U.S. Drone Strikes Plunge Under Biden

“Airwars, an independent nonprofit that tracks strikes and casualties in conflict areas like Iraq, Syria, and Libya, provides regular assessments of civilian deaths. And in their latest data which spans the first year of Biden’s presidency, civilian deaths and strikes plunged in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

The differences are striking, even keeping in mind we’re comparing just one year of Biden’s presidency with four years of President Donald Trump and eight years of President Barack Obama.

During the length of Trump’s four-year presidency, Airwars documented more than 16,000 air and artillery military strikes in Iraq and Syria, which itself was a decline of more than 1,500 strikes when compared to Obama’s second term. During Biden’s first year, there have been 39 total military strikes spread between both countries.

Alleged civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria skyrocketed under Trump’s four years in office to more than 13,000 compared to 5,600 during Obama’s second term. Thus far, Airwars reports only 10 under the Biden administration. There have been no reported civilian deaths in Somalia thus far during Biden’s term, compared to 134 under Trump and 42 under Obama over both of his terms. Strikes in Yemen, which had declined each year throughout Trump’s administration, have dropped to just four this year (Airwars did not provide civilian deaths for Yemen).

This follows reporting earlier this year that Biden had quietly imposed restrictions on the use of drone strikes outside of active war zones. Trump had eased restrictions and allowed the military and CIA to decide when to strike, thus explaining the dramatic increase in strikes and civilian deaths in Somalia during his term. Biden is now requiring the White House to vet and approve these strikes, for now, until the administration sets up new formal policies (about which we know very little, but observers hope will require more procedures to ensure that civilians aren’t killed).”

By Refusing To End Trump’s Tariffs, Biden Is Making Inflation Worse

“there is one thing Biden could do to immediately provide consumers with relief. He could eliminate the tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump.

Those tariffs, which Biden has been stubbornly unwilling to reverse during his first year in office, are adding roughly 0.5 percent to annual inflation across the economy. That’s the conclusion drawn by Ed Gresser, a former assistant U.S. Trade Representative who is currently the vice president and director for trade and global markets at the Progressive Policy Institute, a center-left think tank. Trump’s tariffs on washing machines, solar panels, steel, aluminum, and a host of Chinese-made goods are a “secondary but noticeable contribution” to overall inflation right now, Gresser writes.”

“Biden could cut tariffs without having to wait for Congress or the Federal Reserve to act. Similarly, cutting tariffs would not come with some of the negative tradeoffs that other actions might. Raising interest rates will harm the economy in other ways (for example, by making it more expensive to borrow). Lifting tariffs will ease inflation and provide a tax cut to many American businesses. It is quite literally a win-win.”

“Politicians might want to deploy tariffs (to raise prices) for a number of reasons: to protect domestic industries, to influence where in the world individuals choose to invest, to retaliate against what they perceive as unfair trade practices from other countries, and so on. But all those goals—and tariffs are poor ways of accomplishing most of them—are second-order functions. To the extent that any of those things occur, they happen because tariffs raise prices.”

Biden’s cash fuels DeSantis’ budget wishlist

“The Florida governor..unveiled a $99.7 billion proposed spending plan that comes as DeSantis gears up for his 2022 reelection and continues to generate buzz as a top-tier potential 2024 White House hopeful. The governor’s budget is packed with federal stimulus funds from the Biden administration that DeSantis wants to use for his most politically popular programs, including a gas tax break and $1,000 bonuses for police and teachers.

The governor made it clear..that he wants to use $3.5 billion from Biden’s American Rescue Plan to help fund nearly every high-profile piece of his budget, setting up a scenario where the Biden administration could pay for policies DeSantis will use to campaign on during his reelection bid.

“I think the most ironic piece about his budget is that the governor wants to take $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan money and use that for the gas tax break,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) told reporters after the budget announcement. “As the governor continually attacks President Biden, the reality is we could not balance this budget, or give out tax breaks without President Joe Biden.””

White House lights up Manchin after he crushes Biden’s megabill

“Biden left negotiations with Manchin this week thinking the two men could cut a deal next year on his sweeping agenda. Then the West Virginia Democrat bluntly said he is a “no” on the $1.7 trillion in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“If I can’t go home and explain to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said. “This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”

Those comments prompted an immediate war with the White House, who took personal aim at Manchin for what officials saw as a breach of trust. White House press secretary Jen Psaki released an unusually blunt statement saying that Manchin’s comments “are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances.”

In announcing his opposition, Manchin raised the same concerns about the bill that he’s had all along: inflation, rising debt and a mismatch between the package’s 10-year funding and its shorter-term programs. But until Sunday, Manchin had never taken a hard line on the legislation. In the past week, he’s spoken directly to Biden several times, with the president and other Democrats furiously lobbying him to support the bill.

