Should Biden Downplay His Own Success?

The performance of America’s economy over the past two years has been remarkable, especially given the dire predictions of many observers. Remember the economists who forecast a recession in 2023? Remember all those warnings that getting inflation down would require years of high unemployment?

Instead, our economic growth has been the envy of other wealthy nations. Stocks are way up since President Biden took office. Inflation has declined sharply and unemployment is still below 4 percent. The latest numbers seem to support the view that the apparent acceleration of prices earlier this year was a statistical blip, and that disinflation is still on track.

Yet there’s still a lingering conventional wisdom that says Biden shouldn’t trumpet his economic record. The Washington Post’s editorial board just wrote that “Telling Americans the economy is good won’t work.” The Financial Times’s editorial board wrote that “The president’s state of the nation address in March was littered with superlatives about the economy” but that his messaging “risks negating the experience of voters on the ground” — basically saying that Biden shouldn’t talk about his economic achievements, even implying that he should try to relate to voters by acknowledging that the economic picture out there is bad, which it isn’t.

Now, I am neither a political strategist nor a political historian, but I think I know enough to say that a 21st-century replay of Jimmy Carter’s infamous so-called malaise speech would be a bad move.

That said, telling voters to buck up and realize how good they have it would also be a bad move. But has anyone in the Biden administration said anything like that? It would be pretty obtuse if they had. But I’m not aware of any examples. As far as I can tell, administration officials, including Biden himself, talk about low unemployment, falling inflation and rising real wages — and do so very carefully, studiously avoiding the bombast and excessive boasting so common in the previous administration. But even mentioning good economic news is supposedly an affront to everyday Americans because it amounts to denying their lived experience.

Which brings me to a point I’ve been pounding on for a while that bears repeating: There’s overwhelming evidence that most Americans’ negative views about the economy don’t reflect their lived experience.

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