - just because you grow the pie, just because you grow the economic pie, grow national income, it doesn't guarantee that those gains or that growth will be distributed in a way that's not so - I won't say fair, but in a way that matches people's productivity. One of the big features of this economy over the last 20, 30 years is what we call - it's called a clamshell chart, where if you show people's wages and you show worker productivity - worker productivity has been on this upward trend over the last 30 to 40 years, while wages in terms of adjusted for inflation have fallen behind. So there's been this disconnect between how hard workers are putting the effort in and what they're bringing home. And so this package here - this infrastructure package here does two things. One, it makes investments in productivity, and, yes, they have costs. But they're going to have an economic return and they'll have a social return, right? And then it also does work that tries to counter some of the evidence that one of my friends, who is Larry Michel, who ran the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. - he has found evidence that one of the big reasons why we have this disconnect between productivity growth and wage growth is because of sort of worker suppression types of policies, whether they be from the government or absence, like raising the minimum wage or activities done by the private - in the private sector. So this is an important next step to, again, restoring prosperity, but not only just general prosperity, but a shared prosperity. 

>>SARAH WITTMEYER: Bill, we got a comment that I would just like you to respond to, and it's iconic companies such as Microsoft would have never existed or been founded under the kind of punitive 1970s style capital gains tax rates that Biden wants to bring back. Can you just react to that? 

>>BILL RODGERS III: Yeah, I would - my one response is, I think the tax increases in terms of corporate tax increases and the - now there's talk of a capital gains tax for wealthier individuals, right? The increases that they want, that they're talking about, the administration's proposing are not going to take us back to the 1970s. I think it could take us back to kind of a Clinton era set of estimates. And then the other response I'd say, too, is that many people have detected this pandemic recession as a K style recovery, where we're in a recession and now recovery - a K style recovery or kind of a two realities economy that you have had the wealthy and large corporations, particularly the wealthy, yes, I admit, many of them have had probably health issues and concerns around the pandemic and have lost loved ones, but for the most part, wealthy families, again, as defined - or high income families as defined by this administration, I think four hundred thousand dollars or more, like, they have been able to work at home. They have been able to get better health care, access to the vaccines, and so this is about shared prosperity is also about shared responsibility. And so and we're not just these tax increases are not just being done sort of wildly or without lack of thought - one, they're being used to pay for investments that are widely needed, that will grow productivity. So put a dollar in, we get two dollars of economic activity out. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Today we're talking with our guests about President Biden's administration and their first 100 days and what they're going to do - perhaps going to do next. You can send us your questions to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. And we're on Twitter at noon edition. So I wanted to ask, well, all of you, but I'll start with Margie about - we haven't talked about any negatives to the first 100 days. And it seems to me that the one negative that we perhaps are hearing about is what's going on on our southern border. So how big of an issue do you think that's going to be for President Biden as we continue to go forward? 

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: I think it's going to be a very big issue and understandably so. Presidents, as a lot of scholars of the presidency have found, really have a lot less control over their agenda than we might think. Presidents are very often influenced in terms of what they can get accomplished during their term by things that happen from the outside - exogenous effects, the decisions of other countries, immigration questions, world economic questions. And this is a problem that is almost inevitable when you are responding to a previous administration that has been extremely tough and cruel with respect to people asking for asylum in this country. Changing to an administration that has more positive views of immigration, it's almost inevitable as a result that a lot of prospective immigrants into the United States are going to take this as a cue that this is their time to try to cross the border and come. The Biden administration has had to slow down in terms of what it had hoped to do on immigration. And as a result, a lot of his opponents have jumped on him immediately and said, well, this is no different from President Trump's response or no better than any earlier response. But sometimes I think we all need to take a breath. You know, when there are a whole pile of people crossing the border on Monday, you're probably not going to get a solution on Tuesday. And this is relatively recent and we need to give the guy some time. 


>>PAUL HELMKE: I think the issues around immigration have been the main negative. There have been some complaints, I know, from the folks on the left of the party that perhaps he's not moving quickly enough to make some changes. But I think they've done a pretty good job actually handling that. You know, that could change. You know, for all the folks that are wondering, why haven't we gotten rid of the filibuster yet? Can't we get D.C. as a state soon? And do more on gun violence prevention - you know, folks are making those sorts of noises, but I think he's been handling it actually fairly well. I think, as Marjie said, immigration seems to be that the weakest link now. But you can't do everything. The one other area that I think folks might be wondering about is, you know, are we going to be peaking in terms of the number of people vaccinated? How do we get - you know, how do we convince the folks that don't want to get vaccinated? How do we convince them to move forward? That's going to take a bit of - some more of a sales effort. But again, I think they've tried to lay the groundwork for that. But that could be one of the issues moving forward if we don't get enough folks vaccinated. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: One issue I want to bring up, and I guess I'm just throwing it out there to see which of you might want to tackle it first, is what we have done or learned from the insurrection and what's happened going forward. I mean, that happened two weeks before President Biden took office. We had this basically an attack on the Capitol building. How has President Biden had to respond to that? Or has he? 