With an evenly split Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer needs every Democrat to go along with the legislation, which only requires a simple majority vote. That dynamic gives Manchin enormous leverage over Biden’s agenda, allowing him to single-handedly sink a priority that Democrats have spent much of the year working on.

Manchin’s rollout on Fox News infuriated Democrats Sunday morning. Psaki said that the senator had brought Biden an outline of a bill similar in size and scope that “could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.”

“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki said. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

And while the centrist senator’s staff informed White House and Democratic aides about his forthcoming blow to Biden’s agenda, some Democrats were steamed that Manchin himself hadn’t called Biden or Schumer.”

“now may be an opportunity to revisit a concept of the bill that included fewer programs but was paid for over more years — an option that moderate House Democrats and party leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi had pushed for previously. Centrist New Democrat Coalition Chair Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) said in a statement Sunday that including fewer programs in the legislation but for longer durations “could open a potential path forward for this legislation.””

“The West Wing saw Manchin’s Sunday comments as a shocking about-face — White House officials believed he had been sending signals that a deal could eventually be struck.”

“Manchin’s position is a validation of progressive fears — they believed passing that infrastructure bill was a mistake without an explicit guarantee from all 50 Democratic senators to support the rest of Biden’s agenda. Progressive House Democrats fumed at Sunday’s developments, though the nearly 100-member caucus had not regrouped to find a path forward.
“I wish we would have kept both bills together. That was the plan throughout several months of negotiation,” Bowman said. “I was frustrated then and obviously frustrated now that we decided to decouple those bills, because, as Manchin has shown in the past, we cannot just take his word for something.””

Biden’s Build Back Better Act Will Likely Cost Twice as Much as the CBO Projects. Here’s Why.

“”The Build Back Better Act relies on a number of arbitrary sunsets and expirations to lower the official cost of the bill,” explains the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The group’s newly updated analysis of the Build Back Better plan finds that the package will cost an estimated $4.8 trillion over 10 years if all provisions are made permanent—double the price tag applied by the CBO last month.”

“several key parts of the bill are designed to game the CBO’s method for scoring the cost of legislation by setting arbitrary expiration dates even though lawmakers obviously intend for those policies to be permanent fixtures. Probably the best example is the expanded child tax credit, which would expire after just a single year. Other parts of the bill, including the universal pre-K funding and new subsidies for child care, would expire after six years. Expanded subsidies through the Affordable Care Act would last until 2025.
With all those gimmicks in place, the CBO assessment of the bill projects that it will cost about $1.8 trillion and add about $367 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

If all the Build Back Better plan’s proposals were made permanent, however, the final price tag would be $4.8 trillion, and the bill would add about $2.8 trillion to the deficit, according to the CRFB.

“To be sure, lawmakers may choose not to extend some or all of these provisions,” the CRFB analysis states. “However, if they do, they would need to more than double current offsets in order for the bill and the extensions to be paid for. The alternative would be a substantial increase in the debt.””

Biden made one of the best decisions of his presidency this week

“Powell’s innovation as Fed chair was to really care much more about employment, relative to inflation, than his recent predecessors had.

In 2019, he began lowering interest rates during an economic expansion, a genuinely unprecedented action that conceded the rate hikes he introduced the previous year were a mistake.

He repeatedly invoked homelessness and high Black unemployment as reasons to keep pushing rates lower, saying the job wasn’t done until it was done for everyone.

In 2020, he issued a new formal framework explicitly pushing the Fed away from its traditional fixation with inflation and toward worrying about employment.

He made these changes in the context of a world where inflation was consistently low and employment and wages were short of where they should’ve been. But in 2020, and especially 2021, the tasks before Powell changed. First he had to prevent a pandemic-driven collapse of the global financial system akin to what occurred in 2008.

Then he was — is — faced with the question of what to do now that inflation is high for the first time in decades. That challenge, and the question of whether Powell can be as effective at controlling inflation as he has been at promoting employment, will frame his next term.”

Inflation accelerates at lightning pace in new setback for Biden

“U.S. consumer prices raced ahead in November at the fastest pace in 39 years, dealing a potential setback to President Joe Biden’s spending plans and giving Republicans more ammunition against Democrats heading into the election year.

Costs for key goods and services soared 0.8 percent for the month and 6.8 percent for the year, the highest since 1982, the Labor Department reported Friday. Prices for everything from food to automobiles have been surging as blistering demand from cash-rich consumers in a growing economy overwhelms a supply chain plagued by a lack of available workers.”

