On February 3, two days before the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was set to expire, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a five-year extension. Although the extension was heralded by arms control and nuclear disarmament activists, it cannot, as it exists now, be extended again. Should the treaty go out of effect in 2026 without a replacement, it would be the first time since the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) in 1972 that the United States and Russia have no arms control treaties between the two countries. Although the decision to extend the treaty should be applauded, it is imperative that the United States now prioritizes replacing and improving upon the treaty before its expiration.
An arms control agreement between only Russia and the United States is no longer sufficient for global security. Although the United States and Russia control roughly 90% of the world’s supply of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), China possesses the third largest stockpile. China states it has no desire to engage in a nuclear arms race with any country and it desires only the minimum number of nuclear weapons necessary for self-defense. The Chinese government clearly feels that that minimum number has not yet been met, as the Chinese nuclear arsenal continues to grow--their stockpile now includes 320 weapons, up from 260 in 2015. It would be reasonable to conclude that China is aiming for a number of deployed warheads on par with the United States and Russia (currently capped at 1,550 under the terms of New START). Fewer warheads would likely be sufficient to defend China from an external nuclear threat, but a number of warheads equal to (or greater than) that of Russia and the United States would clearly prove China is a world power here to stay.
On March 31, President Joe Biden unveiled the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion program that aims to strengthen the United States through investments in a range of broadly defined infrastructure priorities, including physical infrastructure, manufacturing, the caregiving economy, and climate resilience. Nestled within the 25-page proposal is a deceptively short bullet point dedicating $10 billion to “put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, and advancing environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), all while placing good-paying union jobs within reach for more Americans.” While the Civilian Climate Corps may appear small on paper, if developed to its full potential it could be the centerpiece of an ambitious agenda to address the interlocking crises of our time: the COVID-19 pandemic, economic inequality, racial injustice, and climate change.
After months of logistical hurdles, the United States has successfully purchased enough Covid-19 vaccines for everyone to be fully inoculated. And with the current average number of shots given each day at approximately 2.75 million, a number projected to grow as suppliers ship more vaccine doses throughout the country, distribution does not present as much of a concern as originally anticipated.
The next challenge for reaching herd immunity in the United States has nothing to do with production or distribution. It’s vaccine hesitancy.
Generation after generation, Black Americans have been subject to brutal injustices and discrimination. Not only have these policies and practices exacerbated systemic racism, but they have prevented Black families from accumulating the same wealth as white Americans.
Economists estimate that enslaved people generated trillions of dollars in labor, but neither they, nor their ancestors, ever received any of the profits. Even after emancipation, Jim Crow laws and redlining prevented Black families from building wealth at the same rate as white families. On average, white families in America today are ten times wealthier than Black families. Wealth not only allows families to better weather economic crises, but it also leads to better health and higher educational attainment.
Reparations aim to acknowledge and redress these past wrongs through payments and investments. While reparations cannot erase historical injustices, they help institutions, such as governments, take responsibility for their actions and begin to address current inequalities.
As part of its pledge to “Build Back Better,” the Biden Administration unveiled a $2.3 trillion spending proposal on March 31, 2021, which is formally referred to as the American Jobs Plan, to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. President Joe Biden (D) stated that the plan aims to make a “once-in-a-generation investment to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world,” adding that it would be the most significant effort to create jobs in the U.S. since World War II. Alongside the jobs plan, Biden outlined his Made in America Tax Plan, which includes federal revenue-generating provisions that would help pay for the infrastructure spending.
Through its broad definition of infrastructure, the American Jobs Plan attempts to address a longtime divestment of public goods in the U.S. economy by prioritizing issues relating to climate change, social justice, domestic manufacturing, broadband, and national security. Efforts to re-envision public investments beyond constructing roads and bridges come as the overall infrastructure in the United States ranks 13th in quality, according to the World Economic Forum. The ranking indicates that domestic systems have struggled to keep pace with demand in today’s globalized economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed many of the existing problems confronting the country’s infrastructure, including access to the internet and clean air, as well as the need for stronger supply chains. Seeking to address these and other issues, Biden has included an emphasis on equity in his jobs plan.
The infrastructure framework represents one of two components in Biden’s agenda to transform the economy. A second component, the American Families Plan, focuses on welfare provisions, and the White House expects to announce it later in April. These spending proposals pose a test for Washington, as Democrats will have to consider the political risks that come with major spending measures, and Republicans will look to calibrate their messaging in the post-Trump era.