United States President Joe Biden has laid out a broad economic plan he says will help restore the “American dream” as he readies for the presidential election in 2024.
Speaking from Chicago, Illinois, on Wednesday, Biden outlined his proposal for “Bidenomics” — a term he admitted he did not create but has since claimed. He explained his economic policies would focus on bolstering the middle class while countering policies that favour wealthy investors and corporations.
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“This vision is a fundamental break from the economic theory that has failed America’s middle class for decades. It’s called trickle-down economics,” Biden said on Wednesday, rejecting a conservative theory that has held sway over US politics.
“Trickle-down economics” was championed in the 1980s under former Republican President Ronald Reagan and has been pushed in various forms by subsequent Republican leaders.
But on Wednesday, Biden offered a broadside against the theory, which refers to the belief that tax cuts and other benefits for the wealthy will ultimately “trickle down” and buoy all levels of society.
The approach, Biden said, was responsible for industries moving overseas, slashes to public investments and the stifling of competition.
“The latest iteration” of that “failed theory”, Biden added, came under former President Donald Trump, a frontrunner to be the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election.
In 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, awarding dramatic tax breaks to corporations. It also reduced taxes for the majority of US households, though the higher earners disproportionately benefitted.
Seeking to strike a contrast with his predecessor — and current competitor in the 2024 race — Biden explained that he would seek to grow the economy “from the middle out and the bottom up, instead of just the top down”.
Under his plan, he said, “the poor have a ladder up and the wealthy still do well”.
The speech served as a preview of what is likely to be a centrepiece of Biden’s re-election campaign. But the president faces an uphill battle to win public opinion.
Recent polls have shown lagging support for Biden’s economic leadership. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey found just one in three US adults approve of his approach.
The White House has endeavoured to calm concerns about the volatile economy in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Monthly job creation has outpaced expectations but inflation remains high, despite steady decreases.
Meanwhile, warnings of a looming recession have persisted. On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged a recession was “certainly possible” but said it is “not the most likely case”. Biden on Tuesday also told reporters he did not expect a recession.
Some observers have noted the rollout of “Bidenomics” appears to be part of a wider attempt to unify Biden’s legislative victories into a more coherent ideology, emphasising middle-class gains.
Some foreign policy analysts have also noted Biden’s policies have at times resembled a repackaged version of Trump’s “America First” approach, by prioritising domestic investment over international engagement.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the White House identified the three pillars of “Bidenomics”. The first was “making smart public investments in America”, followed by “empowering and educating workers to grow the middle class” and “promoting competition to lower costs and help entrepreneurs and small businesses thrive”.
The release touted legislation passed under Biden, including a bipartisan infrastructure bill, a law to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and investment in domestic clean energy industries. It also hailed a new $42bn initiative that aims to bring high-speed internet throughout the country.
Republicans were quick to seize on the new messaging, with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy calling Bidenomics “blind faith in government spending and regulation”.
Trump’s campaign likewise sent out an email blast during Biden’s speech, saying the Democrat’s economic approach would mean “high taxes, crippling regulations, crushing inflation, war on American energy [and] soaring energy costs”.
White House officials have been glib when asked why the administration embraced the label “Bidenomics”, which first appeared in coverage critical of Biden’s policies. Since Reagan’s “Reaganomics”, presidents have sought to fuse their names with their economic plans, to varying degrees of success.
“You don’t like Bidenomics? I think it’s pretty clever. It’s pretty good,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday when asked about the label. “It makes good sense, Bidenomics. It kind of flows off the tongue really well.”