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Embracing ‘Bidenomics’ term, president seeks credit for economy

The administration is on a full-court press for economic credit

President Joe Biden heads to Chicago on Wednesday to tout his economic policies.
President Joe Biden heads to Chicago on Wednesday to tout his economic policies. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House is taking full credit for the economy this week ahead of a major speech by President Joe Biden to tout “Bidenomics.”

The speech on Wednesday in Chicago, which is timed to coincide with a 2024 campaign fundraising trip, comes as the administration tries to deal with an apparent disconnect between public perceptions about the economy and actual economic conditions.

“What I would say is that the president’s economic policies are incredibly popular,” Olivia Dalton, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, said Tuesday. “When you ask people what they think about investing in our roads, bridges and airports, when you ask people what they think about educating and empowering workers, when you ask people about how they feel about reshoring manufacturing jobs and investing in America, those things are incredibly popular.”

Biden has long argued in favor of economic policies designed to build from the “bottom up” and from the “middle out” rather than the “top down.”

“We decided to replace this theory with what the press has now called ‘Bidenomics.’ I don’t know what the hell that is,” the president said at a June 17 political rally with organized labor in Philadelphia. “But it’s working.”

Now, heading into reelection, the president and his supporters need to make the case that it is actually working, and embracing and explaining “Bidenomics” has been a goal the president and his administration set for this week.

In a Monday memo, Biden senior advisers Anita Dunn and Mike Donilon made the case that the president’s economic plan was working as designed.

“Better pay and other Biden Administration policies have helped put middle class Americans into stronger financial position than they were in pre-pandemic — despite the global challenge of Inflation,” they wrote. “Americans have higher net worths and higher real disposable incomes today than they did before the pandemic.”

Among the successes touted by Dunn and Donilon on the inflation front were efforts to bring down costs through increased competition on products and the approval of the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids.

“After ocean shipping costs increased as much as tenfold during the pandemic — driving up prices for a variety of consumer goods — the President worked with Congress to enact an overhaul of ocean shipping laws to encourage competition and protect both American importers and exporters,” Dunn and Donilon wrote.

Speech has risks

The strategy is not without risk, since Wednesday’s speech could provide fodder for an endless loop of Republican campaign ads if economic conditions falter going into the general election next year.

The president launched the latest “Invest in America” roadshow Monday with an event at the White House to announce $42 billion in high-speed broadband investments from bipartisan infrastructure law funds for communities across the country, and there are plenty of additional announcements to come.

Republicans contend that what the president’s team is trying to sell is not representative of what people are experiencing.

“The Biden administration is in a fantasy world, insisting their ‘policy has indeed worked.’ Americans don’t want Biden to ‘finish the job,’” Tommy Pigott, the Republican National Committee’s rapid response director, said Tuesday, citing polling including from a Harvard University/Harris survey showing a clear majority said their economic situation is not getting better.

Dalton and National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard faced questions Tuesday about inflation and specific sectors of the economy that are not going as smoothly, including recent reports of layoffs at the Ford Motor Co.

‘Swift and decisive actions’

“Right now, the United States is in a better position on inflation than any other major economy, and why is that? It’s because the president took a number of swift and decisive actions to make sure that we got our economy on track, that we got ourselves open and chugging along again,” Dalton said.

“There have been these … repeated predictions, and yet what we’ve seen in the actual data has been a lot of resilience,” Brainard said in response to a question about the chances of avoiding a U.S. recession. “We’re continuing to see [a] strong labor market, low unemployment. We’ve actually seen that stretch of a strong labor market improve due to the very large increase we’ve seen in participation of working-age Americans. And so there are reasons to think that we are going to continue to see resilience against a backdrop of what we have referred to as more stable economic growth.”

One area of ongoing concern is in the commercial office real estate market, which has faced ongoing headwinds because of the transition of office-based workers to more remote and hybrid environments.

“Some of the other areas of commercial real estate have actually been doing quite well, like industrial, and even retail has been doing better. Multifamily has been doing very well,” said Brainard, formerly a vice chair of the Federal Reserve. “Of course, we’re very attentive to where those financial risks may lie, and so far, they seem to be being managed pretty well.”

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