Joe Biden just had one of his better weeks. He delivered a well-received State of the Union address. His leadership of the united democratic alliance has exceeded expectations, while heroic Ukrainians have sparked an unexpected wave of public excitement and admiration. At least one poll showed a significant increase in Biden’s approval rating.
On Friday, Biden boasted that the economy added 678,000 jobs in February and brought unemployment down to 3.8 percent.
While the potential impact of the war on energy prices remains a concern, it’s hard to argue with output growth, job creation and real wage improvements of this magnitude.
For months, Biden has received relentless negative coverage of his performance. Given the economic recovery, their success in fighting Covid-19, and the passage of America’s bailout plan and a huge bipartisan infrastructure plan, the Biden team should be forgiven for deserved it more credit.
Still, Biden has suffered from two developments, one for which he is responsible and the other far less so. What he did: Spending so much time on the failed Build Back Better plan, a struggle that turned into daily negative media coverage. Had Biden “gone smaller” or ended the BBB ordeal sooner, he might have moved on to other things. Presidents are not praised by their base for “trying” when they fail.
Biden is less responsible for the second factor dragging him down: inflation. The conventional wisdom that excess funds for America’s bailout plan are overheating the economy is highly suspect. Inflation was largely the result of an abrupt economic shutdown, increased consumer demand and the resulting supply chain disruption. On Friday, Biden asserted that “our economy has roared back faster than most predicted, but the pandemic has meant companies have struggled to hire enough workers to keep up.” And “when factories close, it takes longer to make goods and get them from the warehouse to the store, and prices go up.”
A recent study by Moody’s Analytics supports this view, showing that the US bailout “added only a third of a point to inflation – ie inflation would be only 0.35 lower without the US bailout”.
Few would have been pleased to forego the benefits of America’s bailout plan to save 0.35 percent on inflation. But pointing to a double-dip recession that didn’t happen and declaring that inflation is the domain of the Federal Reserve isn’t an effective political message. Voters will still blame the incumbent for price hikes — especially if Republicans insist the US bailout explains the entire problem. Biden is aware that the Fed needs to reduce inflation and has been content with a number of initiatives that suggest it is doing so aware of the needs of consumers.
Four factors, not all within Biden’s control, will see if his approval rating is improving.
First, the struggle of Ukraine struck a chord with Americans and encouraged hope and pride in democracy. Just as he suffered from the disheartening scenes of the Afghan disengagement, Biden will benefit from the emotional boost Ukraine has given us, especially if he stands firm as the determined leader of the free world.
Second, no one should minimize the impact of the transition to living with Covid. Take off masks, return to the normal rhythm of life should elevate mood and aid recovery. Biden can celebrate the sacrifice and perseverance of the American people; he should benefit from the sense Normal is back.
Third, Biden must avoid initiatives that are doomed to fail (a Build Back Better 2.0). He can focus on popular bipartisan proposals (his unity agenda) and just a few of the most popular items – green energy and prescription drug cost containment. He can combine this with tax reform to reduce the deficit.
Finally, and most importantly, as long as high inflation dominates the news, Biden and the Democrats, deservedly or not, will face voter wrath. Showing concern and targeting other drivers of price hikes won’t absolve Biden of blame if inflation numbers don’t ease.
Biden rightly stated that we have had a grueling two years. When we get out of the Covid era and celebrating the bravest defenders of democracy, he finally has a foothold to get out of the political ditch. At least he’s stopped digging.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/biden-finds-a-foothold-to-regain-some-lost-ground-41417713.html Biden finds a foothold to regain lost ground