Biden opposes job growth, as voters fear inflation

By JOSH BOAK
Associated press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has landed an envious job record, earning 10.3 million during his tenure. But voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections are much more focused on inflation near 40-year highs.

That left the president trying to convince the public that job gains mean better days are ahead, even as fears of a recession mount.

Presidents have long believed voters will reward them for strong economic growth, but inflation has thrown a wrench into the already difficult likelihood that Democrats will retain control of the House and Senate.

Economic worries deepened as the Federal Reserve repeatedly raised its benchmark interest rates to reduce inflation and possibly increase unemployment. Mortgage costs have soared, while the S&P 500 stock index has fallen more than 20% so far this year, as the world braces for a possible downturn.

Biden is asking voters to look beyond the current financial pain, saying what matters are the job gains he thinks his policies are promoting. The government announced on Friday that employers created 261,000 jobs in October as the unemployment rate climbed to 3.7%.

About 740,000 manufacturing jobs have been added since Biden’s presidency began, a number the president says will continue to rise due to his funding of infrastructure projects, computer chip production and a shift to clean energy sources.

“America is reasserting itself – it’s as simple as that,” Biden said in a speech on Friday. “We also know that people are still struggling with inflation. That’s our number one priority.”

Yet the president also warns that a Republican majority in Congress could make inflation worse by seeking to cancel his programs and treating federal debt payments as a bargaining chip instead of an obligation to honor.

His challenge is that the ruling party typically faces skeptical midterm voters in the United States and that inflation weighs more on public sentiment than job growth.

“If you have a job, it’s kind of comforting to know that the labor market is strong if at the same time you feel like every paycheck is worth less and less anyway,” the pollster said. Kristen SoltisAnderson. “Inflation is such political poison because every day, every time they spend money, voters are reminded that this is a problem we have.”

As Biden tries to fend off fears that inflation could drag the country into a recession, his main proof of the economy’s resilience is continued job growth.

“As we see the economy as a whole, we don’t see it going into a recession,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters ahead of the latest jobs report.

Heading into the election, Biden and the Democrats are already at a disadvantage. Voters generally favor the party leaving the White House midterm, giving Republicans an automatic head start. When Yale University economist Ray Fair looked at past elections, his model predicted that Democrats would get just 46.4% of the national vote, largely because Biden was in the Oval Office.

Fair’s analysis suggests that inflation has essentially wiped out the political boost Democrats could have gotten from strong economic growth for three quarters in 2021. Even though the economy is a priority for many voters, the forces contradictions of past growth and high inflation cancel each other out.

That makes the Democrats’ vote share about the same as the historical trend suggests, Fair concluded.

But inflation is compounding the hurdles for a president who has tried to convey optimism as he travels the country ahead of the election. Research in social psychology and behavioral economics generally shows that people often focus on the negatives and can block out the positives.

“People pay more attention to bad news than good news and are more likely to retain and remember bad news,” said Matthew Incantalupo, a political scientist at Yeshiva University.

Incantalupo’s research examines how voters absorb economic news. When unemployment is low, as it is now, he said, voters generally view employment as a personal issue — rather than a systemic issue involving government policies. But most believe that inflation is a social problem beyond anyone’s control, unless that person runs the Fed.

“When it’s high, everyone experiences it at least a little bit, and there’s really no individual way to avoid it,” Incantalupo said. “Voters will look to government for solutions in these circumstances, and in many cases that will lead them to punish incumbents, even in the face of other positive economic news.”

Republican candidates specifically said Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last year overheated the economy, causing prices to rise alongside job gains they say will would be produced anyway as the pandemic receded. They also said Biden should have eased restrictions on oil production, in order to increase domestic production and lower gasoline prices.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy — who could become president if the GOP wins a majority in the House — hammered Biden on the high prices. As Biden warned that Republicans who deny the 2020 election result are a threat to democracy, the California congressman countered that what voters care about are gas and grocery costs. .

“President Biden is trying to divide and deflect at a time when America must unite – because he can’t talk about his policies that have driven up the cost of living,” McCarthy tweeted last week. . “The American people don’t buy it.”

Yet inflation is not just a domestic problem. After Russia invaded Ukraine, energy and food costs rose and suddenly turned the global momentum upside down as inflation rose faster in some parts of the world with less aggressive coronavirus relief than the United States Annual inflation in the euro zone is a record 10.7%, well above the 8.2% in the United States

Meanwhile, growth has slowed in China, the pace of global trade is slowing, and Saudi Arabia-led OPEC+ has cut oil production to support prices. And because the Fed is raising rates to reduce domestic inflation, the dollar has gone up in value and essentially exported higher prices to the rest of the world.

This has left American voters in the curious position of not necessarily blaming the president for inflation, even if they disapprove of his economic leadership.

An October poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs captured this split. More than half of voters say prices are higher due to factors beyond Biden’s control. But only 36% approve of his economic leadership.