Where the Present and History Collide…

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What a sad, sad coincidence. Yesterday, The New York Times ran a front-page piece claiming that “Democrats Have Soured on Biden.” They cited a poll finding loss of confidence in the President across all age and ethnic groups.

The primary reason for overall pessimism? Widespread concerns about the economy and inflation.

The same day, historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote how unfortunate it is that the Supreme Court’s excesses and the January 6th hearings have deflected attention from the economic news.

Why? Please read the remainder of her column below.

“First, Democratic president Joe Biden appears to be centering his presidency around the idea of rebuilding the middle class through government investment in ordinary Americans. This is a major shift—a sea change—from the past 40 years of Republican policy saying that the economy would prosper if only the government slashed taxes and regulation, leaving more money and power in the hands of business leaders, those ‘makers’ who would invest in new industries and provide more jobs. Watching the effect of his policies is a window into what works and what doesn’t. (emphases mine throughout)

“Second, the Republicans are counting on anger over inflation, shortages, and gas prices to win control over the House of Representatives and the Senate in the fall elections. It’s worth paying attention to what’s really going on with those issues, as well as to what policies the Democrats and the Republicans are putting on the table to address them.

“On the first point: Biden has focused on rebuilding the American middle class that has been so terribly hollowed out in the past 40 years. While he appears to be driven by his belief in the dignity of all Americans and their right to be able to make ends meet with a decent job, historians will tell you that in the U.S., race and gender tensions are significantly lower when income and wealth are more evenly distributed than when a few people at the top of the economic ladder control most of the nation’s capital. The rise of lynching in the U.S. in the late 1880s, just as trusts came to monopolize the economy, was not a coincidence.

“The Republican economic promise since Reagan has been that cutting regulation and taxes would create a healthy economy in which everyone who is willing to work can thrive. But political commentator Thom Hartmann marshaled the statistics in a crystal clear Twitter thread a week ago, revealing just how badly that argument has failed.

“Hartmann noted that after World War II, “the nation had hummed along for 40 years on a top income tax bracket of 91% and a corporate income tax that topped out around 50%.” Business was growing faster than at any other previous time, and businessmen stayed out of politics. The country had great public schools, research laboratories, trade schools, airports, interstate highways, and small businesses, as well as unions that protected America’s workers.

“The election of Ronald Reagan meant radical tax cuts (from a top marginal rate of 74% in 1980 to the 27% it is today), business deregulation, and the gutting of social safety nets. Forty-two years later, Hartmann notes, more than $50 trillion has been transferred from the bottom 90% to the top 1%. In 1980, 60% of us were in the middle class; now fewer than half of us are.

“Republicans promised that permitting business concentration would lead to innovation and opportunity; instead, we have seen an end to competition, along with price gouging and profiteering from the giant companies that choke out small business. Stock buybacks were supposed to mean that senior executives would care more about the future of their companies, but instead they have become a means for them to pocket cash.

“Since the beginning of his term, Biden has tried to take on the concentration of wealth and power among a few elites. Biden’s investment in the U.S. economy through the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill has produced significant results. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the nonfarm job numbers for June, which show that employment continues to rise. The economy added 372,000 jobs in June, mostly in “professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care.” We are still 524,000 jobs down from February 2020, before the pandemic. Unemployment remains at 3.6%, with about 5.9 million folks unemployed.

“There were some interesting trends in the data. There are 880,000 more jobs in business, computer design, administration, and research than there were in February 2020. There are 260,000 more jobs in outpatient health care now than in February 2020, but hospitals have lost 57,000 workers, and nursing and residential care have lost 379,000. Leisure and hospitality—restaurants, for example—have lost a whopping 1.3 million jobs, or 7.8% of their workers, since February 2020 (although the sector is growing again).

“But look at this: transportation and warehousing have grown fast, with 759,000 more jobs than in February 2020. Manufacturing is back to where it was in February 2020, suggesting that President Joe Biden’s emphasis on repairing supply chains is paying off.

