Bidenomics continues to be a dismal failure


Yesterday, President Biden boasted, “Wages for working families have gone up while inflation has come down” — right around the same time that Bloomberg published a comprehensive review showing how Americans are paying considerably more for groceries, gas, housing, electricity, auto loans, credit-card interest rates, and insurance than they did before the pandemic. Are many Americans making more than they were in 2019? Sure, but they don’t feel like they’re keeping up, and they get reminded of that every time they go to the grocery store or fill up their gas tank.

President Biden, speaking yesterday at the White House:

You know, from turkey, to air travel, to a tank of gas, costs went down. They went down. Now, to people making a lot of money, that doesn’t matter a whole lot, because the costs are relatively small compared to wealthy incomes. In fact, as a share of earnings, this Thanksgiving dinner was the fourth-cheapest ever on record. And I want you all to know that. . . . Wages for working families have gone up while inflation has come down 65 percent — giving families a little more money in their pockets and a little more breathing room this holiday season.

That happy talk clashed with the eye-popping figures in the assessment from Bloomberg News, published right around the same time as Biden’s remarks:

After years of inflation, US consumers are shouldering a burden unlike anything seen in decades — even as the pace of price increases has slowed.

It now requires $119.27 to buy the same goods and services a family could afford with $100 before the pandemic. Since early 2020, prices have risen about as much as they had in the full 10 years preceding the health emergency.

It’s hard to find an area of a household budget that’s been spared: Groceries are up 25 percent since January 2020. Same with electricity. Used-car prices have climbed 35 percent, auto insurance 33% and rents roughly 20 percent.

Those figures help explain why Americans continue to register strong dissatisfaction with the economy: Consumers’ daily routines have largely returned to their pre-pandemic normal, but the cost of living has not.

And the government data reports that show easing inflation are cold comfort, because they simply indicate prices are growing at a slower pace, not that they are returning to early 2020 levels.

At the same time, housing affordability is at its worst on record, auto-loan rates have soared, and borrowing with a credit card has never been so expensive.

Many Americans have seen their pay rise rapidly since 2020, but much of those gains have been gobbled up by inflation. Some of the fastest wage increases in decades have left the average American largely no better off than before.

Biden boasted, “As a share of earnings, this Thanksgiving dinner was the fourth cheapest ever on record.” It will probably not surprise you that Biden and his team chose a very precise measurement from the American Farm Bureau Federation and ignored other measurements that were less flattering:

Every year since 1986, the federation has tracked the typical cost of a basket of Thanksgiving staples, including a 16-pound turkey, pumpkin pie mix, milk, a carrots-and-celery tray, rolls, pie crusts, green peas, fresh cranberries, whipping cream, sweet potatoes and cubed stuffing.

Since 2018, the group has calculated costs for both this “classic” dinner and an updated version that adds a 4-pound boneless ham, russet potatoes and green beans.

In the long view — looking only at the nominal cost and not adjusting for inflation or income — prices have been rising. Although the basic basket cost $28.74 in 1986, it now costs $61.17.

As [White House Press Secretary Karine] Jean-Pierre noted, that’s down from $64.05 for the classic meal in 2022.

The cost of the more expansive meal basket increased by $3.45 from 2022 to 2023; Jean-Pierre did not mention ham, potatoes or green beans in her briefing.

In fact, the actual release from the American Farm Bureau Federation declared:

Gathering around the table for a Thanksgiving dinner won’t take as much of a toll on your pocketbook this year compared to 2022, but the meal still reflects historically high costs. . . . This is a 4.5 percent decrease from last year’s record-high average of $64.05, but a Thanksgiving meal is still 25% higher than it was in 2019, which highlights the impact high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic.

Once again, the Biden team finds some small area of improvement, focuses the microscope upon that area, spikes the football, and hopes no one notices everything else. Unfortunately for Biden, people tend to notice how much they’re paying for groceries from week to week. As Bloomberg noted, “In October 2020, a Census Bureau survey showed a four-person household spent an average of $238.32 in a week on food at home. Three years later, a similar survey showed that figure had jumped to $315.22 — roughly 32% more.”

