WASHINGTON — By some counts, President Joe Biden can lay claim to a banner first year in office. But numbers also reveal plenty of setbacks.
Most in the United States got their COVID-19 vaccines, but other countries fared better. Economic growth surged; so did inflation. America exited Afghanistan, but the war ended with a chaotic evacuation and a suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. troops. Pandemic aid and infrastructure bills passed. Pricey legislation to advance Biden’s social and climate proposals shrunk and then stalled.
Some notable numbers from Biden’s first year:
• 63.5% vaccination rate. Most Americans got jabbed. Countries with higher vaccination rates: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
• 3.9% jobless rate. The low unemployment rate is a big highlight of Biden’s first year. He inherited a coronavirus-thrashed economy with unemployment at 6.4%. Employers added 6.4 million jobs last year as unemployment dropped well below the 4.6% that the Congressional Budget Office had anticipated in July for the end of 2021.
• 7% inflation. In running the economy hot, Biden got burned as inflation reached a nearly 40-year high. Higher prices led to disapproval of Biden’s economic leadership. Gasoline and groceries cost more, and some notable economists said higher prices were a sign that Biden’s relief package was too large.
• $1 trillion. The cost of Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes $550 billion in new spending. To get an agreement, Biden pulled back from the $2.3 trillion he initially proposed. He separately proposed $1.8 trillion for a package of social and climate initiatives, but that was modified and unable to clear the Senate. So Biden got about one-quarter of the $4 trillion in spending he proposed.
• 13 deaths. The number of U.S. troops who died in a suicide bombing at the gate of Kabul’s airport during the U.S. evacuation of more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan. At least 169 Afghans were killed, with the evacuations leaving scores of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies behind. More than 2,460 U.S. service members died in Afghanistan over the course of the two-decade war.
• 1.78 million border crossings in the Southwest. Migrants began streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border once Biden became president. There were 1.78 million encounters with border agents during his first 10 full months, a four-fold increase compared with President Donald Trump’s last 10 months in office.
• 20 natural disasters. There were 20 extreme weather and climate disasters that each caused damages in excess of $1 billion and killed a combined 688 people. These included a drought, two floods, 11 severe storms, four tropical cyclones, a wildfire and a winter storm. Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. has averaged 7.4 disasters annually since 1980 that caused $1 billion or more in losses.
• 24 states. Biden visited nearly half of America’s 50 states during his first year. Excluding stops at his homes in Delaware, top destinations were Pennsylvania (seven times) and Michigan (five times). Both were key states in his 2020 election victory. Jill Biden went to 35 states.
• 41 federal judges. Biden had 41 judges confirmed to the bench during his first year in office, more than any of his recent predecessors at the same time in their presidencies. Of those, 80% are women, and 53% are people of color, according to the White House.
• 103 days. It took an average of 103 days for Biden nominees requiring Senate confirmation to be confirmed. That’s longer than the average for nominees in the first years of the previous six administrations and nearly three times longer than during Ronald Reagan’s first year in office, according to an analysis by the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition.
• nine news conferences. There will be a 10th on Wednesday. Biden has been remarkably press shy. He held nine news conferences (six solo and three joint) and 22 media interviews during his first year. That’s fewer news conferences than any of his five immediate predecessors at the same point in their presidencies, and fewer media interviews than any of his recent predecessors.
• 32 “not a joke” references. It’s one of Biden’s favorite speech lines. Among the things he said were “not a joke”: Civil rights icons, labor unions that built the middle class, air pollution from Delaware chemical plants, climate change as a national security risk, California voters, Biden’s disregard of polls on his economic agenda. Seriously.
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