We tend to recall 1984 as an easy romp for Ronald Reagan, because he could run on a clear record of economic recovery.
But that record was actually a mirage, the message a con.
Reagan’s iconic “Morning in America” ad slyly noted that “Today, more men and women will go to work than ever before.” But the unemployment rate was actually higher (7.5 percent) than when Regan took office – it was just that the population had gotten bigger.
And when Reagan asked – in his famous “are you better off than you were four years ago” debate question – whether people could better afford things, the actual answer was no. Real wages, people’s purchasing power, had actually gone down, while prices had gone up (food cost about 4 percent more; gasoline cost about the same).
People were simply being fooled by recalling not four years prior, but their experience during Reagan’s midterm recession, where unemployment topped 10%, inflation was also over 10%, and more than half the country said Regan’s policies were making things worse.
Reagan’s economic record was, simply put, bad. Yet he went on to win 49 states in 1984 on a message of growth and recovery.
Bear this in mind when considering this year’s elections.
Joe Biden and the Democrats who control Congress have put together a record of massive achievement, particularly on the economy, one that absolutely towers over not just Ronald Reagan’s but virtually all presidents in their first two years.
No need for smoke and mirrors.
It’s an overflow of facts.
If Americans were being asked to vote based on how this administration has done, Democrats would be crushing.
We are not hearing that argument mostly because of the tactical choices made by individual campaigns. But it is still something – the most important thing – that voters should consider.
So here, in one place, is a concise summary of that record under Biden and the Democrats in Congress – what would have been a slam dunk closing argument not that long ago. (Please note, this is all very real, and very full of proof: sources include reports from outlets like the Columbus Dispatch and the AP, PolitiFact and the White House:
- Jobs: Achieved the greatest single year of job creation in American history, more than 6 million in 2021, a decrease of 16 million receiving unemployment benefits, and the biggest drop in the unemployment rate in history.
- Manufacturing jobs: The biggest yearly increase in US manufacturing jobs in nearly 30 years. Democrats’ new incentives for key industries have already led to announcements of thousands of new manufacturing jobs.
- Healthcare: Democrats’ new tax credits drove a record 14.5 million Americans signing up through the ACA, including 5.8 million new people getting coverage. They forced drug companies to negotiate prices for the elderly and capped costs at $2,000 per year. This will save elders thousands annually.
- Poverty: The Dems’ child tax credit created the largest-ever one-year decrease in childhood poverty in American history, about 3 million kids. Households saying they didn’t have enough to eat dropped by a third.
- Safety: Passed the biggest anti-violence measure in decades, including the Gun Safety bill and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act.
- Supporting police: Democrats passed four bills on supporting both police and crime victims.
- Covid: Biden executed the most successful American vaccination program in history – from under 1 percent of adults fully vaccinated to over 75 percent, with over 500 million shots administered – and from less than half of schools open to almost all of them.
- Roads, bridges, energy: the bipartisan infrastructure bill will finally fix America’s infrastructure. In 2022 alone, repairs are starting on 65,000 miles of roads and 1,500 bridges, with thousands of jobs created.
- Protecting America and our allies: Biden kept the NATO alliance together in support of Ukraine following the Russian invasion, brought in two new countries and took out the world’s number one terrorist, Ayman al-Zawahri.
- Veterans: Dems allocated funds for hundreds of thousands sickened by burn pits in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
- Climate: The Inflation Reduction Act includes the largest investment in history to address global warming. Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accords and the EPA established strong new fuel economy standards.
- Diversity, equality: Democrats made lynching a federal hate crime, made Juneteenth a federal holiday and Biden appointed more Black women to the US Court of Appeals in one year than any president in history.
- Budget: The Inflation Reduction Act reduces the deficit by $300 billion.
Of course, Republicans are continuing to bamboozle us out of thinking about this record by screaming about three main things on Fox and in their campaigns (as if there were a difference).
One is inflation.
Second is crime.
But the Cato Institute correctly points out that we’re seeing more migrants trying to cross the border, because we’re creating so many jobs, not because of Democrats’ border enforcement policies, as Republicans claim.
None of this changes reality.
In a highly partisan America, facts can be easily drowned out by hot-button shouting. Or, as longtime Democratic strategist and 2020 Biden ad-maker Cliff Schecter observed, “the gulf in perception of Biden’s record vs reality exposes the challenge posed by rightwing media, rampant disinformation, and a mainstream media trying to play it straight with both sides but actually just playing dumb.”
We can’t entirely fix that problem right now. What we can do is ask voters to remember the flaming dumpster fire that was America two years ago at the end of the Trump term: an economic and public health calamity, massive abuses of power and the ultimate culmination – an insurrection fueled by an American president.
And now, think of the summary above, and what Biden and Democrats have achieved in the two years since.
Then ask yourself: are you better off than you were two years ago?
Is our nation better off than we were two years ago?
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