White House to Spend June Spreading Sharper Economic Message
WASHINGTON — As president, Joe Biden has shepherded the economy’s recovery from an unforeseen global pandemic, kick-started long needed infrastructure repairs all across the nation, and seen the unemployment rate drop to 3.6% on his watch — nearly the lowest level in the past 50 years.
And yet for all that, his job approval rating among registered voters hovers at just 42%, according to a recent poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult, with most Americans venting their frustration over the high price of gas at the pump, and a record spike in inflation caused by supply chain snafus and a host of other factors.
In response the White House is gearing up to make a concerted effort throughout the month of June to sharpen its economic message and better communicate its accomplishments to date.
The effort actually began on Monday, in an op-ed Biden penned for The Wall Street Journal.
In it, he described inflation as his “top economic priority” and laid out a three-part plan to address it.
“I ran for president because I was tired of the so-called trickle-down economy,” the president wrote. “We now have a chance to build on a historic recovery with an economy that works for working families.
“The most important thing we can do now to transition from rapid recovery to stable, steady growth is to bring inflation down,” he said.
As part of the three-pronged strategy for tamping down on inflation, Biden said he would resist the temptation to improperly weigh in on the Federal Reserve’s actions or meddle in its decision-making processes.
Second, he said he would call on Congress to pass legislation that would reduce the price of prescription drugs, create clean energy tax credits, make housing more affordable, and lower the cost of child and elder care.
All of these were elements of Biden’s stalled Build Back Better bill, which seemed to gain a measure of new life before the House and Senate went on their Memorial Day recess.
The White House and others had hoped to strike a deal on a scaled down reconciliation bill with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., by the holiday weekend.
Manchin has reportedly been in talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and a bipartisan group of senators over a plan that would give the administration at least some of what it wants in return for a vow to significantly reduce the deficit.
Having failed to meet the Memorial Day weekend deadline, expectations are that the new deadline for an agreement will be Aug. 8, the day the chamber is scheduled to go on its August recess.
If that happens, a vote to pass the bill could occur in September, just ahead of the midterm election.
The third element of Biden’s plan speaks directly to the deficit reduction provision of the scaled back Build Back Better plan.
Reducing the deficit, Biden said, would help “ease price pressures.” He hopes to accomplish it by making “common-sense reforms to the tax code,” including adding measures that would discourage companies from moving jobs overseas and requiring higher-earning Americans to pay more in taxes.
“The economic policy choices we make today will determine whether a sustained recovery that benefits all Americans is possible,” Biden wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “I will work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, or independent — willing to have an open and honest discussion that delivers real solutions for the American people.”
In an email to reporters on Tuesday, a White House official said the administration’s messaging will also be used to contrast its agenda with that of congressional Republicans led by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.
Scott introduced an 11-point economic plan in February that, among other things, would require federal programs to expire every five years, including Social Security and Medicare, and would outright ban debt ceiling increases unless the United States is at war.
“What I want is to get back to a country that works,” Scott has said of his proposal. “We have one of the lowest participation rates in the history of this country because what Biden and the Democrats want to do is they want to tell you, ‘Oh, you don’t need to work. We’ve got another government program for you.’ That doesn’t work.”
Democrats have said the Scott plan would raise federal income taxes on many Americans making less than $100,000 while leaving the wealthy unscathed.
In his Wall Street Journal op–ed, Biden went further, saying the Scott plan “would make American families poorer and more economically insecure.”
“As we enter June, Biden and the administration are making a concerted effort to … [talk] about the economy and how we can put more money in the pockets of working families,” the White House official said.
As part of the push, Biden is meeting Tuesday with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in the Oval Office.
The White House official said the meeting is being held so that the president can formally congratulate Powell on his recent confirmation for another term as Fed chair, and so that Biden can reiterate that his top priority is to address inflation and “transform … an historic economic recovery [into a] stable, steady growth that works for working families.”
Among the things Powell is likely to discuss with the president is the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to impose its largest interest rate hike in history, and its plan to shrink its massive bond holdings starting on Wednesday.
Biden is also scheduled to deliver remarks on Friday about the much-anticipated May jobs report. According to the White House official, the president plans to highlight “the remarkable progress” the administration has made “in getting Americans back to work, with unemployment down at a historically fast rate and over eight million jobs created.”
Biden won’t be the only member of the administration giving voice to its economic message. Also expected to be highly visible this month are Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Dep. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Council of Economic Adviser Chair Cecilia Rouse, and presidential advisors Gene Sperling, Jared Bernstein, Heather Boushey, and Mitch Landrieu.