The Presidential Schlump Gets No Respect
Joe Biden’s favorite topic these days is Bidenomics. At least he is in his comfort zone, writes Daniel Henninger in the WSJ. People find it hard to swallow that spending is really an investment in them personally.
The Latest Dark Cloud
On Monday he promoted a revival of Amtrak. Bidenomics was supposed to be Mr. Biden’s path to a second term. On the evidence, Bidenomics isn’t selling politically. The latest dark cloud is the New York Times/Siena College poll that found in five battleground states Mr. Biden is running behind the Permanent Defendant, Donald Trump.
A kinder way to put it might be to blame Biden’s age.
Some things that aren’t sitting well:
- Inflation’s lingering effects
- High interest rates
- John Q. Public’s sour mood.
Nearly three years after Mr. Biden’s inauguration, Mr. Henninger reminds readers, “more than 70% think the country is headed in the wrong direction.”
Why So Glum, Chum
A big frustration for the White House and its supporters is their belief that attitudes about the direction of the country ought to include strong data for job growth, low unemployment, higher average hourly earnings, and inflation coming off last year’s highs. Strong consumer spending would suggest people are not in a bad mood. But somehow, they are.
Joe’s Unprecedented Spending
The scope of the spending is mind-boggling, Mr. Henninger doesn’t really have to remind readers.
Beyond the initial direct Covid payments to individuals and expanded unemployment benefits, the administration has poured money into:
- veterans benefits
- child care
- food stamps
- ObamaCare expansions
- semiconductor production
- $400 billion (or so) on climate projects in the Inflation Reduction Act.
But There’s More …
Now throw in some $127 billion in student-debt cancellation, by the administration’s own latest estimate.
Beware “Targeted Investments”
In a long speech in Chicago last June, Joe Biden defended Bidenomics, a term first coined by the WSJ:
“Bidenomics, is about building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down.”
Mr. Henninger confesses that he can’t think of much of anything, including free-market economic theory, that builds from the “top down.” Well, maybe, thinks he, “Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX.”
But central to the modern Democratic Party’s pitch is what Mr. Biden variously calls “smart investments” or “targeted investments.”
Most Americans work in the real economy, which is to say the private sector of measurable profit and loss, for employers and themselves.
They live in the economic world as it exists now, not in some pie-in-the-sky promise progressives say they will deliver in 20 years. When Mr. Biden says, “We’re now investing in key industries of the future”—listing electric cars, batteries, and clean energy—why should voters be moved?
The auto workers struck in part because they believed battery-powered electric vehicles would displace jobs they have now.
Inflation may be a factor, but we need to consider whether the political failure of Bidenomics marks a historic turning point. The outlays were unprecedented.
But it looks like people may no longer be moved by the traditional Democratic strategy of transfers and targeting. In the real economy today, people want more say-so in where their own money goes.