How’s Joe Doing?

It’s neither fair nor accurate to judge a president’s performance strictly by the economy but most voters do it. The question as we approach the State of the Union address is: How is Joe Biden doing? I’ll site some statistics, complete with editorial comment, and in the conclusion let you know how I feel about it.

Since we currently have a manufactured (by the House Republicans) debt ceiling dilemma I’m going to look at the recent national debt data first. (NOTE: It is nearly impossible to get good numbers that exactly coordinate. The numbers used are to an extremely small degree approximations.) I’m using number on Inauguration Days. On January 20, 2009 Barack Obama took the reins from George W. Bush in the midst of what became known as the Great Recession. The national debt stood at $10.6 trillion or 82% of GDP. When he left office eight years later handing the baton to Donald Trump the national debt stood at $19.9 trillion or 104% of GDP. On the surface an increase of $9.3 trillion taking up an additional 22% of GDP doesn’t look very good. Keep in mind that Obama not only saved the world economy (neither W. nor Obama’s 2008 Republican opponent John McCain had a clue of how to do it) along with allowing tens of million of additional Americans access to health care via the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. I’d call it money well spent!

During his four years Donald Trump increased the national debt to $27.7 trillion or 124% of GDP. That is an increase of $7.8 trillion or 20% of a larger base. For that we got a tax cut almost exclusively targeted at the people who didn’t need it and an economy in near freefall mainly due to the gross mismanagement of the pandemic. As evidence of that I simply offer the fact that America, with less than 5% of the world’s population, had over 20% of its COVID cases.

On January 20, 2021,under heavy security necessitated by a failed coup attempt led by Trump a mere two weeks prior, Joe Biden was inaugurated. The economy was still in disarray and one of his first acts was passage of the American Rescue Plan at a price tag of $1.9 trillion which in all fairness has to be put on Trump’s tab. Going into Tuesday night the national debt stands at $31.5 trillion or 123% of GDP. That is an increase of $3.8 trillion (half of which is accounted for by the American Rescue Plan) and a decrease of 1% when measured by percentage of GDP which is a much better “yardstick”.

Keep in mind that Biden has largely cleaned up Trump’s mess, dealt with an unexpected Russian invasion of Ukraine and passed the Inflation Reduction Act. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment.

Inflation is a problem but if you think that’s a problem try inflation coupled with high unemployment. Last week we got a jobs/unemployment report that showed 517,000 net new jobs were created in January and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4%, the lowest since 1969. To put that in context I was in high school in 1969 and in 2023 I’ve been retired for years. At our cores Joe Biden and I are lunch bucket guys. If you have a decent job, you have a fighting chance in America.

Interestingly, and I fear tellingly, the stock market’s initial reaction to the jobs report was to go down. I’ll let you connect the lucky sperm cell club dots.

Among other things this should dispel the myth that Republicans are better for the economy. Not if you actually work for a living they are not!

To answer the question: How’s Joe doing? My answer is just fine.

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