>>BILL RODGERS III: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. Yeah. Just real quickly, too, I would agree that the immigration piece is the big, big challenge right now or that he can't control. And one of the - my life remembrances when I worked for the labor secretary as her chief economist during the Clinton administration, you know, that was the daily - that was the morning struggle. You come in. We have our own approach and ideas and our own agenda that we are sort of trying to push and trying to implement, but you would always have some wild card issue that you - and no matter how much kind of predicting or looking into your crystal ball you did, you would - you just - you still would always miss one here or there. With regards to the January 6th insurrection and the assault on the capital, I did not know that that was going to be it, but when I saw that or heard about it (unintelligible) watch it and hearing the voices, it just took me back to when he - when President Trump announced that he was going to run for president. And it reminded me of the old 1970s movie called Network with Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch, where Peter Finch is this news anchor. And he - it's during a time of malaise and people are unhappy. And he sort of just generates this chorus of people - you know, I want you to go to your windows and open them up and say, you know, you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore. And that's how I always kind of retreat back to that - those scenes in that movie. And that's where we are. We have a host of of Americans that have, as I said, felt bullied by globalization and - globalization, whether it's immigration or trade - bullied by technology, fearful that they're going to lose their jobs or get outsourced due to technology, and then also a nervousness in some communities around the browning of America. Like, New Jersey where I'm at - we've had - our two senators are men of color. We've been doing that for a number of years. At the State University where I teach at I probably haven't taught a white majority class in over a decade. And I'm teaching economics. So there's a level of - I was sensing this anger. And I spend a lot of time - I watch Fox News, not that I agree with a lot of what is said, but I watch it to try to understand that that part of America. And so, you know, the president has done, I think, a decent job of trying to lower the temperature, try to do things that will help everybody, everybody, that will help those in the suburbs, will help those in urban areas, will help those in the central cities, and then also a lesson learned from the Great Recession - they are doing a much better job of articulating this is how these investments, this is how these dollars, are impacting you on a daily basis. So hopefully - well, I mean, those attitudes and concerns and views will still always be there. Hopefully people's economic pocketbooks and purses and their checking accounts and their 401Ks will help them to see that we can be a unified country in the near future, or more unified, shall we say. 

>>PAUL HELMKE: Let me just jump in briefly. And, you know, I think one of the big issues after the 100 days is, you know, what is the Justice Department going to do in terms of pursuing the folks that were involved in the attack on the Capitol? What sort of efforts might be made with regard to some of the legal issues surrounding the former president? You know, those are big issues that are out there. And, you know, they've started some things. In a way the fact that they haven't come to a head yet probably does help the temperature get lowered. But, you know, one of the things that people forget, and this is particularly to the Justice Department, but other parts of the government, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, didn't get - didn't actually take office until just a couple of weeks ago. A number of U.S. attorney slots are being held up. There was just a vote two days ago on two of the top people in the Justice Department. A lot of the positions don't fill right away. And part of it is because there wasn't really the smooth presidential transition that we usually see. And I think there's been some intentional moves to try to delay appointments coming in to make it harder for President Biden to do as much in the first hundred days that he would have wanted to do. So that's one of the consequences we've got. Not everybody was up there and running on January 20th. A lot of the folks had to wait close to the end of the hundred days to even get their top team in the departments. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Margie, do you have anything to add to that? 

>>MARJORIE HERSHEY: Oh, yes, I do. I think it's certainly evidence that President Biden has been very disciplined in these first 100 days. We've just come in from an administration that was extremely undisciplined, in which the president felt the need to have the camera on him all the time, even to the extent of sometimes totally disagreeing with things that his own administration had just committed itself to. President Biden has set his own agenda to as great an extent as presidents can, and that a lot of Republicans would have liked to have drawn him into fights about symbolic issues - whether or not some Dr. Seuss books ought to be published, whether or not cancel culture exists, whether or not the person who lost in twenty twenty, in fact, lost in twenty twenty - these are not productive issues for president of the United States to get involved in. I can easily envision President Trump having jumped right into these issues. But President Biden basically seemed to have made the determination - the matter of prosecuting people who were at least accused of sedition and certainly seem to have done their best to accomplish it is a matter for the Justice Department. And the Justice Department, as slowly constituted as it was, is dealing with it. That makes a lot of sense as far as the presidency is concerned. 

>>BILL RODGERS III: I would agree with what Margie just said wholeheartedly but the other - but the other reason I'm jumping in here, too, is, along with immigration, I think the other emerging issue that the administration is going to have to deal with - and it's just - it could be almost like the new third rail in politics is the gun violence that we're seeing, whether - irregardless of whether it's young black men getting killed. And there's a really influential book written by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton and Ann Case, called Deaths of Despair. And they do a really, really good job of showing how there's this crisis around mental health, people taking their lives around gun violence and then also other kinds of addiction - alcoholism leading to deaths associated with liver problems, with cirrhosis of the liver. And really this is - these are going to be the main issues going forward. They are not only public health issues, they're economic health issues that we really have to put our heads together on. 

