It’s not surprising that the political right continues to gripe about the U.S economy and, in particular, inflation. In a nation that’s overcome a devastating pandemic, charted a course to a dramatic and sustained economic recovery, rebuilt its international reputation as an opponent of tyranny, and returned competence and honesty to the federal government, critics of President Joe Biden don’t have a lot of cards to play.
And given that we live in an era in which snake oil marketers flood various media with preposterous, sky-is-falling ads about the supposed “imminent collapse of the U.S. banking system” and demonstrably false claims about the “soaring” price of gasoline, it’s little surprise that feckless politicians bereft of original ideas would try to stoke and play on people’s fears — however wildly unfounded they might be.
Now add the fact that if Biden personally came up with a cure for cancer and solved the crisis in the Middle East on the same day that he ran a sub-four-hour marathon, Fox News would still call him a doddering old man unfit for office, and things become even clearer.
The undeniable truth is, that much as it might pain the millions of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum for whom doomsaying and pessimism have become a kind of perverse faith, the economic news as Biden nears the end of his third year in office is remarkably good.
Here are some simple and encouraging truths to consider and discuss at your holiday season gatherings:
The inflation news continues to improve
As Professor Michael Walden – an economist long connected to the conservative John Locke Foundation – explained recently, inflation numbers are looking better and better.
Walden noted that the year-over-year inflation rate fell to 3.2% in October. Indeed, energy prices are down, housing prices have leveled off a great deal, and as Walden notes, the economy appears more and more to be headed for a so-called “soft landing,” in which the inflation rate is moderated without causing a recession.
This encouraging news is actually not as surprising as it might seem in some corners. Knowledgeable observers predicted and have repeatedly explained that the daunting inflation that followed the pandemic was both to be expected and largely unavoidable when a rapid, post-pandemic spike in global demand for goods and services collided with unprecedented supply chain issues.
What’s more, as painful as the nation’s bout with inflation has been, for most Americans, it’s been a darn sight better than years of recession and high unemployment that would likely have resulted had conservative demands to slash spending on relief programs and infrastructure prevailed.
Middle class workers are more numerous and better off
Even better than the good inflation news are the closely related reports which show that Americans are employed in record numbers at rising wage levels. During the pandemic, U.S unemployment soared. For a brief time in 2020, it approached 15%. It was still near 7% when Biden took office. Today, it’s less than 4%.
Meanwhile, in a resurgence of victories reminiscent of the prosperous mid-20th Century, labor unions in multiple industries have won significant wage and benefit hikes (often with direct White House support) and experienced significant membership bumps. These wins, in turn, will likely spur similar advances in other non-unionized industries.
There’s more work to do
As encouraging as the news on the inflation and employment fronts is, the rising economic tide has yet to live all boats. Poverty remains a plague. Across North Carolina, thousands of children still go hungry and the homeless populate our city streets, suburban shopping centers and highway underpasses.
During the pandemic, the administration won the passage of humane and affordable policies – like expanding the Child Tax Credit and prioritizing affordable housing — that put a sizable dent in poverty, but tragically, Republicans in Congress resisted the President’s efforts to renew them. The same has occurred with administration efforts to provide student loan debt relief.
And so here we are: in some ways, better off than ever, but still plagued by needless suffering.
Interestingly, for all their complaints, Biden administration critics advance little in the way of plausible alternative policies.
After having looked the other way during the Trump years as the federal deficit soared, Republicans are again playing the role of deficit hawks and championing big cuts to core services like health and education.
But they display no appetite for raising either the minimum wage or taxes on the wealthy. And how such a Scrooge-like approach could plausibly make a positive impact on the lives of average families of low and middle income remains a perpetually unexplained mystery.
In short, while critics will continue to do their utmost to paint a picture of doom and gloom, America’s economic news is mostly good. And if those naysayers would get serious about governing, work with the administration, and allow the country to sort through the culture war divide on another channel, it might just get even better very soon.