President Biden’s attempt to earn a second term in the White House begins with a concerted campaign to claim credit for what he describes as a record-breaking economic revival in America.
Mr. Biden will make that case in what his aides say is a “cornerstone” speech on Wednesday, using the backdrop of the Old Chicago Main Post Office to reassert the lasting benefits of “Bidenomics” as the 2024 campaign cycle heats up.
He will argue that his willingness to plunge the American government more directly into supporting key industries like silicon chips has revitalized manufacturing. He will say investments in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure will pave the way for future growth. And he will insist that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs like student debt relief will let more people find their way to a comfortable, middle class life.
“Since the president has taken office, 13 million jobs have been created,” Lael Brainard, Mr. Biden’s top economic adviser, said Tuesday. “The unemployment rate is near historic lows, below 4 percent for the longest stretch in nearly 50 years. And we’ve received record low unemployment for groups that too frequently have been left behind.”
The boasting about Mr. Biden’s economic achievements is a calculated shift from the more cautious approach of his first two years, when millions of Americans were still struggling to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic on their financial well-being.
And the positive spin from the president and his advisers largely ignores the frustrations of many Americans who are still suffering from the effects of high inflation, interest rates that make borrowing more expensive, and the expense of everyday spending on necessities like health care, child care, groceries, gas and more.
“While families suffer, the Biden administration is in a fantasy world, insisting their ‘policy has indeed worked,’” Tommy Pigott, a spokesman for the National Republican Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Americans don’t want Biden to ‘finish the job.’”
Mr. Pigott cited figures showing that the price of a gallon of gas remains about a dollar higher than it was when Mr. Biden took office, despite declines since the price shocks when Russia invaded Ukraine. He said numbers from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association show about 20 million Americans are behind on their utility bills.
But administration officials are betting that with the pandemic largely in the rear view mirror, people will soon begin to appreciate the positive effect they say the president’s policies are having on their own lives.
“I think people all across the United States of America are starting to see shovels in grounds in their communities,” said Olivia Dalton, the deputy White House press secretary. “As we get further into implementation, people are going to continue to feel that. They’re going to continue to see that and they’re going to continue to hear from this president about how we’re going to continue to make progress for them.”
For now, most Americans have refused to give Mr. Biden the kind of credit that he and his advisers say he deserves. Polls show that about three-fourths of those surveyed believe the country under Mr. Biden’s leadership is on the wrong track. Only about a third say they approve of his handling of the economy.
The president’s advisers say they believe it will take time for two things to happen: First, Americans must shake off the economic hangover from the pandemic. And second, they must begin feel the benefits of Mr. Biden’s policies in action.
“People are just starting to see the impact of all of the successes of the last couple of years under this president’s economic agenda,” said Olivia Dalton, the deputy White House press secretary.
Eventually, Mr. Biden will have to shift his focus to the future, and make specific promises to Americans about what kinds of new economic policies he would pursue in a second term.
That could include making progress on the economic pledges he had to abandon as he made legislative compromises since taking office. He failed to win sufficient support for his proposals to roll back tax cuts implemented by former President Donald J. Trump. He also dropped proposals for universal preschool, free community college and heavily subsidized child care.
Michael D. Shear is a veteran White House correspondent and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was a member of the team that won the Public Service Medal for Covid coverage in 2020. He is the co-author of “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” @shearm
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