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MULHOLLAND: Quiet progress is still progress

Column: Cup of Joe

Although President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has not delivered on all of his campaign promises, he has accomplished a lot that we should be proud of.  – Photo by President Biden / Twitter

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made many exceptional and effective nominations for his cabinet and the other government positions, including various commissioners and chairs. These appointees and their organizations have been competent and have made substantial progress that has stayed out of much of the news. A competent government is something to be grateful for.

Domestically, the headlines are focused on the Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. As of now, it looks like she will be confirmed. Not only does the nomination have historical importance since she would be the first Black woman appointed to the Court, but it also has real political implications. Replacing an 83-year-old liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, with a 51-year-old liberal justice, Jackson, has real-world consequences.

If she is confirmed, that would be a significant victory for Biden. If Biden were not the president and a Republican made the appointment, the Court would be 7-2 in favor of the Conservatives. 

While judges and courts are essential, they are only a portion of what goes into governing, and they are not what I want to focus on. This article focuses on the quiet work that has largely stayed out of the spotlight but is enormously consequential nonetheless.

The subtle work of various government agencies has made meaningful and precedent-setting progress under Biden. That progress is worth voting for in this year's midterms and should ease some of the frustrations progressives — especially college-aged ones — feel toward the perceived lack of progress on Biden and Democrats in Congress.

There is no doubt that Biden has not gotten everything through Congress that he initially wanted. The infrastructure bill was scaled back to get bipartisan support and the Build Back Better Act seems to not be going anywhere, which contained the better part of Biden’s domestic legislative agenda.

The legislation was thorough and would have improved the lives of many Americans, but unfortunately, it did not pass. But the Biden administration has done many other things to move the country in an improved direction.

Perhaps the most recent update is that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has initially approved a rule that demands all publicly traded companies to make public their impacts on climate change.

The SEC was established in 1934, and its mission statement is "to protect investors: maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets.” Essentially the SEC regulates and enforces financial markets and implements new regulations.

The rule would also require companies to make public how climate change impacts their business and how they are on track to reach their climate goals if they have established said goals. The rule is thorough but controversial.

Large corporations often have a terrible track record of being environmentally friendly, and the new rule would hold them more accountable to investors and the public. Some Republicans and large businesses have already spoken out against the new rule.

The new rule is a huge deal, especially in relation to the coverage that it’s gotten. The Chair of the SEC, Gary Gensler, was nominated by Biden and has focused the SEC on addressing climate change matters. 

The new rule would make emission information easily accessible and hold large corporations accountable to the public and investors. The regulation would put these companies in an awkward position if fully implemented.

Some will fight the policy, others will remain neutral and others will endorse it as Microsoft already has. Although there is no polling explicitly done on the regulation, the public would likely be in favor and companies that resist may lose investors because most people are keen on giving money to sustainable companies

Perhaps most importantly is the precedent-setting of the policy. Climate activists have been pushing for a similar rule for years, and their hard work has come to some fruition. 

The Federal Trade Commission has also made meaningful progress under the leadership of Chair Lina Khan. Khan, a Biden appointee, has overseen a significant expansion of the range of inquiry and antitrust regulation that the FTC is allowed to do.

They have continued investigations into Amazon for anticompetitive practices and made strides toward accomplishing antitrust regulation against Facebook and Disney for large-scale mergers and acquisitions.

Understandably, many people are disappointed with what the Biden administration has been able to accomplish. Certainly, for college students, Biden should have tried harder to make good on his word about student debt.

But do not let the failures detract from the hard-fought meaningful progress that has been made in many areas. I encourage readers to explore the scope of Biden’s executive orders as well. The progress has largely stayed out of the major headlines.

But a lack of awareness can potentially be a good thing. If intelligent, qualified and well-meaning people are doing good work quietly and out of the spotlight, they may face less opposition from large corporations or ill-intended bureaucrats. Less scrutiny is rarely a good thing but progress continues to be made, which is what matters most.

Joseph Mulholland is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history and minoring in public policy. His column, "Cup of Joe," runs on alternate Wednesdays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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