Policy Corner | May 4, 2021

Agents of Impact see transformation – and trouble – in Biden’s first 100 days

Dennis Price
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha, May 4 – More than 230 million COVID vaccine shots. Nearly $2 trillion in economic stimulus. A return to the Paris climate agreement. At the 100-day mark, the historically diverse administration is executing, and polls show nearly two-thirds of Americans are optimistic about the direction of the country. There is yet more to be done. What’s your take? Email [email protected] or reply to this email. We’ll round up submissions later this week.

  • Economic justice. “I am both surprised by the ambition of this administration and disappointed by its retention of policies and political norms that exacerbate wealth inequality and entrench white supremacy,” writes Carmen Rojas of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, a guest on The Reconstruction podcast, in a post on ImpactAlpha. The upside: “The administration has started to demonstrate how government spending is tied to expanding opportunity, fulfilling civil rights commitments, and expanding civic engagement,” writes Rojas (listen in: “Carmen Rojas on practicing truth in the service of freedom”). Among her disappointments: Insufficient action on immigration, student debt, the minimum wage and policing (note: Biden on Monday lifted the annual cap on admission of refugees to 62,500, from 15,000)
  • Climate tailwinds. “This is the first administration that has ever come into office making climate change a top priority,” Julie Gorte of Impax Asset Management said on The First 100 Days, hosted by US SIF. The administration rejoined the Paris agreement on Day One and committed to reduce U.S. emissions by 50% by 2030. An all-star climate team has infused climate strategy at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes billions for electric vehicles, grid upgrades and clean technologies. “Right now we have a tailwind on climate change and we should take advantage of it,” Gorte says.
  • Sustainable investing. The Biden administration has placed champions of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, investing, at the SEC (Gary Gensler) and the Department of Labor (Martin Walsh). It paused enforcement of Trump administration rules meant to quell the ESG wave. US SIF’s Bryan McGannon said he’s hopeful Congress will amend retirement-plan rules to end the back and forth. “Our preferred pathway to solve this pendulum of policy shifts is to have Congress amend ERISA again to plainly say that ESG criteria may be considered under fiduciary duty,” he says.