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Joe, Bidenomics, and the American people

President Biden talks — and spends — as though the economy is awful, while his aides scratch their heads wondering why voters think the economy is awful. Maybe a mirror would help them understand.

The U.S. is not in a recession right now, but many people think it is. A Guardian/Harris poll from late May found that 56 percent of Americans believe the U.S. is in a recession, and 58 percent hold Biden responsible for it. This has led to lots of exasperated commentary about why more Americans aren’t happy with Bidenomics.

There are two simple explanations for that: the accumulated effects of inflation, which is still not back at 2 percent like it’s supposed to be, and much higher rates on home and car loans than in recent memory. The unemployment rate is very low, and the economy is growing (albeit slowly), yet those cost pressures are real and dispiriting.

But voters aren’t the only ones who are acting like the economy is worse than it is. Joe Biden is, too, and his words and actions are contributing to the “vibecession” that he and his political allies are trying to erase.

Everywhere you turn in Joe Biden’s framing of the American economy, there’s somebody ripping you off or keeping you down. Here’s an alphabetical list of things, people, places, or organizations that are economically oppressing Americans, according to speeches made by Joe Biden in the past two months:

Asia. “Even though America invented these advanced chips, we don’t make any of them today — zero, zero. All manufacturing of leading-edge chips moved to Asia years ago.”

Big Pharma. “We pay more for prescription drugs than any other advanced nation in the world.”

Billionaires. “Look, billionaires pay their fair share, not only would it sa- — not only reduce the deficit, but it could provide childcare, eldercare, paid leave, and so much more to change the lives of millions of Americans, as well as grow our economy.”
Cheap ships. “That’s why my administration takes it very seriously that U.S. Steelworkers, along with four other unions, have asked us to investigate whether the Chinese government is using anticompetitive practices to artificially lower prices in the shipbuilding industry.”

Cheap solar panels. “They’re driving manufacturing companies out of business in Europe. But we won’t let that happen here in America.”

Cheap steel. “Back in 2000, when cheap steel from China began to flood the market, U.S. steel towns across Pennsylvania and Ohio were hit hard. . . . More than [18,000] ironworkers and steelworkers in Pennsylvania and Ohio lost their jobs.”
China. “China heavily subsidized all these products, pushing Chinese companies to produce far more than the rest of the world can absorb. And then dumping the excess products onto the market at unfairly low prices, driving other manufacturers around the world out of business.”

Climate-change deniers. “Anyone in or out of government who willfully denies the impacts of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future — and the world, I might add. They want to take us backwards, sideline our workers, let China and others lead the race for clean energy.”

College debt. “I’ve forgiven an awful lot of debt from the folks who have college debt — and billions of dollars of it — so people can start their lives again, people be in a good shape.”

Corporate greed. “We’re talking [sic] on corporate greed to bring down the price of gas, food, and rent; eliminating junk fees.”

Corporate landlords. “We’re cracking down on corporate landlords [to] keep rents down.”

Corporations. “Corporations look for the cheapest labor in the world, sent the jobs — sent the product to those — sent the jobs to those laborers, whether they’re in Asia or Europe, wherever they were, and then they sent the product back home.”

Donald Trump. “The guy we’re running against wants to back up all the — all the prospects, all the progress we made.”

Energy bills. “Energy costs are among the biggest costs for families to budget, particular poor and middle-income families. In fact, low-income families can spend up to 30 percent of their paychecks on their energy bills. It’s outrageous.”

Every presidential administration since the 1930s. “And past administrations, including my predecessor, failed to uphold that ‘Buy American’ provision. Not anymore. That’s — that’s over. We — American products and American workers.”

Factory closures. “Factories like BCS Automotive over in Auburn, where her family lived, shut down. Twenty-two thousand local jobs disappeared in the Syracuse region. That’s a story seen in community after community nationwide: hollowed out, robbed of hope.”

Federal data on race and ethnicity. “By disaggregating data on a community that’s so diverse, we can better serve the entire community. After all, if our government doesn’t really see the difference between Korean Americans distinctly from Filipino Americans, how in the hell can they address the needs of each community?”

Fortune 500, the. “And I looked out there, and there were — there were 40 — there were 50 cor- — 50 corporations of the Fortune 500 who made $40 billion and didn’t pay a single penny in tax.”

Highways. “We’re reconnecting Black neighborhoods cut off by old highways and decades of disinvestment, including here in Detroit.”

House Republicans. “Everything you let me do, everything you helped me do, everything we’ve done, they want to undo — from the climate legislation to taking — not allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.”

Imports. “Instead of importing foreign products, we’re exporting — and exporting American jobs, we’re exporting American products and creating American jobs here in America where they belong.”

Internet bills. “It’s not enough to just have Internet access. It needs to be affordable. That’s why my administration is saving families around $30 a month on their Internet bills.”