This same argument has been going on all year, with Democrats apparently sincerely believing they can convince Americans that they’re doing better by talking up certain economic statistics and hand-waving away things like: “Electricity bills have climbed 25 percent since January 2020, and natural gas is up 29% in the same time period.”

Biden and his staff measure inflation by the rate of increase in prices from one year to the next; the Consumer Price Index indicates prices grew 3.2 percent from October 2022 to October 2023. That is indeed significantly lower than the 7.7 percent in October 2022, or the 9.1 percent in June 2022, or the 6.2 percent in October 2021.

But the public’s perception of inflation is shaped by prices, not the rate of increase from one year to the next. And prices are still really high; that CPI figure is telling us we’re paying 3.2 percent more than the high prices of last year, which were almost 8 percent higher than the high prices of the year before that, which were 6 percent higher than the prices of the year before that. Remember, for a long stretch, the CPI was anywhere from zero to 2 or 2.5 percent year to year.

Biden keeps beating the drums for an argument that even people who like him don’t find plausible. As the New York Times put it this morning, “Even most Biden voters don’t see a thriving economy. . . . A majority of those who backed President Biden in 2020 say today’s economy is fair or poor, ordinarily a bad omen for incumbents seeking re-election.”

Biden’s team can, and will, argue that voters’ expectations are unfair, because their definitions of “normal” costs for food, housing, gas, etc., are from the end of 2019 and very beginning of 2020, before Covid-19 came along and turned our lives upside down, and roughly a year before Biden took office. But then, once Biden took office, he and congressional Democrats normalized the Covid-19 emergency budget — “A historic spending spree that kicked off with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. . . . During Biden’s first two years in office, he oversaw spending that was 40 percent higher than the pre-COVID 2019 budget.”

When you throw a whole lot of money into a country’s economy without a comparable increase in goods and services, you get inflation. As we learned in DuckTales, if you double the money in everyone’s pocket simultaneously, prices inevitably double, too. The president doesn’t have absolute control over the economy, but the long-standing national problem of too much money chasing too few goods is one that is a direct result of Biden’s getting what he wanted.

All over the media, you can hear voices almost attempting to shake the reader or viewer, demanding, “Why don’t you love this economy, and why won’t you give Biden credit for it?” Puck calls it “Biden’s Choose Your Own Adventure Economy.” The Atlantic attempts to explain “why Americans hate a good economy.” I suspect this perspective requires you to either have a wage increase that outpaces the rate of inflation over the past three years or an income so high that you don’t really notice price increases, or to be so blinded by partisanship that you have no qualms about attempting to gaslight people into believing that they’re doing better than they actually are.

One last thought: Once the pandemic started, Biden was pitched to America as the man who could get the country back to normal after the lockdowns, the skyrocketing unemployment, the George Floyd riots, etc. Well, the pandemic is long gone, and unemployment is low. But in many ways, we’re still living with the grim legacy of the pandemic. A lot of the downtowns of major cities never bounced back. Violent crime across the country is finally back down to pre-pandemic levels, but property crimes are 7 percent higher.

The New York Times editorial board lamented, “The school closures that took 50 million children out of classrooms at the start of the pandemic may prove to be the most damaging disruption in the history of American education. It also set student progress in math and reading back by two decades and widened the achievement gap that separates poor and wealthy children.”

The Pentagon is allowing soldiers who refused to get a Covid vaccine and who were discharged to rejoin the army, and has sent a letter to roughly 1,900 such former enlisted personnel inviting them to reapply. I don’t know about you, but that sort of news makes me question what the point of all that was.

Oh, and did you know many federal workers are still working from home?

From wtop.com:

The return by federal government employees appears much slower.

Office building badge swipes in downtown D.C. shows in-office attendance in midweek after Labor Day has averaged 56 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and it hit a post-pandemic high of 59 percent on the second Tuesday after Labor Day.

Metro ridership grew to an average of 60 percent of 2019 ridership in the three weeks after Labor Day, and hit a post-pandemic high of 65 percent on the third Wednesday after Labor Day.

The slower return of federal government employees remains a drag on both overall office occupancy rates and Metro ridership.

You can describe life in America at the tail end of 2023 in a lot of ways. But I doubt “normal” is the first word that comes to your mind.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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