Like Nero bragging about rebuilding Circus Maximus after burning it down, President Joe Biden took to the podium Tuesday night to take credit for solving a slew of problems he helped create.
At the top of his State of the Union address, the president boasted that he had “more jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years.” No president — not Joe Biden nor Donald Trump — creates jobs. But Biden’s contention was exceptionally misleading, considering he inherited an economy that had been unplugged by an artificial, state-induced shutdown. If the government compels businesses to shutter, it doesn’t “create” jobs when allowing them to open.
On more than one occasion during the night, a mercurial Biden contended that COVID-19 had shut down the economy. No, states did. Politicians did.
Biden was an aggressive proponent of those shutdowns. During the 2020 presidential campaign, the president regularly attacked Republican governors for opening too early and for ignoring federal health officials. Even in August 2021, after it was clear that shutdowns hadn’t saved any lives, Biden was still criticizing Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis for rejecting a new round of COVID authoritarianism, telling him to “get out of the way” of those trying to “do the right thing.”
Three years ago, the unemployment rate was at 3.5%. Today, Biden reminded us that it was at a historic low of 3.4%. More than 30 million people lost their jobs to COVID lockdowns. Biden claims to have “created” 12 million jobs during the past two years. The one big difference is that the labor participation rate still hasn’t recovered to pre-COVID numbers. It’s great that people are working again. But millions fewer are in the market for jobs.
Biden also boasted that Americans were seeing “near” historic unemployment lows for Black and Hispanic workers. These historic lows were achieved before COVID lockdowns.
So, if Biden deserves credit for this, doesn’t Trump? Of course, there is no specific Biden economic policy that brought us near-historic unemployment lows for minorities or an unemployment rate 0.1% lower than the previous administration. Washington wasted trillions of dollars propping up an economy that it previously shut down.
Speaking of spending, Biden claimed that the preposterously misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act,” which you might recall was initially called “Build Back Better,” had helped alleviate spiking prices. Only when inflation became nontransitory, and a politically problematic issue, did Biden begin arguing that more spending would mitigate inflation.
And only then did Democrats rename their bill, which was crammed with the same spending, corporate welfare, price fixing and tax hikes — all long-desired progressive wish list items. “The Inflation Reduction Act is also the most significant investment ever in climate change,” Biden said during his address, as if this sentence made any sense.
Presidents are often unduly blamed or given credit for economic events beyond their control. But it is no accident inflation took off as Democrats pumped hundreds of billions into a hot economy (in the case of the “infrastructure” bill, with the help of Senate Republicans) and aggravated foreseeable problems with policies that disincentivize work and undercut energy production. All this led to the biggest inflation spike since 1982. We are still at historic highs. A slew of products that consumers rely on still remain atypically expensive, and fears of additional price hikes have started to seriously corrode consumer confidence.
Biden lied that “25%” of the national federal debt was incurred by the previous administration when most of that debt was driven by entitlement programs passed, expanded and revered by Democrats. And he misled the nation by claiming that his administration had “cut the deficit by more than $1.7 trillion — the largest deficit reduction in American history,” when, in fact, those “cuts” were sunsetting pandemic emergency spending that Democrats had complained wasn’t enough.
Biden then went into his well-worn platitudes and myths about how the rich don’t pay taxes — “no billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter!” — and proposed higher rates on the wealthy and corporations. He also promised to micromanage the economy with a slew of new regulations that would interfere in voluntary contracts struck between employees and employers and consumers and businesses.
There were numerous lies, half-truths and deceptions. There was a slew of antiquated economic ideas and sloganeering. But, surely, the president’s biggest lie of the night was to claim, “I’m a capitalist.”