Did you see Biden’s Chicago speech on “Bidenomics,” which happened last Wednesday, June 28? I happened to turn on the TV around noon just to check on what was going on in the world just as his speech was starting. I watched the whole thing and thought it was terrific.
Now we all know that Biden is not an inspiring speaker. Now in his 80s, his voice is hoarse, and he tends to slur words and occasionally stumble through sentences. Part of this may be due to his childhood stutter, which he has struggled with in the past and mostly overcome, and part to his age.
(I am nine months older than he is and know what aging is like. Would I consider a run for president, assuming incorrectly that I was qualified? Heavens no! Nor would anyone I know who is my age, but, hey, we are not going there in this blog post.)
In any event, Biden is surely no John Kennedy or Barack Obama. However, if you can get past his delivery and listen to what he is saying, he often makes sense. And in my view, he has been an effective and good president. Actually, taking into consideration the hand he was dealt with all the MAGA backlash and Republican Trump-sycophants and election deniers, I would say he has been a great president. And in this speech on economics, I believe he nailed it. We Dems finally may have a message which might be a compelling rallying cry going forward.
So what is Bidenomics? This was originally a derogatory term, coined by the Wall Street Journal when referring to Biden’s economic policies, which they despise. The scary thing for us Democrats is that polls currently show a majority of Americans agreeing with the Wall Street Journal, think our economy is in bad shape, and give Biden low marks on his economic agenda and on his presidency. Not fair if you ask me but also not a good sign if you are trying to get reelected. The Biden speech on Wednesday transformed the negative and pejorative meaning of the word to a positive one and directly challenged the Republicans on the economy. He compared Bidenomics with the “Trickle Down Economics” of the Republican Party. Here were his main points:
- Biden’s economic agenda, Bidenomics, involves funding large projects which address our aging infrastructure like roads, bridges, and mass transit, which among other things create good paying jobs for blue collar workers. It means making investments in new technologies like microchips. It means funding climate change initiatives like wind and solar farms, which also produce new, green jobs. And it means getting the rich to pay their fair share to support these programs and social programs for the disadvantaged.
Miraculously, in an era of extreme division along party lines, Biden was able to get enough support from Republicans to get three major laws passed–the Inflation Reduction Act, a huge infrastructure bill, and the CHIPS Act. These legislative accomplishments are just beginning to produce tangible results that will help average Americans. During Biden’s 30 months in office, 13 million new jobs have already been created. Despite dire forecasts, the economy has grown at two a percent this year, higher than expectations of around 1.5%. Over 800,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created– more than double in two years what happened under Trump in four years.
- The Republican’s alternative to Bidenomics is Trickle Down Economics, which has been the Republican approach starting in 1980 under Reagan and continuing under every Republican president. This approach subsidizes big business and the wealthy by cutting income taxes for the rich and for corporations, cutting regulations, getting rid of inheritance taxes, while assuring the average American that somehow the benefits will “trickle down” to ordinary people. Biden proclaimed that this has not worked.
I fully agree with Biden on this. Trickle Down Economics has produced billionaires but hurt ordinary people, who have gained very little in inflation adjusted income. Many good jobs have been shipped overseas while corporate profits have soared. The average income for working families has remained stagnant since 1980 when adjusted for inflation while the incomes of the top 10 percent have skyrocketed. In 2021 the median wage was just under $57,000. In 1980 in today’s dollars, it was $54,000. The difference in pay between CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies and the average worker in these companies was about 50 to 1 through the 1970s, a number that was considered high at the time. Now it is more than 200 to 1. For all corporations it is even higher—400 to 1. Now the gulf between the rich and most Americans is the most extreme in U.S. history.
The huge $1.5 trillion tax cut passed under Trump in 2017 did not produce huge numbers of new jobs or help his base. It created more wealth for the rich. To cover the cost of public investments which produce good paying jobs and grow the economy and to reduce deficits, tax revenues need to be increased—but not on households with incomes below $400,000 under Biden’s plan. Bidenomics targets the super rich and the big corporations. They are not paying their fair share. CEOs of a Fortune 500 Company typically pay a smaller percentage of their incomes for taxes than their secretaries and security guards. This is not right. Under Bidenomics the super rich and the big corporations would pay their fair share producing funds to reduce the deficit and to encourage economic growth and fund important new initiatives like subsidies to fund childcare and affordable housing.
- Bidenomics is also about strengthening labor unions and giving the average working class American more power. Trickle Down Economics is all about keeping wages low, profits high. It has done and will do little to help the average worker.
The best thing about the speech for me was the mantra Biden used many times in his speech: Bidenomics expands the economy “from the middle out and from the bottom up,” not from the top down!
Biden did not talk much about inflation, which, of course, has been the huge downside to the post covid, economic recovery made in the last two years. Inflation, however, has started to go down, now averaging around 4.5%, but it still has a long way to go to get to the Fed target of 2-3%.
Will Biden’s populist message make a difference to white people without a college degree and to many in the white working class who have moved into the Trump camp? Doubtful. For the time being the Republicans seem to have abandoned any serious talk about the economy—except to harp on inflation, balancing the budget, and reducing the deficit. Their focus is on divisive social issues—anti woke, anti LGBTQ, anti-trans, anti-abortion, anti-affirmative action, anti-books that talk about racism or sexuality, anti-climate change initiatives, anti immigration, and anti-essentially all progressive programs. Scariest of all is the autocratic leaning of the Republican party. In 2024 democracy itself may be at risk.
While it is not a sure thing that Trump will be Biden’s opponent—he could be in jail by the election—the other contenders are not a whole lot better, and some like DeSantis are even scarier.
But the “build the economy from the middle out and the bottom up ”is a great slogan and a good start, and Bidenomics is surely a better direction than another round of Trickle Down. Way to go, Joe!