“And in the past year, wages have gone up 5.1%. That, along with increased pressure for unionization, suggests workers have more power than they did before the pandemic.

“This data suggests that people are moving away from work in restaurants, leisure, and nursing—all professions hit terribly hard during the pandemic—and toward transportation and office work. The increase in wages reflects more bargaining power on the part of employees. All of this is hardly rocket science, I know, but it does suggest that the economy is reorganizing at least temporarily into new forms since the pandemic.

“This is of interest as we try to figure out what’s going on with inflation, which is currently afflicting not just the U.S. but the rest of the world as well. That story tells us something about the success of the Republican program Hartmann identified.

“One of the reasons for inflation has been the concentration of corporate power since the 1980s. A June report by three economists for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston noted that “[t]he US economy is at least 50 percent more concentrated today than it was in 2005,” and that such concentration amplifies the degree to which companies pass price hikes onto consumers as businesses overcompensate for rising production costs. In the oil industry, the report notes, as prices have spiked, companies have posted jaw-dropping profits.

“The price of gasoline has been coming down from its crazy high for the past 25 days. In the past two weeks, the average price of gas has dropped 19 cents a gallon, and as the price of crude oil continues to fall, consumers can expect to see prices continue to fall as well, although they fall more slowly than they rise in a phenomenon researchers call “rocket and feathers.” That term refers to the fact that gas prices go up like a rocket along with the cost of crude oil but fall more slowly as the cost of crude oil comes down, in part because consumers are so happy to see any relief at the pump that they don’t shop around to drive prices lower.

“One of the reasons for the crazy highs is speculation by largely unregulated energy traders that creates massive volatility in prices. Lack of regulation is in the news today in another industry, too, as journalists from media organizations including the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and the Washington Post revealed how Uber evaded regulators by using a “kill switch” that shut down regulators’ access to the files they needed to monitor the company.

“There is a coming showdown between the Democrats’ approach to the economy and the old Republican approach. Biden and the Democrats are trying to pass a $52 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that would invest in U.S. science and technology to boost American industry, support research, and fund the manufacture of semiconductor chips to free the U.S. from relying on Chinese products.

But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to kill the measure unless the Democrats back off on a budget package that would fund Medicare by placing a 3.8% tax on income ‘pass throughs’ taken by individuals making more than $400,000 a year and would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, significantly lowering costs to consumers.”

Somehow, there’s a broad, persisting, totally wrong public perception that Republicans are better stewards of the economy than Democrats. I’ve written before that “On the Economy, Biden Wins.”

With regard to his age, it’s true the Presidency ages people, and Biden has gone through a lot in his valiant efforts to rebuild NATO and save Ukraine, to try to bring Covid under control despite the “freedom-loving” anti-vaccine, anti-maskers among us, to govern in a country where the opposition either foments or refuses to denounce the Big Lie that he’s an illegitimate President.

But I find the timing of this push to get him to say he won’t run simply dreadful—not only for Ukraine, but also for our democracy. Once he becomes a lame duck, he loses much of the persuasive power he has now. “Dems in disarray,” as the press likes to detail, is a gift to the reactionary Republicans who are a distinct threat to our democracy and personal freedom.

We still have a historic opportunity with Biden at the helm to make important and lasting changes that will decrease the dangerous wealth disparities in our country—as well as codify Roe, voting rights, and stronger gun safety measures.

Right now, I would love to see him receive more credit for his solid accomplishments. And as the November elections loom, I feel it’s imperative that we give him the majorities he needs in the House and Senate to enact what can still —in fact—be transformative legislation. Then give him some time to enact that agenda, which he can do with stronger majorities.

In other words, stop fulfilling the Republicans’ dream of trying to force him to prematurely announce he’ll step aside for 2024.

Biden is an imperfect man doing his damndest to govern under nearly impossible circumstances. He may decide not to run for reelection in 2024. But that should be his decision–after he’s at least halfway through his term.