“The cost increases, which are outpacing wage gains and turning Americans’ views on the economy sour, have sliced into Biden’s approval ratings and made the 2022 midterm elections even more challenging for Democrats. The hot reading on consumer prices, which followed a 6.2 percent jump in October, is also likely to fuel Republican criticism of Biden’s economic performance, which they have dubbed “Bidenflation.”

It could embolden conservative Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to oppose the president’s $1.7 trillion Build Back Better package, which the party hopes will clear the Senate by Christmas. Biden will need every Democratic vote in the 50-50 Senate to pass the bill.”

““Fortunately, in the weeks since the data for [Friday’s] inflation report was collected, energy prices have dropped,” Biden said in a prepared statement. He added that the CPI report “does not reflect today’s reality, and it does not reflect the expected price decreases in the weeks and months ahead, such as in the auto market.”

At the White House press briefing on Thursday, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese echoed these points and said many top economic forecasters see inflation falling quickly next year and coming closer to the Fed’s target of slightly over 2 percent per year for by the end of 2022.”

History Shows That Biden Is Handling Putin the Right Way

“In all three of the previous crises, the U.S. and its allies concluded that the territory in question was not vital. In Georgia and Ukraine, the U.S. did not have the military capability to engage Russia directly and made clear to partners it would not enter the conflict. In Syria, Washington was unwilling to continue supporting the opposition to Bashar Assad in the face of Russian military action, focusing more on de-escalation including a military hotline to Russian forces. These moves assured Putin that the geopolitical outcome he feared was not forthcoming, discouraging him from upping the ante.”

“At the same time, the U.S. took military steps to limit Russian success, hedge against further aggression or signal determination. The riskiest move was President George W. Bush’s order to airlift a whole Georgian brigade from Iraq to Tbilisi in 2008, while sending U.S. naval assets to the Black Sea. In 2014, the U.S. and NATO initially provided Ukraine with non-lethal military aid, but gradually expanded that to include lethal defensive systems, training and small rotational deployments. In Syria after 2015, the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition indirectly put military pressure on Assad while avoiding confrontation with Russian troops.

In each case, the U.S. signaled that “no military solution” was not an absolute, underlining that although the U.S. did not seek direct conflict with Russia, a robust military response was on the table to defend vital interests, including treaty allies.”

“The U.S. and Europe have used sanctions to respond to Russian aggression by targeting top decision-makers, the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex, and the key sources and intermediaries for Putin’s personal wealth (in the Syria case, Damascus and Tehran were also sanctioned). Though sanctions could not undo actions Russia had already taken, they helped deter Moscow from pursuing more expansive aims.”

“In all three conflicts, the U.S. effectively mobilized allies. The Bush administration blessed French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s lead on the 2008 negotiations that prevented further fighting between Russia and Georgia, and similarly backed France and Germany on the Normandy format talks that brought Russia—not just Russian-backed proxies—to the table with Ukraine. Syria crisis management was a cooperative effort by the U.S., EU states, the Arab League, and eventually Turkey and Israel under pro forma U.N. leadership.”

“Finally, U.S. administrations have used face-to-face meetings and calls between top leaders to convey this message of de-escalation backed by firm resolve.”

“Though critics often decry engagement with the Russians as a reward for bad behavior, the crisis management playbook shows that it is essential. Earlier this year, during the last Russian buildup along the Ukrainian border, Biden defused the situation with direct high-level dialogue, particularly face-to-face meetings with Putin and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. With this week’s Biden-Putin call, and the launch of a follow-up dialogue on European security that will include U.S. allies, Washington is again choosing wisely to engage.”

Biden’s team wants EU allies to get real on ‘strategic autonomy’

““I sat through many, many defense ministerials when I was working at the Pentagon and was here in Brussels, where every defense minister around the table would all be in violent agreement about the need to spend more on defense and have a more modern capable military,” said Chollet, who has spent more than a quarter-century working on U.S. diplomacy inside and outside of government, including stints at the State Department, White House and Pentagon.

“But then all those defense ministers would have to go back to their parliaments, to their governments and have to defend those budgets or advocate for those budgets, and they were not successful,” he added. “And that’s a dynamic that still exists here.”

Chollet said that if European allies were finally ready to get serious, Washington would be more than happy to provide guidance about the types of capabilities to start building up.”

“Traveling around the world, he said he sensed that America had not lost its luster.

“There is still a very strong demand signal for American leadership,” he said. “Whether it’s in Bosnia, where I just was, whether it’s in Southeast Asia, where I was three weeks ago, whether it’s in Libya and Tunisia, where I was six weeks ago: People want more of the United States. They want our presence. They want our leadership.”

And that, he said, he tells friends at home is not to be taken for granted: “The U.S. in that position is unique. There are not many countries that you can say that about, if any actually around the world. There’s not a lot of people wanting more of China.””