How many inflation warnings has Biden ignored?


President Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he wakes up on the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday.


Photo:

Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg News

Readers of The New York Times might be intrigued by a headline on the newspaper’s website this week: “Biden Receives Early Warnings Immigration, Inflation Could Erod His Support.” Is this news? Especially when it comes to inflation, in 2021 it was striking that some prominent members of Obama’s economic team joined conservatives in urging the president not to light his desired bonfire of federal spending. But this week’s Times dispatch is nonetheless helpful in trying to understand the failures that haunt the Biden presidency.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report in The Times:

President Biden enjoyed great approval among Americans in the first months of his presidency. . . But privately, Mr Biden’s top pollster was already sounding the alarm that even with early successes, some mounting threats could lower support for the president and his party.

“Immigration is a growing vulnerability for the president,” warned John Anzalone and his team in a set of confidential polls, voter surveys and recommendations compiled for the White House. “Voters don’t feel like he has a plan to fix the situation at the border, and it’s starting to take its toll.”

In less than a month, there was another stark warning. “Nearly nine in 10 registered voters are also concerned about rising inflation,” said another memo obtained by The New York Times.

Since we’re talking about The Times, this column must issue the standard caveats against believing reports based on anonymous sources. According to this week’s report:

Mr Anzalone declined to comment. The documents were obtained from three people in the administration who had access to the survey data. They requested anonymity due to the confidential and sensitive nature of the documents.

Assuming the report is legitimate, the pollster appears to have offered helpful analysis that Mr. Biden has ignored. Specifically, and this shouldn’t have come as a shock, voters don’t like chaos at the border, in the streets or in the marketplace. They tend to oppose anarchy and favor sound money. The Timesfolk reports that a memo from Anzalone warned that crime was becoming a bigger concern for voters than coronavirus. The Times article adds:

. . . “The economy and inflation continue to dominate what’s on voters’ minds – and their attitudes keep getting worse, which continues to negatively impact the president’s job valuation. on the economy,” one of the memos said. “And we shouldn’t expect any positive movement in the short to medium term because voters not only feel embittered by the economy and inflation now, but voters also feel things are going the wrong way. wrong direction for the future.”

Proving that miracles never cease, Mr Biden seems to have found the rarest creature – an opinion poll expert who makes accurate calls. But based on the political choices of the White House, one can only conclude that the president did not believe him!

If only Mr. Biden had listened. Dan Balz, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement are now reporting on the latest Washington Post/ABC survey, which polling website FiveThirtyEight says is among the most accurate. Post reporters write:

More than 9 in 10 Americans say they are concerned, at a minimum, about the rate of inflation, which has hit a 40-year high in recent months. This includes 44% who consider themselves “upset.”

They have every right to be upset, and judging by the results of the Post/ABC survey, voters seem to assign blame appropriately. Post reporters note:

Biden’s worst ratings come from the overriding inflation issue, with 68% saying they disapprove versus 28% giving him positive ratings. The president is particularly weak on this issue among independents, who could hold the key to the outcome of many contested House and Senate races in November. Just over one in five independents, 22%, say they approve of Biden’s handling of the price hike.

What is particularly frustrating is that Mr Anzalone was not the only one trying to steer Mr Biden away from his reckless run. Yet with a series of key appointments, the president filled key economic policy posts in Washington with people who shared a bizarre determination to ignore the lessons of our economic and financial history. Jim Tankersley and Jeanna Smialek reported in The New York Times in February 2021:

Presidents who find themselves emerging from recessions have long heeded the warnings of inflation-obsessed economists, who fear that aggressive action to stimulate a struggling economy could lead to a return of the monstrous price increases that have plagued the country in the 1970s.

Now, as President Biden pushes ahead with his plans for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, he and his top economic advisers are brushing aside those warnings, as is the Federal Reserve under Chairman Jerome H. Powell.

What would Americans give today for a few inflation-obsessed economists! This Times report from early 2021 continued:

House Democrats plan to spend this week finalizing Mr. Biden’s plan to inject nearly $2 trillion into the economy, including direct checks to Americans and more generous unemployment benefits. . .

The Fed and the administration are staying the course despite growing outcry from some economists across the political spectrum, including Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary and top adviser to the Clinton and Obama administrations, who say Mr Biden’s plans could provoke a whirlwind. of the price increase.

No one personifies the sudden break after decades of inflation worry better – in Washington and in elite economic circles – than Janet L. Yellen, the former Federal Reserve Chair and current Secretary at the Treasury. . .

“I spent many years studying inflation and worrying about inflation,” Ms Yellen told CNN earlier this month. “But we are facing a huge economic challenge here and huge suffering in the country. We have to solve this problem. This is the biggest risk. »

What would we do without experts? Ms Yellen appears to have bought into Biden’s fantasy that the country was an economic shambles when he took office, even though in the first quarter of 2021, the US economy grew at a real rate above 6%. This column warned in January 2021:

By any reasonable measure, the economy does not need a “bailout”. So, in the spirit of unity, how can sensible Democrats explain to President Joe Biden that his spending plans may be wasteful, unrelated to the issues at hand, and dangerous to an economy in which the federal debt now exceeds the GDP?

In March of last year, this column observed:

Since last March, politicians have managed to get away with shutting down heavily indebted economies, then borrowing and printing money as a substitute. Now many are determined to ignore almost all of human history before 2008 and conclude that there really is no limit to a public treasury’s ability to issue debt, much of which is then bought up by a another arm of the government with money created out of thin air. air.

Speaking of the latter, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve still isn’t worried about inflation, nor is the Treasury secretary, even as their political colleagues in Washington engage in a historic bidding war for discretionary items that are not even closely related to the Covid Crisis.

Now comes the political balance sheet.

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James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival”.

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