Articles

Biden’s State of the Union Was a Bad Bet

February 09, 2023
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President Joe Biden considers himself a blue-collar working stiff from middle America. But another side of Scranton Joe was on display in his State of the Union address Tuesday night: a high-rolling gambler.

His speech was one gigantic political bet. Team Biden knows that Americans feel both that the economy is in bad shape and that things have gotten worse for their families since he took office. Workers’ wages rose less than prices last year, which probably explains these sour feelings. 

This—along with his malaprops and advanced age—have left only about a quarter of Americans confident in his ability to run the White House. Only 37% of Democrats want him to run again. Lest anyone think things are on an upswing: It was 52% before the midterms. 

Even last month’s jobs numbers haven’t helped Mr. Biden. In a Feb 1. Washington Post/ABC poll, 60% of respondents say Mr. Biden hasn’t made progress in “creating more good jobs” in their communities. That’s part of the president’s bigger problem: 62% say he has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing” while in the Oval Office.

It’s remarkable then that Tuesday Mr. Biden doubled down. He’s betting big that the economy is already turning around. He crowed loudly about its improving state, rewrote history where needed (“two years ago, the economy was reeling”) and urged Americans to “finish the job.” That phrase was the subject line of a fundraising email he sent at 10:24 p.m. asking for $7 for the DNC, apparently while in the limo back to the White House. Now we know his 2024 re-election slogan.

Will staying the course work for Mr. Biden? Maybe. That strategy paid off for Ronald Reagan, who had worse polling and economic numbers at this point in his first term. But Mr. Reagan had something Mr. Biden doesn’t have—a good plan. While Fed Chairman Paul Volcker was aggressively stamping out inflation, Mr. Reagan was cutting taxes, slashing red tape and unnecessary regulation, freeing up the economy, reining in Washington’s spending, and creating confidence through an optimistic but realistic conversation about the nation’s challenges.

By contrast, Mr. Biden raised taxes, dramatically scaled up the regulatory burden, puffed up domestic government spending, and undermined public confidence with his bumbling ways. On Tuesday he advocated for more of the same for the next two years. House Republicans will, of course, keep this from happening. But if the economy recovers, the president will argue it was in spite of GOP intransigence. If inflation doesn’t dissipate or a recession arrives, Mr. Biden will blame Republicans. 

The president also signaled he’ll adopt a left-populist tone for his re-election. On Tuesday he went after the oil and gas industry, billionaires who don’t pay taxes, credit-card companies, airlines, banks and internet and wireless network providers. He promised each would be the object of legislative proposals.

President Joe Biden considers himself a blue-collar working stiff from middle America. But another side of Scranton Joe was on display in his State of the Union address Tuesday night: a high-rolling gambler.

His speech was one gigantic political bet. Team Biden knows that Americans feel both that the economy is in bad shape and that things have gotten worse for their families since he took office. Workers’ wages rose less than prices last year, which probably explains these sour feelings. 

This—along with his malaprops and advanced age—have left only about a quarter of Americans confident in his ability to run the White House. Only 37% of Democrats want him to run again. Lest anyone think things are on an upswing: It was 52% before the midterms. 

Even last month’s jobs numbers haven’t helped Mr. Biden. In a Feb 1. Washington Post/ABC poll, 60% of respondents say Mr. Biden hasn’t made progress in “creating more good jobs” in their communities. That’s part of the president’s bigger problem: 62% say he has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing” while in the Oval Office.

Read More at the WSJ

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