WASHINGTON — Joe Biden on Monday continued the long presidential tradition of taking credit for a good economy regardless of the cause — which, in Biden’s case, was that it had nowhere to go but up after its pandemic-triggered collapse.
“We’ve brought this economy back from the brink and we’ve designed our strategy not only to provide for a temporary boost, but to lay the foundation for a long-term boom that brings everyone along,” he said in the White House State Dining Room, the portrait of Abraham Lincoln behind his shoulder.
While all presidents and White Houses have taken credit for economic successes and have tried to attribute downturns to events outside their control, Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was possibly the most shameless boaster in modern times. He began taking credit for the economy even more taking office, despite having inherited a strong economy from Barack Obama before him. In fact, job growth in Obama’s second term was better than Trump’s single term, even after ignoring the fourth years to account for the pandemic.
Biden was clearly enjoying himself Monday, chuckling as he pointed out that Trump had claimed that a Biden victory would result in a depression “the likes of which we’ve never seen,” as well as an end to capitalism itself.
“Well, it’s true that the economy was sputtering before I got here, adding only 60,000 jobs per month for three months before I was sworn in,” Biden said. “But, now six months later, we’ve changed that. We’ve gone from 60,000 jobs per month to 60,000 jobs every three days, more than 600,000 jobs per month since I took office, more than 3 million new jobs all told.”
The U.S. economy lost 22 million jobs starting in the spring of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic led to stay-at-home orders and the closures of thousands of businesses that were not able to or realistically could not fashion work-from-home processes.
The economy began recovering last summer after the passage of the first congressional relief package, but that pace remained slow until the COVID vaccines became readily available late this winter.
Biden did not give that context in his prepared speech Monday. “Six months into my administration, the U.S. economy has experienced the highest economic growth rate in nearly 40 years,” he said.
Biden, of course, has from the start tied the success of the economy to the defeat of the pandemic, which he has in turn tied to the percentage of Americans who have become vaccinated. One major unknown in a Trump second-term scenario is whether he would have pushed the vaccines as aggressively as Biden has.
From the time they started becoming available to the public during the transition and continuing through virtually all of his public remarks, Biden has urged Americans to get vaccinated to protect themselves as well as their families and neighbors. He repeated that message again Monday.
“Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among unvaccinated Americans,” he said. “If you’re unvaccinated, you are not protected. So, please, please get vaccinated. Get vaccinated now. It works. It’s safe. It’s free. It’s convenient.”
Trump, while he has claimed credit for the vaccines’ development, in contrast has not made it a priority to urge vaccinations for his followers, a large percentage of whom mistrust vaccines in general and the COVID vaccines in particular. In the few times he has been asked about it in Trump-friendly media interviews, he has recommended getting the vaccine, but then has quickly couched it with an acknowledgement that one has the “freedom” not to get it.
“I would recommend it and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” Trump told Fox News in March. “But again, we have our freedoms and we have to live by that and I agree with that also.”
Trump continually downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus during his final year in office, at one point even calling it a “hoax” ginned up by Democrats and the news media to hurt his reelection chances. That attitude likely led to hundreds of thousands of more deaths in this country compared to other industrialized nations with advanced health care systems, according to a HuffPost analysis.
Trump also became the only president to be impeached twice, the second time for inciting a deadly assault on the Capitol in his last-ditch attempt to remain in office — to the point where military officers worried about an actual coup attempt from him.
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