The pandemic, immigration, climate change and the economy were the focus of the orders, memorandums and proclamations signed in the Oval Office yesterday afternoon, rapidly reversing many of his predecessor’s policies. Among other things, Mr. Biden named an official Covid-19 response coordinator, shielded “Dreamers” from deportation, revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoined the Paris climate accord.
Business leaders had mixed feelings:
Sundar Pichai, the Alphabet C.E.O., applauded the “quick action on Covid relief, the Paris Climate Accord, and immigration reform,” adding that “Google has supported action on these important issues.”
Bill Gates championed the “great first step” of rejoining the Paris accord so the U.S. can “lead the world in avoiding a climate disaster.”
Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers criticized the lost pipeline permit, saying that it would have created 10,000 union jobs. Marty Durbin of the Chamber of Commerce also opposed the move, calling it “a politically motivated decision that is not grounded in science.”
Wall Street seemed pleased. Driven by expectations of a hefty economic stimulus, the SP 500, Dow and Nasdaq all ended in record territory.
What happens next: Mr. Biden will take more unilateral action today, using his executive authority to ramp up the manufacturing of coronavirus test kits, vaccines and supplies. His team said it had identified 12 “immediate supply shortfalls” critical to the pandemic response, including N95 surgical masks and isolation gowns. Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, said Mr. Biden “absolutely remains committed” to invoking the Defense Production Act to bolster these supplies.
When the focus shifts from executive orders to legislation, namely a huge stimulus bill, “it is going to take more than Mr. Biden’s trademark backslapping and good nature to break through the persistent gridlock in Congress,” The Times’s Carl Hulse writes.
Last month we published a special report, “How to Fix America,” in which we asked experts what they would do to address the most pressing problems in the U.S. It clearly struck a chord, because our inbox has been flooded with your ideas ever since. At the start of a new administration, here are some readers’ suggestions, edited for clarity and length:
“Mandatory financial literacy classes in every elementary and junior high school.” — Seth Polevoy in Cresskill, N.J.
“Flip the tax incentives on health insurance premiums so that the tax benefit goes to individuals, rather than employees, for purchasing individual health insurance.” — Julia Thomson in Phoenix
“Require one full year of community service before the age of 25. Let’s give young people the opportunity to build community while serving others.” — Andrew David in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
“Redefine the federal poverty guidelines so that benefits remain high and people have more usable income, not less, when they get a raise or increase their hours.” — Jan Hise in Indianapolis