Lack of universal pre-K. “But one year of universal, high-quality pre-K could eliminate 98 percent of that gap. Just one year.”
Lead pipes. “Lead service lines pose a severe health risk, damaging the brain and kidneys. In children especially, they stunt growth, slow learning, and cause lasting brain damage.”

Legacy of discrimination. “Because of the nation’s legacy of discrimination, the Black children start school with an average of seven months behind their white peers in reading.”

Mexico. “We know that Chinese steel and aluminum are being imported into America through Mexico that avoids the tariff.”
NLRB, the. “Trump put union busters on the Nabor La- — the National Labor Relations Board throughout his administration. I’ve appointed people in my administration that actually care about American workers.”

Oil companies. “[Trump’s] determined to get rid of my climate law, and he’s just flat out saying it, because the oil companies hate it.”

Overdraft fees. “It used to be — like now, you bounce a check at your bank, and you’re likely to be charged between $35 and $50 for that bank overcharge. Guess what? They can’t now charge more than $8.”

Removal of shop class from schools. “A significant number of public schools did away with it. So many young people who are qualified and want to and are capable who are going to never know that they had that capacity.”

Semiconductor shortage. “That semiconductor shortage drove one third of the surge in inflation in 2021, caused long wait lines of all kinds of products.”

Some forces. “But we know, 70 years after Brown v. Board, there are some forces trying to deny freedom of opportunity for all Americans.”

Super wealthy, the. “Instead of giving multibillion-dollar breaks to the super wealthy, let’s make the wealthy began [sic] to pay their fair share of taxes.”

Supreme Court, the. “When the Supreme Court told me I couldn’t [forgive college debt], I found two other ways to do it. And we were able to do it, because it grows the economy.”

Trickle-down economics. “And then came trickle-down economics — cut taxes for the very wealthy and biggest corporations beginning in the ‘60s. We shipped American jobs overseas because labor was cheaper. We slashed public investment in education and innovation. And the result: We hollowed out the middle class.”

Wall Street. “I want to remind everybody: Wall Street didn’t build America. The middle class built America.”

Wealthy, the. “We used to have this theory in American economics, which was everything would trickle down. You know, like, if the wealthy did very well, there’d be enough left over for everybody else. My dad used to have a — an expression. He said, ‘Nothing trickled down on our table, Joey. Nothing trickled down on our table.’”

Xenophobes. “We’re not xenophobic. We’re able to grow the economy because we have workers coming in.”

Because I limited myself to just Biden’s speeches from the past two months, I did not include earlier economic oppressors such as meat-packing companies, ocean carriers, airlines, gas stations, stock buybacks, or bags of chips.

It’s true that Biden also regularly talks about the number of jobs created during his administration, which might sound like it would help correct misimpressions of recession. But creating jobs is the sort of thing politicians loved to talk about during the Great Recession. When he says things such as, “I know what it’s like when your parents have to move the family in search of work because there’s no jobs, what it does to the family’s dignity,” or talks about the need for “a little breathing room,” that sure makes it sound like the economy is in rough shape.

Biden also likes to brag about programs such as the Climate Corps, which is explicitly modeled on make-work programs from the Great Depression. If the economy is so great, why do we need make-work jobs? Why do we need a new FDR, as Biden likes to think of himself, to remake the economy?

Three of Biden’s favorite lines also contribute to the impression that things are worse than they are. He regularly closes speeches by saying some variation of: “We’re the only nation in the world that’s come out of every crisis we’ve gone into stronger than we went in.” He also frequently says, “We have to build the economy from the middle out and the bottom up.” And his campaign is based on the “great American comeback story.” Whatever we’re supposed to be coming back from or rebuilding after, it sounds terrible.

Most of the time, Biden brings up these economic oppressors to argue for either a new regulation or a new spending program. The U.S. economy is a scary place where individuals are constantly in need of government help to get by, according to Biden. Can you blame them for thinking that might mean we’re in a recession?

And Biden budgets as though we’re in a recession. Despite low unemployment rates, the federal government is running an enormous deficit. And because of spending coming in even greater than expected, the Congressional Budget Office revised its deficit projection upward by $400 billion on Tuesday, forecasting a $1.9 trillion deficit this fiscal year.

Biden only ever wants higher spending in the future, according to his budget from this year. Biden requested a $1.8 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2025. That’s not how you budget for a booming economy. That’s how you budget in a recession.

It’s true that most voters don’t pay attention to the budget. But all that extra government spending keeps pressure on inflation by flooding the economy with cash, and the borrowing it necessitates keeps pressure on interest rates and crowds out private investment. Voters do pay attention to those results, and they don’t like them.

If Biden and his allies are worried about the bad “vibes” in the economy, they should probably stop contributing to them with the constant narrative of economic victimization and a steady diet of policies and government spending that better fit a recession than an expansion.

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