Today is the official kickoff of the Biden campaign’s revamped economic message: “‘Bidenomics’ is working for America” and, as his press secretary put it, “people are feeling better about their personal finances.” It makes one wonder what people she is talking about or talking to.
In reality, President Joe Biden’s speech Wednesday in Chicago is likely going to be an imaginative, largely misleading take on the economy, designed to counteract Biden’s consistently bad polling numbers. But hard as Biden and his team might try to claw their way out of what is an economic mess of their own making, people aren’t buying it.
In Tuesday’s RealClearPolitics right direction/wrong track average, only 24 percent of voters thought the country was on the right track while 66 percent said the wrong track. The latest Winning the Issues (WTI) survey (conducted June 19-21), done by The Winston Group, found independents at 18 percent right direction and 67 percent wrong track. When voters were asked an economic right direction/wrong track question, the poll found 25 percent right direction to 61 percent who said the economy was on the wrong track.
The survey also asked voters whether they believed “the Biden administration has taken historic actions to lower costs for American families.” Biden was on the losing end, with 30 percent believing that statement and 59 percent not buying it.
Cutting to the chase, when asked if Biden’s economic plan was working, by a margin of 31 percent to 55 percent, people said they didn’t believe it was working. Even worse for the “Bidenomics” narrative, a significant majority of respondents said they don’t believe inflation is getting better: 22 percent better to 56 percent worse.
People simply don’t believe Biden’s claims about inflation, such as those he made in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“Our work isn’t done, but as supply chains continue to unsnarl, company profit margins fall from historically high levels, and rents continue to moderate, inflation should decline even further, creating more breathing room for working families,” the president wrote.
Biden seems to have forgotten that corporate tax revenues played a key part in a 43 percent increase in federal revenues over the past two years. Because the year-over-year Consumer Price Index inflation rate that reached 9.1 percent last June has come down to 4 percent, the media narrative, as CNN put it, asserts that inflation is “coming back down to earth.”
But here again, the media and the Biden team are missing the point. A better reflection of just how well “Bidenomics” is performing is the Winston Group’s Presidential Inflation Rate (PIR), which measures a president’s handling of inflation from their inauguration month to the month of the most recent CPI report. It helps explain the disconnect between the Biden economic narrative and the American public.
Biden’s PIR is based on the January 2021 CPI when he took office and the May 2023 CPI report. The percent difference between these two important index points gives us the overall price increase since Biden took office, a better measure of his policies than the year-over-year inflation rate increase or decrease. We do the same analysis for Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.
In April, Biden’s overall inflation rate had been 16 percent; in the May report, his inflation rate had increased to 16.3 percent, which means prices have gone up 16.3 percent since the beginning of his administration. Of the previous seven presidents, only Carter had a worse number.
For some additional context, in their first term, four presidents, Trump, Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton never had a 4 percent inflation rate or higher in any month. Collectively, that comes to 192 months without inflation at or over 4 percent.
In contrast, during his 29 months in office, Biden has had 26 months with inflation running hot — at over 4 percent, reaching a 40-year high of 9.1 percent last June. According to the PIR, looking at specific inflation categories, food prices are up 18.9 percent since the start of Biden’s term, a slight increase from last month. Gas prices have come down from their peak but are still at a staggeringly high 51.4 percent increase and electricity also remains high at 21.8 percent, a half-point decrease from last month.
Biden and company like to claim success on inflation; but compared to four recent former presidents, his inflation record is a clear weakness.
Last Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified before the House Financial Services Committee, telling members interest rate hikes may be on pause but aren’t over. His prepared remarks indicated that there is an expectation “that it will be appropriate to raise interest rates somewhat further by the end of the year.”
The Fed Chair reiterated his commitment to achieving his 2 percent inflation target but acknowledged that reaching that level has “a long way to go.” The Congressional Budget Office’s 2027 projection to reach 2 percent supports the argument that the “Bidenomics” recovery may overtake the Obama-Biden historically slow recovery from the Great Recession.
Unfortunately, cherry-picking and manipulating data to serve Biden’s reelection efforts has become the hallmark of the administration’s communications strategy, with no better example than a memo from West Wing aides Anita Dunn and Mike Donilon, released this week in the lead-up to the Chicago speech.
The memo’s title, “‘Bidenomics’ Is Turning the Page on Failed Trickle-Down Policies and Transforming Our Economy — And It Is Strongly Supported by the Vast Majority of Americans” — couldn’t be more misleading.
When the Winning the Issues survey asked participants whether Biden’s economic policies were correct or incorrect, only 31 percent said they were correct while 52 percent believed they were incorrect.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I doubt that Reagan would care that the Biden campaign has reached back to the 1980s for their newly minted campaign narrative. What he wouldn’t support are the big government, big spending policies that haven’t done the job — and the American people know it.
“Reaganomics,” the supply side policies of the 40th president, was scoffed at by Democrats, liberal economists and the media at the time. But the Reagan recovery proved them wrong and put the country’s economy back on a fast track. Critics had little to say when Reagan once joked, “I could tell our economic program was working when they stopped calling it ‘Reaganomics.’”
“Bidenomics” should be so lucky.
David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, as well as serving as an election analyst for CBS News.