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In first six months in office, Biden faces setbacks, gains

President Joe Biden.

Washington, U.S. | Xinhua | Marking his first six months in office on Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden saw a mixed bag of setbacks and gains.

On controlling the pandemic, millions of Americans have gotten their vaccine jabs. But in other areas, from crime to spending, the president is encountering a headwind. Legislations on gun control, voting rights and police brutality have hit a wall, while a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill is still stuck in the evenly split Senate.

HANDLING THE PANDEMIC

While vaccine distribution got off to a rocky start under former U.S. President Donald Trump, it has accelerated in the first six months during Biden’s presidency. As of the July 4th holiday weekend, 67 percent of the population had received at least one dose.

“Dealing with the pandemic has been Biden’s biggest accomplishment in the first six months,” Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua.

However, the more contagious Delta variant is spreading across the country, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.

Speaking at a meeting marking his first six months in office on Tuesday, Biden acknowledged that the United States has a long way to go in fighting the pandemic, noting that his administration’s focus is on pushing to get the rest of the population vaccinated.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States has seen more than 609,000 deaths and 34 million cases.

CRIME SURGE

The pandemic has stirred a nationwide crime wave that shows no signs of abating. Many experts, police officers and ordinary Americans fear that multiple U.S. cities will once again plunge back into the wave of violent crime that characterized the early 1990’s.

Biden has told states and cities they can use 350 billion U.S. dollars in federal stimulus money to shore up police departments. But even the president himself said he predicts a bloody summer.

More than 180 people were shot dead nationwide over the Fourth of July weekend, as major U.S. cities continue to see a surge in violence, according to data gathered by the Gun Violence Archive, a database that tracks the latest acts of gun violence.

Much of the violence is occurring in Democrat-led cities, and Republicans have lambasted Biden for the crime surge.

James, a retired police officer outside New York City who declined to give his full name, told Xinhua that many police officers are retiring early because of anti-police sentiment in the wake of the 2020 protests and riots over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minnesota.

For his part, Biden said the problem is too many guns on the street.

“I’ve been at this a long time, and there are things we know that work to reduce gun violence and violent crime,” the president said in a recent speech.

ECONOMY

Experts applaud the president’s passage of the 1.9-trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan, aimed at bringing relief to the beleaguered economy, which last year suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression nearly a century ago.

“Legislatively, his biggest win thus far has been passing the massive coronavirus relief plan. This fulfilled a major campaign promise and gave an early boost to the economy,” Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua.

Desmond Lachman, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former official at the International Monetary Fund, applauded Biden for reinvigorating the U.S. antitrust policy and shining a light on the monopolistic practices of a number of large U.S. tech companies.

That offers the prospect of a more competitive U.S. economy that should be to the consumer’s advantage, he told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, Lachman, together with some other economists, blasted the president for what they called over-spending.

Biden’s main mistake on the economic front has been “excessive public spending,” Lachman said, warning that could lead the economy to overheat and could bring an unwelcome burst of inflation in its wake.

IMMIGRATION

Biden and the Democrats are also facing fierce criticism from Republicans on the situation at the southern U.S. border.

U.S. authorities have arrested over one million migrants crossing illegally over the U.S.-Mexico border so far in fiscal year 2021, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). That’s the most since the year 2000.

CBP encountered 188,829 people attempting to come to the United States through its southern border in June, also the highest monthly number in at least two decades.

In a newsletter on Tuesday, Tommy Pigott, rapid response director of the GOP National Committee, said: “Illegal immigrants are coming from far and wide to exploit Biden’s failed policies.”

The White House said issues from climate change to crime in Central America are to blame for the migration surge.

The Biden administration has undone many of Trump’s immigration policies, but has kept in place a policy that allows the CBP to expel undocumented migrants so as to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at border facilities.

AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL

The president announced earlier this month that the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on Aug. 31, days ahead of his original Sept. 11 deadline. The U.S. Central Command said last week that the U.S. military had completed over 95 percent of the withdrawal.

However, the security situation in the war-torn country has deteriorated as Taliban militants continue fighting against government forces and gain ground since the drawdown of U.S. troops on May 1.

The Biden administration is also facing pressure from lawmakers to work out a plan to evacuate Afghans who helped the U.S. military and are vulnerable to Taliban reprisals amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon told Xinhua that the “misguided” Afghanistan withdrawal decision would be one of Biden’s main weaknesses.

“On balance it is a solid start, but the Afghanistan decision will haunt him in a number of ways, I fear,” O’Hanlon said.

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Xinhua

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