Tag Archives: Bidenomics

Exceeding My Expectations

I recently ran across a cartoon showing a couple of shipwreck survivors heading toward two small islands– one with palm trees, the other with an erupting volcano. One of the castaways asked the other “which one should we choose?”

The 2024 Presidential election in a nutshell. Even someone who found that first island  unappealing would have to be nuts to choose the one spewing volcanic ash. (I still can’t get my head around the millions of presumably uninformed or deranged Americans who cast ballots for volcanic ash in 2020…)

But here’s the thing: lots of people plan to vote Biden because they recognize that a vote for Trump is a vote for certain disaster. That reasoning–while sound–simply ignores the fact that Biden has been a transformative, progressive President. I loved Barack Obama, but fair is fair: Biden has accomplished far more.

I’ve previously shared  my middle son’s observation that Biden is the first person he’s voted for who vastly exceeded his expectations.

I’d attribute the mismatch between performance and public perception to lackluster oratory, except that people voted for Trump, whose pronouncements are word salads showcasing his third-grade vocabulary.

A few pundits have begun to address the persistent lack of recognition of Biden’s considerable governing skills. The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland was one. As he began,

The tragedy of Joe Biden is that people see his age, his frailty and his ailing poll numbers and they miss the bigger story. Which is that his has been a truly consequential presidency, even a transformational one. In less than three years, he has built a record that should unify US progressives, including those on the radical left, and devised an economic model to inspire social democratic parties the world over, including here in Britain.

As Freedland writes, making the case for “Bidenism” isn’t hard.

Top of the list is, characteristically, something that sounds boring but is of enormous significance: the Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year. That seemingly technocratic piece of legislation actually achieves two epochal goals. First, it hastens the day the US makes the break from fossil fuels – by making clean energy not only the morally superior option for both industry and consumers, but the financially superior one too.

It does that through a massive raft of tax breaks, subsidies and incentives all designed to encourage the production of wind turbines, solar panels, ever improving battery technology, geothermal plants and the like, along with tax credits aimed at making electric cars irresistible even to those middle-American consumers more concerned about their wallets than the burning planet.

Those who understand the threat posed by climate change–everyone from environmental activists to Goldman Sachs–has hailed the act as a “gamechanger.”

But the second goal of the legislation is almost as significant. Biden insisted that this surge in green manufacturing would happen inside the US, thereby reviving industrial towns and cities in decline since the 1980s. It is US factories that are getting the subsidies to build all this clean tech – alongside an earlier, huge package of infrastructure spending – restoring jobs to workers who had long been written off.

Bidenomics resurrects Democratic principles discarded by Bill Clinton: an activist state making serious public investments in manufacturing;”muscular regulation” of corporations; and encouragement of unionized labour.

Freedland reminds us that securing passage of this transformative legislation was remarkable, given a Senate then split 50-50 between the parties.

A new book by Franklin Foer, The Last Politician, describes how Biden, whose hands were already full with the Covid pandemic and the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, was not content simply to be a caretaker manager, troubleshooting crises. Instead, “he set out to transform the country.”

The result is that Biden has “redirected the paradigm” of US economic life in a way that will affect Americans “for a generation”. While Obama and Clinton were “deferential to markets”, says Foer, Biden has reversed “the neoliberal consensus” in place since the Ronald Reagan era.

Biden insists–correctly–that “capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” and as a result, his administration is resurrecting anti-trust enforcement.  Foer writes that, “As a matter of substance, he is the most transformational president since Reagan.”

Internationally, Biden is credited with bringing stability after the chaos and dictator-coddling of the Trump years and, especially, for building and maintaining a western alliance in support of Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian imperialism. Others admire his handling of China: robust, without crossing the line where a cold war turns hot.

Freedland says Biden campaigned in “reassuring prose,”  but has governed in “radical poetry.”

Age isn’t all negative. Coupled with intellect and experience, it allows time for the development of skills. It allows people like Joe Biden to exceed our expectations.


