Biden makes peace with "Bidenomics"
Why it matters: Biden's embrace of a term he's expressed some ambivalence about will fully align him with a White House communications shop that wants to run on the president's economic record and legislative accomplishments in 2024.
- Biden’s top advisers have made a strategic decision to own the economy, calculating that Republicans will try to blame them for a slowdown regardless if it’s real or imaginary.
- With the debt ceiling raised and the Fed’s rate-hiking plans out of Biden’s control, the battle over the economy in the next 16 months will be about perceptions.
What they're saying: "Bidenomics is working,” the president declared in a speech Wednesday in Chicago, where he's expected to accept the Democratic nomination in a little over a year. "The trickle-down approach failed the middle class.”
Driving the news: Biden began a day that was supposed to be dedicated to owning his economic achievements by quibbling with reporters on the origins of the term "Bidenomics."
- "You guys branded it. I didn't,” he said over the whine of Marine One’s engines. "I never called it Bidenomics.”
- "Let's get it straight: The first time it was used was in the Wall Street Journal. OK? I don’t go around beating my chest, 'Bidenomics,'" Biden said, repeating his case for the word’s etymology.
Asked if he doesn't like the term, Biden then allowed: "It’s fine. Yeah, it’s fine, because it is my policy.”
- By the time he addressed a friendly audience at the historic Post Office building in downtown Chicago, Biden's endorsement was more full-throated.
- “It’s a plan I am happy to call Bidenomics," he said to applause.
The intrigue: The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip used the term in a neutral way on April 7, 2021, writing that "while the successor to neoliberalism lacks a label, Bidenomics will do for now."
- But the White House thinks the term came into the public domain via C-SPAN, courtesy of an insult from then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in May 2021.
- Republicans are determined not to let the term be redefined, with McCarthy tweeting a ripoff of a White House graphic that reads: "Bidenomics is about blind faith in government spending and regulations."
The big picture: There are two undeniable — and contradictory — realities about the U.S. economy in 2023: The numbers are impressive, but Americans aren’t feeling it.
- Consumer confidence is surging and recorded its highest level since early 2022. New orders for durable goods jumped 1.7% last month for the third straight month of gain. May’s Labor Department report showed that the economy added 339,000 jobs.
- The so-called "misery index" — a mix of unemployment rate and inflation — has dropped significantly over the last year, Axios’ Neil Irwin notes.
The other side: And yet, only 1 in 4 Americans report that the country’s economic conditions are in good shape, according to a May poll from AP-NORC.
What we’re watching: Those two dynamics will make the battle for the economy in 2024 largely a communication fight, in which both sides won't be shy about cherry-picking data.
- Republicans will focus on inflation — which remains stubbornly high — and a decline in real wages. And GOP operatives will be ready to pounce on any uptick in unemployment or downtick in growth.
- Biden will continue to talk about the 13 millions jobs (and counting) created on his watch, and historic investments in infrastructure and semiconductors.