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Politics & Government

SU Professor: Biden Proposals "Nothing Short of Revolutionary" For Families Hurt By Pandemic

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The Chair of the political science department at Syracuse University's Maxwell School says President Biden is using the pandemic as a moment to reconfigure government to help working families. 

“There was nothing short of revolutionary in terms of the kinds of the policies that Biden is talking about.”

Associate Professor Shana Gadarian says the agenda Biden laid out is a vision that government can help people and be used for good. 

“This is a moment where the public in the election and public opinion polls is open to using big social policies and big government bills to try and help spur economic growth and rescue a lot of the industries that were hurt very badly by the pandemic.”

Much of that relief came from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Biden used much of his speech to outline yet another massive domestic program…the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. It includes funding to cover childcare costs for low- and middle-income families, paid leave for workers, free community college, and universal pre-school. Gadarian says the pandemic is shining a light on deep inequities in health care and on the workforce, which many women had to leave. 

“The Biden administration is taking this public sentiment that people want relief and also saying what else can we do so that we’re not back at this point where there are people living kind of on the razor’s edge and any crisis is going to send them into poverty.”

Gadarian says Republicans clearly have a different vision and appear unwilling to support many of the social policies aimed at working class families. Most, including Congressmembers John Katko and Claudia Tenney, also expressed concern about the level of spending.  But Gadarian says Biden learned from his time as Vice President during the 2008-2009 recession that the government’s response could have been more robust.

“It was a very slow recovery and so I think the Biden administration is taking the advice of economists right now to say ‘will you spend now so that you can get people back working and you can build the infrastructure that’s going to change the economy into the future and then you make that money back in tax revenues.’”

Still, Biden faces an uphill battle with Republicans in Congress when it comes to social programs or other hot button issues like immigration, gun laws, and criminal justice reform. Gadarian says he’ll have to find ways to get more bipartisan votes.  

GADARIAN TO STUDY PANDEMIC AND POLITICS

Professor Gadarian has been named a 2021 Carnegie Fellow.  She’ll receive a grant of $200,000 over two years to devote time to research how COVID-19 revealed the depths of political polarization.  The investigation into the long-term impacts of the pandemic on health behaviors and government performance could result in the publication of a major study or book.