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Despite Biden's Boasts, Continued Worrisome Signs for US Economy

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The way Team Biden tells it, things are going rather swimmingly for the US economy, which Biden 'saved' from the pandemic collapse, or whatever.  But there's a reason why his re-election announcement leaned heavily into anti-Republican attacks and January 6th messaging, rather than touting a record of success.  The president is upside-down on job approval, drowning underwater in multiple polls.  His standing is even weaker on the economy, typically the top issue to voters. Many within Biden's own base aren't thrilled with what he's done; they're unexcited over, or unaware of, the alleged 'accomplishments' the White House insists are meaningful and impressive. 

Independents take a significantly dimmer view of the Biden presidency:

Four recent polls show Biden struggling among independent voters despite winning 52 percent support from independents and others in 2020, compared to 43 percent who backed Trump. A Fox News poll conducted among 1,004 registered voters from April 21 to 24 showed that just 37 percent of independents approved of the job Biden was doing, while 62 percent disapproved. It was a similar picture in a CAPS-Harris poll carried out from April 18 to 19, which surveyed 1,845 registered voters. That survey found that Biden had a net approval of 38 percent among independents and a net disapproval of 58 percent. In a CBS News poll from April 21 to 24, Biden's approval among independent voters was just 32 percent, while 68 percent of those voters said they disapproved of the president. The overall poll was conducted among 2,093 U.S. adults. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted from April 17 to 19 among 1,176 registered voters found that Biden's approval among independents was just 36 percent, while 52 percent of that group disapproved of him.

These are the voters who swing elections. If Republicans nominate someone more appealing than this to independents, they'd put themselves in a good position to win. That's especially true if the economy slides further south. Economic indicators have been a mixed bag for quite some time, but it's no mystery why Americans are generally dyspeptic about the bigger picture: Growth is anemic, headwinds are everywhere, and inflation remains historically, painfully high.  Experts continue to project a coming recession, though there's disagreement over when it might arrive, and how deep it might be.  Regardless, that 'R' word is never welcome.  Even more feared is another term:

We're not there yet, but GDP growth grew more slowly than expected in the first quarter ("a miss"), and even though inflation is less severe than it was, it's still quite bad.  Biden actually bragged about this report:

The U.S. economy slowed sharply from January through March, decelerating to just a 1.1% annual pace as higher interest rates hammered the housing market and businesses reduced their inventories. Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — weakened after growing 3.2% from July through September and 2.6% from October through December...Economists had been expecting overall GDP to grow at a 1.9% pace in the January-March quarter. Behind much of the quarter’s weakness was a sharp reduction in business inventories, which subtracted roughly 2.3 percentage points from overall growth. Companies typically slash their inventories when they anticipate a coming downturn. The economy’s slowdown reflects the impact of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive drive to tame inflation, with nine interest rate hikes over the past year. The surge in borrowing costs is expected to send the economy into a recession sometime this year. Though inflation has steadily eased from the four-decade high it reached last year, it remains far above the Fed’s 2% target.

A Gallup poll released early this spring showed 83 percent of Americans hold a negative view of the economy.  For many Americans, it's feeling tough out there:

A growing number of Americans...have found themselves confronting financial hardship as the U.S. economy has slowed. On Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported gross domestic product fell to 1.1% in the first quarter, the lowest reading in nine months. The GDP is the value of the final goods and services produced in the country and a strong indicator of how healthy the U.S. economy. The slowdown is starting to show up in Americans' personal finances. According to a recent survey from Bankrate, 49% of U.S. adults have less savings compared to a year ago. Ten percent of those surveyed said they have no savings at all. The upshot: The most disastrous outcomes for U.S. households, like auto repossessions and home foreclosures, have begun to climb.

The administration insists that the banking system is sound, but headlines like this certainly don't inject more confidence into the universe of perception:

Three failed banks this year, and the scale is noteworthy.  I'll leave you with a reminder that with a calamitous default looming, House Republicans have passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling while instituting very modest spending restraints.  The White House is clinging to its refusal to negotiate.  And Senate Democrats are doing...this:

Setting side the recklessness of playing with default and refusing to come to grips with the reality of divided government (a majority of voters supported a GOP House majority last fall), Democrats seem to believe the Republican-passed bill to raise the debt ceiling is a political liability.  That bill won't become law, obviously, but Democrats might be reading this one wrong anyway, with Republicans going on offense:

 

The American Action Network, an issue advocacy nonprofit closely aligned with House Republicans, is launching a six-figure ad buy hitting House Democrats for voting against the bill. The spots, first obtained by Axios, allege Democrats "refused to responsibly raise the debt ceiling. They voted against saving billions in unspent COVID funds, rejected cutting red tape to lower your costs." The ads also take aim at President Biden over his refusal to sit down with McCarthy unless the House passes a clean debt ceiling increase: "Instead of negotiating common-sense solutions, they're putting the economy in crisis." The intrigue: The ads will run in the districts of 11 vulnerable House Democrats...AAN polling earlier this month found that in 87 battleground districts, 50% of voters oppose increasing the debt ceiling without cutting spending — and 53% say they are more closely aligned with McCarthy and Republicans' position on the issue. The survey also polled the bill's provisions: 77% favor reclaiming unspent COVID funds, 62% support enhanced welfare work requirements and 53% support reducing discretionary spending to pre-pandemic levels. While all Democrats voted against the bill, some have expressed anxiety about Biden's refusal to negotiate and acknowledged spending cuts of some form will likely need to be on the table to raise the debt ceiling.

"I voted against the bill for these three specific reasons" might be a decent defense, but the broad strokes of the bill are popular, as is the outcome it achieves.  But voting no, plus supporting a president who refuses to negotiate, is a toxic combination.

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