In the face of obvious economic turmoil and a shrinking economy that affects every American, the President has adopted a novel strategy: Tell everyone the economy is awesome and he’s doing a great job anyway, and then scream about all the supposed lies being told about why he messed it up in the first place. Good luck with that, as they say.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden chose friendly turf to deliver one of the most ridiculous speeches in modern memory in defense of his economic record. The setting was the AFL-CIO’s 29th Quadrennial Constitutional Convention at the Philadelphia Convention Center, but the content might as well have been beamed in from another reality entirely, one where the American people were on the road to prosperity instead of the misery of choosing whether to fill up their car or purchase a new pair of jeans. The President began by describing the state of the economy he inherited, which he falsely claimed was still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, down “twenty million” jobs “under the last guy” but minting “more billionaires during this crisis in 2020 than any year in history.” This was all happening while “ordinary people” were “waiting in line for an hour for a box of food,” due to the “policies in the past,” but precisely whose policies were they? Which party pushed draconian lockdowns for years on end? In contrast, who was fighting to keep businesses and schools opening, and being called a murderer for the privilege? These were the very policies then-candidate Joe Biden endorsed on the campaign trail, the sorts of things the “real card carrying experts” were recommending as well, but suddenly the President has developed a curious case of amnesia, one which sees him railing against his own recommendations and blaming some other party for pushing endless, job killing, economy destroying lockdowns.
Neither can the President seem to remember that he entered office in the middle of an unprecedented economic boom that defied all those card carrying experts. The truth is that the economy bounced back in a never-before seen V-shaped recovery immediately after the self-induced lockdowns, call it the world’s first economic death by suicide and swift rebirth. The growth in the third quarter of 2020 was explosive, an historic 33.4%, almost instantly regaining the majority of the limb we had cut off ourselves. The fourth quarter added another 4.1% as the country struggled to reach a consensus on economic activity suitable during the pandemic, stabilizing for even more future growth when travel and hospitality began returning, largely thanks to the vaccine developed under President Trump. Jobs also experienced a similar rebound, with June 2020 notching a record 4.8 million jobs, smashing any and all expectations. July added another 1.8 million. August 1.4 million. September 661,000. October 638,000. November 245,000. December was the only setback amid the winter surge. All of this occurred before Joe Biden took office, while he was busy pushing policies that would’ve stifled this explosive growth, re-strangling the infant in the crib, or throwing it out with the bathwater a second time if you prefer
In other words, all he needed to do in late January 2021 was stay out of the way and let the market recover precisely as it had been doing for 6 months. The card carrying experts at the time were almost universally bullish on our prospects. Sung Won Sohn, a finance and economics professor at Loyola Marymount University claimed, “You have massive government stimulus, low interest rates from the Fed and the vaccine supply is growing. The economy is beginning to fire on all cylinders.” Gregory Daco, chief economist at Oxford Economics, echoed the thought. “We anticipate a summer mini-boom in activity, juiced up by reduced virus transmission, increased vaccine diffusion and generous fiscal stimulus,” he said. President Biden chose a different path, however, to all of our detriment. On his watch, the Federal Reserve kept printing money at never-before-seen rates and the Federal Government showered another $2.8 trillion on the economy between a completely unnecessary, bloated, and poorly targeted coronavirus relief passage and a new infrastructure bill. He was warned at the time that both might lead to massive inflation, including by former members of President Barack Obama’s economic team, not exactly libertarian or contrarian economists. Steven Rattner, counselor to Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, called the stimulus plan the “original sin” of inflation. Larry Summers himself agreed, and recently said it will get worse before it gets better, warning that a massive recession might be required to reset prices. “How could an administration loaded with savvy political and economic hands have gotten this critical issue so wrong?” Mr. Rattner asked in The New York Times last year. “They can’t say they weren’t warned – notably by Larry Summers, a former Treasury secretary and my former boss in the Obama administration, and less notably by many others, including me. We worried that shoveling an unprecedented amount of spending into an economy already on the road to recovery would mean too much money chasing too few goods.”
President Biden dismissed these concerns. He along with his entire economic team claimed any price increase or supply chain issues were merely “transitory,” nothing to worry about in the long term. This week, however, he’s telling a completely different story. He brags about his vision and how he “went to work to change that. It started with the American Rescue Plan,” claiming without any evidence that the “law helped 41 mi- — people — 41 million people put food on their table. Remember, they were having trouble putting food on their table. It put money in the pockets of hardworking Americans who were in trouble, being thrown out on the street because they couldn’t pay their rent through no fault of their own.” He was equally effusive in his praise of the new infrastructure spending, “The next step was the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And now not only is it Infrastructure Week, we’ve arrived at Infrastructure Decade! And people are going to see a lot of it. We got to remind them where it’s coming from” because this infrastructure law is apparently about much more than infrastructure. “It’s about rebuilding the middle class. And that’s why we made sure that the infrastructure law included significant labor protections. For example, I insisted that the overwhelming majority of the funds included in the law are subject to Davis-Bacon requirements. Union has to do it.” In other words, one could just as easily call it a pay off to the unions.
Regardless, the President clearly views all this as a smashing success, “Folks, that’s the approach I’ve taken to build this economy. And what has to be done? Well, we brought down COVID deaths by 90 percent. We opened schools and businesses that were shuttered. All — it all created the greatest job recovery in American history. People don’t want to talk about it these days, but it’s true: Since I’ve become President, we’ve created 8.7 million new jobs in 16 months. An all-time record…Better-paying jobs, for better jobs for them and their families. It’s been a long time since that’s happened in this country, but it’s happening now. And it’s working.” Anyone who says otherwise, and points out the obvious flaws such as record inflation, record high gas prices, and an inability to acquire basic items like baby formula is lying. He was so passionate about this point, he was yelling when he made it. “I don’t want to hear any more of these lies about reckless spending. We’re changing people’s lives.” He continued, “Look, the point is this: Under my plan for the economy, we’ve made extraordinary progress.” In between, he even managed to take credit for slashing the deficit, once again without remotely recognizing that he personally supported all of the additional spending, somewhere around $4.6 trillion to combat the pandemic. Putting this another way, in the very same speech he crowed about spending trillions more, bragged about how this money reduced the coronavirus death rate, and put food on people’s table, then claimed he was a deficit hawk and none of the associated crises were remotely his fault, if they exist in the first place because the economy is doing awesome anyway.
This level of cognitive dissonance isn’t easy to achieve by any means, much less one made even more bizarre by practically screaming at the crowd at points, as if volume alone can magically reduce your bill in the grocery store. Rarely has a President spoken about an economy, or anything for that matter, so at odds with the reality of $100 plus trips to the gas station, displaying so much angry passion for how he’s managed to destroy a booming recovery when he took office, then lie about his own role profusely. Meanwhile, back in the real world less than a quarter of Americans believe the country is on the right track according to the Real Clear Politics average, 71% say we are headed in the wrong direction compared to 22% who claim otherwise. The economy is shrinking as well, a sure sign of a looming recession. The President’s approval rating on inflation is lower than Jimmy Carter’s at this point in his term, and Biden’s unique combination of angry, revisionist history, bragging about his supposed success, and maligning anyone who disagrees isn’t likely to change that, either people’s minds or the reality that he has been an abject failure on the economy and everyone seems to know it except him.