How foolish is it to put your name on an unpopular policy? That’s what Joe Biden insists on doing, taking personal ownership of an economy that voters detest.
“Folks, ‘Bidenomics’ is just another way of saying the American Dream,” said President Biden at a recent campaign stop. But for many, Bidenomics seems like an ongoing nightmare. As a recent Washington Post article put it, Bidenomics is “great everywhere except in the polls.”
And the polls are brutal. The article cites a Bloomberg/Morning Consult survey from last month in which “Only 35% of voters in seven swing states trust Biden on the economy […] with 51% saying it was better under Donald Trump.” Ouch.
The Biden team clearly thinks they have a good story to tell; they keep going back to the Bidenomics pitch, and marvel that it isn’t working. The president is like an American tourist speaking English in Paris who thinks that by waving his arms and talking louder and louder, he’ll somehow break through.
The frustration is understandable. The economy just had a quarter of unusual growth, unemployment remains low and there are, according to the latest JOLTS report, plenty of jobs available. Moreover, the rate of inflation has definitely come down.
Why then this disconnect? Why are voters unhappy with Biden’s economic policies?
I suspect it’s because people’s actual experience doesn’t mimic the happy talk about inflation, and because there’s a sinking feeling that the economy is growing for all the wrong reasons. And, of course, many Americans rightly blame Joe Biden and his Democrat colleagues for spending too much money and tipping off inflation in the first place.
Let’s start with inflation. In a recent poll, 62 percent of registered voters said that they were “very concerned” about inflation; another 30 percent responded that they were “somewhat” concerned.
That survey was taken a week before Americans headed to the grocery store, only to find that the price of Halloween candy had shot up 13 percent, on top of a 20 percent hike the year before.
And if trick-or-treaters stopped by McDonald’s for a quick bite, they found themselves paying a whole lot more than expected. The hamburger giant reported a great third quarter, with revenues up 14 percent; much of the gain came from price hikes, which will probably total around 10 percent for this year, on top of a similar boost the year before.
Disney is raising its prices at its parks more than 8 precent on popular days, and the price tag on its Genie+ product just jumped 20 percent. In the third quarter just ended, Pepsi’s prices were 11 percent higher — the seventh quarter in a row that it recorded double-digit price hikes.
Meanwhile, if you’re a young family starting out and hoping to buy a home, you’re facing the worst affordability crisis in 40 years. The cost of buying a home has skyrocketed, thanks to a shortage of houses for sale and the rate on a 30-year mortgage soaring to 8 percent. The monthly charge for an average-priced house has doubled since the end of 2020, while prices are up 23 percent.
Have you looked into buying or leasing a new car recently? For people who normally lease their car for three years, getting new wheels means a monthly charge more than 40 percent higher than the amount they were paying before. No wonder auto loan delinquencies are shooting up.
We all see it. In New York, the local Chinese-owned laundry jacked up the price of washing and ironing a man’s dress shirt from $3 to $5 last year, the nearby hair salon is charging $50 for a blow-dry that used to cost $35, and a fancy breakfast spot a block from me is now charging $7 for a latte that last year fetched $5.50. New York City cab fares are more than 20 percent higher than they were a year ago; thanks to various extra fees and taxes, the meter reads $9.50 before you have gone a block. OK, it’s New York, but still…
Everywhere you look, prices are up — a lot more than the 3.7 percent annual inflation rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for September. It’s no wonder Americans are skeptical that the White House has brought inflation under control or that Bidenomics is working for them. There’s a sense that companies big and small are raising prices as fast as they can to stay ahead of rising costs, and that there’s no end in sight.
Meanwhile, polls show Americans think government spending is out of control, and rightly link excess spending with inflation. Much as the president claims to have cut the deficit, the numbers say otherwise. When ratings agencies warn of possible downgrades to U.S. debt and long-term rates move sharply higher, reflecting outsized borrowings by the Treasury to fund that debt, investors become anxious.
Bottom line: far too many Americans are feeling the pinch.
Target’s CEO appeared on CNBC just recently, commenting that consumers are “buying less stuff,” even in the food and beverage category. According to Brian Cornell, unit purchases in that department have trended down the last few quarters. Purchases of discretionary items like toys and apparel are down even more, with both dollars and units declining for seven consecutive quarters.
Concern about rising prices isn’t just hurting Biden’s approval numbers, it is also driving down sentiment. The Conference Board reported that U.S. consumer confidence fell to a five-month low in October, “weighed down by dimmer views of business conditions and concerns about high prices.” The University of Michigan, which similarly tracks confidence, also recorded a decline, and highlighted that inflation expectations increased in October to a five-month high.
Joe Biden is campaigning on an economic platform — big government, big spending and Big Labor – that isn’t working for the American people. He seems to be the only one who doesn’t know it.