Biden has one of the 'best economic records' of any 'post-War president': business professor

Biden has one of the 'best economic records' of any 'post-War president': business professor

The 2022 midterms have found countless Republican candidates and their supporters in right-wing media claiming that the U.S. economy, under President Joe Biden, is in historically bad shape. But liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a scathing critic of former President Donald Trump, has been stressing that inflation and all, the U.S. economy has generally been performing well under President Joe Biden — often pointing out that the United States presently has its lowest unemployment rates in over half a century.

Many brick-and-mortar retailers have been complaining that they have had a hard time filling service-sector jobs and that their “help wanted” signs are being ignored, which Krugman views as a sign that workers and jobseekers can afford to be choosier. During the Great Depression, back in 1931 and 1932 — when so many Americans were becoming homeless that the term “Hooverville” was being used to disparage Republican then-President Herbert Hoover — workers were anything but picky or choosy. Openings for dishwashers were filled immediately.

Business professor Robert Shapiro analyzes the state of the U.S. economy in an article published by the Washington Monthly on August 22, arguing that economically, Americans are much better off under Biden than they were under Trump.

READ MORE: Economist Paul Krugman explains why the US is a long way from the painful 'stagflation' of 1979

“Ronald Reagan closed his presidential debate with Jimmy Carter in October 1980, urging Americans to ask themselves if they were better off than they were four years ago,” explains Shapiro, who teaches business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and served as undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs in the Bill Clinton Administration. “Of course, Reagan, like a sharp prosecutor, knew the answer before he posed the question. Inflation and unemployment were soaring. Perhaps the reason why Republicans aren’t posing that question today is that they, too, know the answer. Based on jobs, incomes, wealth, poverty, and health insurance, Americans are better off today, including inflation. No one can argue with President Joe Biden’s job record — more than 9.5 million unemployed Americans found jobs over the past 18 months, and the unemployment rate fell from 6.4 to 3.5 percent.”

Shapiro points out, however, that “whether Americans’ incomes are higher” is “more complicated” because “the pandemic disrupted the economy in so many ways.”

“First, GDP collapsed in 2020, and unemployment soared — followed by massive public spending that extended into Biden’s term in 2021 and helped us recover,” Shapiro notes. “But supply problems, especially energy, ignited inflation, and spending, worsened it. While the fast-rising employment has produced a record 14.9 percent surge in overall wage and salary income since Biden took office, how much has inflation eaten away at those unparalleled gains? For all of the ‘pain at the pump’ stories, the answer is that wages and salaries have kept pace with inflation since Biden took office — and by this measure, most Americans are much better off than before the pandemic hit in 2020, and before he took office in 2021.”

Shapiro continues, “The Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce provides the best data on the nation’s earnings. It reports that before adjusting for inflation, Americans earned $11,346 billion in wages and salaries in June 2022, a 14.9 percent jump from $9872 billion in January 2021 and 16.6 percent more than the $9734 billion total in February 2020, just before the pandemic…. Even with 9.5 million more people working, the average working person earned as much in June, after inflation, as when Biden took office. And compared to just before the pandemic, when employment was comparable to today, the average person earns 6.2 percent even after inflation. The answer to Reagan’s question is ‘yes’ on wages and salaries as well as jobs — a remarkable achievement given the pandemic.

READ MORE: Robert Reich debunks inflation myths

Shapiro adds that under Biden, the “fastest growth in net assets” has “occurred among low- and moderate-income households.”

“Under Biden, Americans are better off in other ways, too,” Shapiro writes. “The Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University reports that the poverty rate, which reached 16.1 percent in December 2020, fell sharply under Biden to 14.1 percent by May 2022. It’s the same story on health care coverage: The Department of Health and Human Services reported that from late 2020 to early 2022, the percentage of uninsured Americans fell from 14.5 percent to 11.8 percent among adults, ages 18 to 64, and from 6.4 percent to 3.7 percent among children, both record lows. If not for the pandemic and the policies required to address it, inflation would be modest — and but for the inflation, Biden would have one of the best records of any post-War president, at least thus far.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s a mysterious situation’: Journalist explains why Biden's economy is strong — but his approval is low

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