>>BILL RODGERS III: Paul Helmke, as you mentioned before, that's been one of the issues that you've worked a lot on. How did our gun laws change under President Trump? 

>>PAUL HELMKE: It's interesting. After the Parkland shooting, President Trump did convene some folks in the Cabinet Office and he actually basically criticized Senators Toomey from Pennsylvania and Manchin from West Virginia for not fighting the NRA as much, and said that he would go out there and he would fight for more. And then that evening, apparently, he had dinner with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, and didn't do anything after that. So it's after the Las Vegas shooting - the Trump Justice Department - they did change the rules with regard to the so-called bump stocks that helped the Las Vegas shooter convert his semiautomatic into something closer to a fully automatic. So that was a good step. But basically, it was - you know, I had some hopes after his cabinet meeting where he said he would challenge the NRA that he might do something and that Republicans might get on board, but that did not happen. So it's - it was a lost opportunity. And now I hope the president, President Biden, will help try to bring folks together. This should not be a partisan issue. It's a public safety issue. It's a public health issue. And maybe from covid, we've learned that if we try a science-based public health response to things, we can make a difference. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: From your perspective, what are some things that might be able to be done? I mean, I think that, you know, a lot of times there's a lot of scare that, you know, the new president or whomever wants to take your guns away, but really, there are some pretty common sense legislative ideas about how guns might not be quite as dangerous in our society. 

>>PAUL HELMKE: Right. It's a - and there's no one policy that's going to stop all violence. But if we require background checks for basically all sales, universal background checks, that could make a difference. If we started treating - restricting access to high capacity magazines and maybe started treating some of the semiautomatics in either a new category or closer to the way we treat fully automatics where they're not banned, but they're restricted - those are steps that can make a difference. Allowing folks to sue gun manufacturers and gun distributors who are intentionally marketing to folks that they know are dangerous would make a difference. Expanding these so-called red flag laws - this is one of the things the president talked about the other day - to make it easier to say, here's somebody who's showing clear signs of dangerousness. Let's make sure they don't get access to a weapon. If we had a stronger law in Indiana, that might have made a difference with the FedEx shootings last week. So a lot of it, though, is let's stop treating this as a partisan issue and let's start treating it as something that we could solve. You know, six people get blood clots from one of the vaccines and we pause using that vaccine. Eight people are killed at the FedEx building - did anybody pause gun sales? Did anybody pause any of this easy access to guns? No. We need to start treating gun violence as something that we can take steps not to eliminate, but at least to lower the amount of violence and tragedy in the country. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We are out of time. I want to thank you all for being here with us today. It's been a great conversation and I really appreciate it. It's always great to have Marjorie Hershey from the IU Department of Political Science and Paul Helmke from the O'Neil School of Public Environmental Affairs. And today, it was great to have new guests join us, Bill Rodgers from the Rutgers University Edward Jay Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. So I want to thank my co-host, Sara Wittmeyer, and also for producer Benta Bouttier and John Bailey, I'm Bob Saltzberg. Thanks for listening. 


Joe Biden.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

As the U.S. approaches President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office on April 29, we’ll take a look at what’s been accomplished and what the administration is set to do next.

Biden took office in January, promising to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, a struggling economy, and systemic racial inequality. 

Biden signed a series of executive orders reversing former President Trump’s policies ­– ­­halting construction of the US-Mexico border wall, lifting the travel ban on­ some Muslim majority countries, and declaring intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

Last month, Biden signed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which passed the House and Senate following party lines. Among other actions, the American Rescue Plan distributed $1,400 payments to people making under $75,000 annually. 

Wednesday, Biden announced that 200 million Americans have received a COVID vaccine since he took office; that’s double his administration’s goal for the 100-day mark.

The administration also has released a $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan.

The plan dedicates $650 billion to infrastructure at home- which includes electrical systems, high speed broadband, clean drinking water, and schools. It will spend $621 billion on transportation infrastructure, $580 billion for research and development for workforce and manufacturing, and $400 billion for the caretaking economy. 

The plan has been criticized by GOP members as a partisan wish-list, and some liberals have said it does not do enough to fight the effects of climate change. 

Republican senators will propose a counteroffer, expected to be significantly smaller.

Biden also has extended the day when all U.S. troops will be pulled from Afghanistan to Sept. 11. The date previously set by former president Donald Trump was May 1. 

This week, we’ll talk about Biden’s 100 days in office with our guests:

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. 


Marjorie Hershey, professor emerita, IU Department of Political Science

Paul Helmke, O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs professor of practice, Civic Leaders Center Director

William M. Rodgers III, Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy Professor, Heldrich Center for Workforce Development chief economist

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