In a written statement released Thursday, President Biden crowed, “For months, doomsayers have been arguing that the U.S. economy is in a recession and congressional Republicans have been rooting for a downturn.” But here, he said, was evidence of an economic recovery. “Our economy has created 10 million jobs, unemployment is at a 50 year low, and U.S. manufacturing is booming,” he continued. “Today’s data shows that in the third quarter, Americans’ incomes were up and price increases in the economy came down.” He acknowledged that more had to be done on inflation but happily pointed out: “Even with our historic economic recovery, gas prices are falling.”
While this might seem unduly rosy, Biden is striving to set up a contrast in the final run up to the election. “Congressional Republicans have a very different agenda — one that would drive up inflation and add to the deficit by cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations,” he said in his written statement. “It would raise the cost of prescription drugs, health care, and energy for American families.”
Later at a community college in Syracuse, N.Y., Biden reiterated his central message: “It’s been a rough few years for a lot of people I grew up with, hard-working Americans. For a lot of families, things are still tough,” Biden said. “But there are bright spots out there where America is reasserting itself.” He boasted about a $100 billion investment over 20 years from Micron in chip manufacturing; the creation of nearly 700,000 manufacturing jobs; and 5.4 million new small businesses.
Moreover, Biden’s emphasis on manufacturing recovery provides a counterargument for Democrats in tough races, such as Ohio Senate nominee Tim Ryan. Ryan has emphasized efforts to bring back hard-hit areas of his state, arguing in a recent debate with Republican opponent J.D. Vance, “I’m not going to apologize for spending 20 years slogging away to try to help one of the hardest economically hit regions of Ohio.” He contrasted his work with Vance’s remark that some jobs just aren’t coming back, which Ryan described as evidence that Vance has “given up” on Ohio workers.
Biden, in the days before the midterms, comes back to his question: What are Republicans for? In Syracuse, he listed what they are against and plan to reverse including prescription drug cost containment measures and green energy subsidies. He called Republicans’ plan to give power back to Big Pharma to set drug prices, eliminate the $35 cap on insulin, undo green energy investments and get rid of the newly instituted minimum corporate tax rate “reckless and irresponsible.” He argued they would make inflation worse, and he panned Republicans for suggesting they would shut down the government if they don’t get their way on entitlement cuts.
In a nutshell, Democrats’ closing argument asks voters to make a choice: Do they want the side that brought investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, lower health-care costs, lots of jobs and perhaps some sign of relief from inflation? Or do they want the side promising chaos and supply-side economics?
Even if Biden’s message isn’t persuasive enough to hold off Republicans in the midterms, his argument should serve as a reminder that he’s had significant success in fulfilling his economic vision with huge investment in infrastructure and high tech manufacturing while raising taxes on big corporations. That’s his vision of an economy built “from the bottom up and the middle out.”
Of course, there are many things standing in his way going forward. This includes not only a MAGA party that aims to wreak havoc on the economy and undermine democracy, but also significant economic headwinds. This includes a war in Europe, which continues to push up energy costs, and a Federal Reserve trying to pull off the nearly-impossible “safe landing.” Plus, inflation will make further domestic spending (such as his massively expensive student loan debt forgiveness plan) more difficult.
Given all that, he should enjoy the tidbit of good economic news while he can.