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Stephen Colbert on Biden’s speech: ‘Hasn’t felt that normal in five years’ 

Stephen Colbert

The Late Show aired live after Joe Biden’s first address to a (Covid-limited) joint session of Congress, to mark his first 100 days in office. “Because of the pandemic, tonight was a bit odd,” Stephen Colbert said. “First, Biden didn’t mention low-flow toilets once. Second, everything else.” The president delivered his speech to a masked audience of 200 instead of the usual 1,600 lawmakers. “Still, 200 people is more than watched the Oscars,” Colbert joked.

Biden went particularly hard on the subject of jobs: “For too long we’ve failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: jobs. Jobs. Jobs.”

“OK, he seems to be buffering – can somebody unplug him and then plug him back in again?” Colbert joked. “Because he hit that theme a few times.”

Biden “took a moment to feel at the nation”, said Colbert, and discussed those feeling “left behind” by change in the country. “I want to speak directly to you,” Biden said, “because if you think about it, that’s what people are most worried about – can I fit in?”

“Our pants? No,” joked Colbert. “After a year of Covid, we definitely can’t fit in.

“So, what did we see tonight?” Colbert later asked. “The oldest president of all time, no handshakes, just fist-bumping, 200 people in the room and everybody in masks. It hasn’t felt that normal in five years.”

Seth Meyers

On Late Night, Seth Meyers blasted the “scam” of Republicans’ attempt to rebrand the GOP as a populist workers’ party. Republicans “call themselves pro-worker populists while doling out cash to giant companies, who mostly use it to decrease their giant tax liabilities and enrich their wealthy investors”. he explained, “even though the whole point was supposed to be to use that money to invest in the economy and create jobs”.

Meyers dove into a “perfect test case” of this strategy: the Foxconn deal in Wisconsin. In 2017, the Taiwanese LCD company announced plans to build a factory in southern Wisconsin to create 16,000 jobs, with a promised annual $7bn impact for the state. “They wouldn’t have done it here except I became president, “ said Trump in 2018.

The Foxconn deal was supposed to be “proof of concept for the Republican way” of bringing manufacturing jobs to the US, “not by investing directly in infrastructure, but by doling out subsidies to big companies”, Meyers said. The deal promised Foxconn $4.1bn in tax subsidies, in return for spending $10bn to employ 13,000 people at a 20m square foot manufacturing hub.

But the company flailed about on ideas for the space, ultimately settling on nothing, while “the state actually demolished homes and built new roads that, in a metaphor that’s almost too on the nose, actually lead to nowhere”, Meyers said.

But Foxconn is still eligible for $80m in tax subsidies as Wisconsin still pays a per-job subsidy of about $55,000. “Fifty-five thousand for each job?” Meyers ranted. “Instead of giving that to a massive foreign company, how about you give that directly to workers to build useful stuff here like bridges and broadband infrastructure instead of roads to nowhere?”

Samantha Bee

On Full Frontal, Samantha Bee discussed misconceptions about immigration at the southern border. “When Republicans use rhetoric like ‘the border crisis’ they’re just whipping their base into a racist fear-gasm by pretending that the people who seek asylum are somehow a threat to our country,” she explained. “The only threat to our country is Ted Cruz acting like he cares about kids when mostly he just uses them as a scapegoat when he skips town during an actual crisis.

“Republicans using inflammatory language distracts from the real crisis: how migrants are being treated,” she continued. “The truth is, the Biden administration should face criticism for its handling of the border, not for xenophobic lies Republicans are spreading, but for its continuation of Trump policies and for walking back promises made on immigration,” such as keeping the cap for refugee admissions at Trump’s historically low number of 15,000, a decision Biden reversed after fierce backlash from members of his own party.

There’s also the administration’s handling of unaccompanied minors at the border, who are being detained in underprepared government facilities for an average of 31 days.

“Right now, in 2021, under a Democratic administration, children who are alone, vulnerable and terrified are being held in government custody for a month,” Bee said. “Americans should care that kids are being held in custody for that long. We’ve held convicted white-collar criminals for less than a month!”

Jimmy Kimmel

And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel also reacted to Biden’s speech to Congress. “Biden tonight laid out specifics for his American Families Plan,” he said. “Trump had a family plan too, but his was to give jobs to everyone in his family.

“This tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two parties,” he continued. “Tonight, Joe Biden proposed $109bn to make two years of community college free for students, $80bn for Pell grants to low-income students, $62bn to boost completion rates at community colleges that serve disadvantaged students and $39bn to subsidize education at historically black or minority schools.

“Donald Trump last year did this,” he said, cutting to a clip of his 2020 State of the Union speech in which he offered one black child a single school scholarship.

“What a difference a year makes,” Kimmel said, shaking his head. “What a guy.”

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