Alan Zendell, November 17, 2021
Looking back on the last couple of years, an objective observer might conclude that the Biden presidency was set up to fail. He inherited a Republican opposition, two of them, actually, that despise each other and agree only on the need to thwart everything the president does. And there’s the mess left by Donald Trump.
International trade and our alliances are in a shambles thanks to Trump’s willful ignorance and his perverse need to upset the order of things just because he could. His tax cuts added $3 trillion to our national debt and accomplished very little besides greatly enriching the wealthiest Americans even further. Finally, there is the pandemic, which appears to be attempting to surge for a fourth time. Trump ignored the spread of the first wave, likely resulting in at least a half million avoidable American deaths in 2020. After losing his re-election bid, he railed about not getting enough credit for supporting the development of the vaccines, while doing everything possible to undermine Biden’s efforts to get needles in people’s arms. It’s anyone’s guess how many of 2021’s quarter of a million American deaths from COVID could have been averted if Trump and his minions hadn’t weaponized vaccines politically.
Things have looked bleak for the administration this Fall, as rising inflation, supply chain failures, lagging job numbers, a litany of comments from Trump’s people questioning Biden’s mental fitness, and Republican obstruction in Congress brought the president’s approval numbers down almost as low as Trump’s. As noted in past weeks, the news and social media saw these portentous signs as a way to boost ratings, and the hype hasn’t stopped to take a breath.
The passage and signing of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure and jobs law was the first break in the constant stream of bad news, and the rays of hope for our future have been showing up almost daily since then. Witnesses have been cooperating with the House Special Committee investigating January 6th, and the Committee itself has demonstrated its intent to use every resource it has to get at the truth of who was involved in planning the insurrection at the Capitol. The indictment of Steve Bannon for ignoring a congressional subpoena sends a clear message to other potential witnesses, and the House vote today, to censure Paul Gosar (R-AZ) for creating and dispersing a cartoon video of him murdering Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking Biden, is a warning to Trumpers who lack boundaries.
For months, with news of employers reporting difficulty hiring workers, Republicans have been claiming that the $2.2 trillion Cares Act passed earlier this year put too many tax dollars in ordinary citizens’ pockets, making it profitable for them to quit their jobs or just stop looking for one. That argument missed two essential points. One is that the Cares Act is being deliberately misconstrued as a bailout for people who were financially hurt by COVID. In fact, its main purpose was to put money in people’s pockets that would be immediately spent and flow directly into the economy, providing a desperately needed stimulus and increasing income tax revenues.
The other essential new information, released today by the Department of Labor, was that late reporting by employers hamstrung by COVID had resulted in new job creation being undercounted by 626,000 over the last four months. The apparent decline in job growth that resulted from the undercount fed fears that the economy’s recovery from COVID had stalled, which Trump’s people pounced on. Now we see a sharp increase in consumer spending which has retailers excited about the holiday season. All that sent the equity markets to record highs, caused Goldman Sachs to predict that by the end of next year our unemployment rate would reach a 50-year low at 3.5%, and caused J. P. Morgan to revise its GDP growth forecast from 4% to 5% for the current quarter.
Football fans know that one play can cause a huge momentum shift, and a team’s fortunes can go from dismal to bright instantly. Since job approval ratings are largely an exercise in manipulating people through mass psychology, they often follow the same pattern. The tide is turning, as prospects for passing some version of the administration’s Build Back Better are looking up.
That’s all very positive, and it will result in restoring Biden’s approval numbers to their post-inauguration levels. But there’s still a lot of critical work to be done to assure that Trump never regains power. The best way to guarantee that is to pass a federal voting rights bills that nullifies state laws that tilt the next election toward Republicans.
Things will get better. Progress is slow but steady. Biden is not FDR, but he is competent. After four years of rancor, lies and incompetence, Biden is a breath of fresh air. We have two steps forward and one step back, but we are moving forward, albeit slowly. I only wish the Republicans could return to being the Party of Lincoln instead of the party of lies and incompetence.