There are two meanings of the word “performance,” and America’s two political  parties have each embraced one of them. 

One definition is “to perform a task”–in this case, to govern. Like President Biden, most contemporary Democrats have concentrated on that definition. I have previously posted about the effectiveness–the performance– of what Republicans dismissively label “Bidenomics,” and others are beginning to report on those positive outcomes as well. 

Robert Hubbell quoted the New York Times for news that direct investment in manufacturing  had doubled between 2014 and 2021. Also, “per the report, foreign direct investment “in the computer and electronics sector rose from $17 million in 2021 to $54 billion in 2022.”

Jennifer Rubin noted that the President has begun running ads touting the effects of his economic policies.

Respondents keep telling pollsters they are pessimistic about the economy and think we are in a recession, perhaps a reflection of the incessantly negative media coverage. However, as the mainstream media catches up with economic reality (admitting we likely will avoid a recession) and as public and private investment running in the hundreds of billions of dollars works its way through the economy, Biden stands ready to explain how his agenda — “Bidenomics” — brought us from fears of a pandemic recession to recovery. With unemployment and inflation in decline and wages rising, the public finally might be more amenable to hearing an uplifting message.

Performance=doing the job.

Then there’s the other meaning of “performance”– “to act for an audience.” That’s the definition chosen by virtually every Republican candidate for public office. The audience they are performing for is the MAGA cult that has replaced what used to be a political party. 

Performance in that latter sense ignores the hard work of policymaking , instead appealing to the grievances of the intended audience–and dismissing the policy preferences of the wider American polity.

I didn’t watch the first GOP debate, but I’ve read about the candidates’ embrace of  positions held by a distinct minority of Americans. As Robert Hubbell summed it up, in addition to pledging support for Trump if he is the eventual nominee, even if convicted,

 the candidates espoused other outrageous positions: climate change is a hoax, support for a national abortion ban, blaming teacher unions and single mothers for the problems in education, proposing invading Mexico with US special forces, and cutting aid to Ukraine. None of the candidates provided an actual proposal for America’s future, other than Ramaswamy’s line, “Drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear.”

I’m bemused by voters who support candidates having no obvious experience with– or understanding of– government, as though  the skill of managing the enormous complexities of that task can just be picked up on the job. If we needed any proof of the wrongheadedness of that belief, the ongoing performance (in both senses of the word) of the GOP’s looney-tunes culture warriors should provide it.

Perhaps instead of “debates,” we should hold public examinations of candidates for public office. We could focus on whether they understand what the duties of those offices are–and aren’t.  (Here in Indianapolis, the Republican candidate for mayor seems to think he’s running for sheriff–his ads give no indication that he understands there are other dimensions of the job.)

Take a look at the positions embraced by that pathetic crew of presidential candidates–positions that disclose their utter ignorance of the proper role of government and the daunting complexity of many issues presidents face. Their lack of intellectual integrity is appalling enough, but their willingness to ignore international law and medical science, disrespect teachers, and deny the reality of climate change disqualifies every one of them for any public office.

As Rubin reminds us, it’s a fearful worldview.

We have become so used to Republicans railing about elites, critical race theory, transgender kids, immigrants, IRS stormtroopers, the FBI and more that we become acclimated to a terribly dark, frightful view of America. 

That “dark, frightful view” runs from local politics (our Republican mayoral candidate’s ads describe my city–which is actually pretty vibrant–as a dystopian hellhole) to federal candidates assuring the MAGA cult that they can return America to an imagined “yesteryear,” when–glory!!– men were men and women were barefoot and pregnant.

Hubbell reminds us that GOP performance has an upside: most Americans reject the party’s few positions (on abortion and climate change, by twenty to thirty percentage points). These  positions ought to render them unelectable in a general election.

Democrats should convert every negative, destructive, mean-spirited notion espoused on the debate stage into a positive, productive, forward-looking message about Democratic accomplishments over the last three years. 

The key, as always, is turnout: the  GOP cannot win a national election–if the rest of us vote. 

I Know Facts Don’t Matter…

Talk about “sucking all the oxygen out of the room…” The four indictments of Trump have consumed most of the media, masking what would otherwise be a greater emphasis on administration actions and policies, and overwhelming what ought to be applauded as the enormous success of “Bidenomics.”

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is one year old; it is central to “Bidenomics.” A recent Treasury Department analysis found that it has incentivized unusually strong business investment–investment Axios recently called a “tailwind for economic growth.”

Together with the bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the CHIPS and Science Act, the IRA has especially spurred investments in manufacturing and clean energy. According to Treasury officials, evidence shows that private investment has held up, even in the face of increases in interest rates. And the report also noted that most counties where IRA-related investments have been announced are areas where college graduation rate, employment and wages are lower. In other words, Republican, largely rural areas. 

As Heather Cox Richardson noted in a recent daily Letter, 

The IRA was the eventual form President Joe Biden’s initial “Build Back Better” plans took. It offered to lower Americans’ energy costs with a 30% tax credit for energy-efficient windows, heat pumps, or newer models of appliances; capped the cost of drugs at $2,000 per year for people on Medicare; and made healthcare premiums fall for certain Americans by expanding the Affordable Care Act. 

By raising taxes on the very wealthy and on corporations and bringing the Internal Revenue Service back up to full strength so that it can crack down on tax cheating, as well as saving the government money by permitting it to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, the IRA was expected to raise $738 billion. That, plus about $891 billion from other sources, enabled the law to make the largest investment ever in addressing climate change while still bringing down the federal government’s annual deficit.

“This is a BFD,” former President Barack Obama tweeted a year ago.

It is a “BFD,” and it is extremely frustrating that reporting on its effects has been smothered by a combination of “it bleeds so it leads” reporting and the massive amounts of propaganda “flooding the zone” ala Bannon.

The law has driven so much investment in U.S. manufacturing that the CEO of U.S. Steel recently suggested renaming it the “Manufacturing Renaissance Act.” Manufacturers have been returning previously off-shored production to the U.S., bringing supply chains back to the U.S. And as Richardson emphasized,

These changes have meant new, well-paid manufacturing jobs that have been concentrated in Republican-dominated states and in historically disadvantaged communities. 

The IRA has also been enormously consequential to the fight to tame climate change.

Scientists Alicia Zhao and Haewon McJeon, who recently published an article in Science, today wrote that the IRA “brings the US significantly closer to meeting its 2030 climate target [of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 50–52% below 2005 levels], taking expected emissions from 25–31% below 2005 levels down to 33–40% below.”

 Republican presidential candidates have—predictably–refused to credit the act with these results; Richardson quoted former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who called the IRA  “a communist manifesto,” although, with their usual hypocrisy, “Republicans have been eager to take credit for IRA investments in their districts without mentioning either that they voted against the IRA or that they are still trying to repeal it.”

The Environmental Defense Fund recently issued a statement rebutting several of the Republican misrepresentations–okay, lies–about the IRA. The organization noted the difficulty of getting factual information out:

The truth takes about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as false stories do. Six. Times. Longer.

And this is from a study that is a few years old, before the global pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election — events that caused an explosion of lies online by Bad Actors.

A simple google search brings up dozens of reports from highly credible and nonpartisan sources, confirming the truly massive economic and environmental benefits triggered by the IRA, and the fact that those benefits are being felt in parts of the country that have previously been left behind.

Those reports won’t reach the millions of Americans glued to Faux News and its clones, or the other millions who have turned off the news because they no longer know what or who to believe–a situation that explains Biden’s low approval numbers.

My middle son said it best. In a conversation a while back, he said “Biden is the first President I’ve voted for who vastly exceeded my expectations.”

To quote Barack Obama, Biden’s Presidential performance has been a BFD. Too bad so few Americans understand that.