And after watching today’s January 6th Committee hearing, I feel even more strongly that we need stability right now.

I am convinced, as Heather Cox Richardson’s column suggests, that history will be kinder to President Biden than American voters seem willing to be.

Your thoughts?


45 thoughts on “Where the Present and History Collide…

  1. Our second President, John Adams, was defeated seeking a second term substantially because he was attacked as pro-war both from within and without his Federalist Party. Wilson was elected in a three-way contest. A divided party is weak, which is why we hear constant attempts to divide Democrats into progressives and moderates much as Democrats hope the GOP will splinter into pro and anti-Trump factions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes—a divided party is weak, and I find too many Democrats focusing on what Biden’s been unable to do because of his lack of a true Democratic majority (and a lockstep Republican opposition) and failing to acknowledge that Biden’s vision and actions are creative and important small d democratic efforts worthy not only of support, but of celebration.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes–we want our President to have a bright vision, but the President must promote that vision, which will be more difficult than selling the public on simplistic ideas. President Biden has a Herculean challenge persuading an intransigent public, which as Jill Dennison says is focused on the price of gas.


      2. because of his lack of a true Democratic majority

        This is what too many people don’t understand. A 50-50-plus-VP majority isn’t much of a majority. With Manchin representing the voters of a very red state (the US system makes politicians accountable mainly to their voters, not their party), and Sinema apparently being a jerk for the sheer hell of it, there’s not an effective majority. If it were 52-48 things would be radically different.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I like your description of the two outliers. Problem is that Manchin, despite his solid hold, has not done much for the people of West Virginia, while doing very well for himself financially.


  2. The mainstream news media love to focus on and exaggerate anything negative or divisive. The headline, “Democrats Have Soured on Biden” is a typical overgeneralization. I feel much safer with Biden as president than I did with his predecessor.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely true, JoAnna; I agree the media’s negative drumbeat has been detrimental. And unlike you and me, too many Americans seem to fail to appreciate the sheer value of his calm presence and normal behavior. He’s a man who’s learned to control a strong temper, and voters are furious that he’s not “angry” enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An interesting thought with some promising potential. I wrote about white supremacists who were won over by music and other activities that replaced the voids in their lives.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Biden has done a decent job in his first two years, considering the sheer number of issues he has had to deal with, more than any other president than I can recall in the past 50 years. Inflation, the Ukrainian war, climate change, shortages, supply chain issues like baby formula, gas prices, a divided country, the bizarre Supreme Court decision about abortion and gun laws, the near constant gun rampages etc. I can’t imagine Canadians blaming Trudeau for all of the above, including the baby formula shortage, although there might be people who do they are a smaller number. Most rationale individuals would realize no one person could possibly resolve all those problems in such a short period of time, especially with such an adversarial party opposing them at every attempt.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I am sickened and disgusted by both the role the media is playing in the “Blame Biden” game, and the fact that the people of this nation are more concerned with the temporary price increases in fuel & food than they are the future of the nation. Sure, it’s inconvenient to pay $4 or more for a gallon of gasoline or $1 for a head of lettuce, but this is not by any stretch Biden’s fault, and quite frankly, if Democrats allow their peers from across the aisle to gain a majority in both chambers of Congress, that inconvenience will seem as naught in another four years when they see their rights withering away under an autocratic ruler. Time for people to wake up and look at the big picture, not the day-to-day minutiae.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure, Jill, though I do fault the Democrats for poor messaging. The fact that the economy consistently does better with Democrats in the Presidency should not be a well-kept secret. But voters also have a “What have you done for me lately?” attitude.

      And I don’t think the press has ever done the serious work of uncovering the extent to which trump’s trashing of the government’s day-to-day ability to function has hindered Biden’s administration to this day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed on all counts! Indeed, the Democrats are lousy marketers … but then, lawmakers shouldn’t have to be marketers. Sadly, in the world we’ve created, they must be. A little enthusiasm, a little fire, would go a long way toward bringing the apathetic on board. The average voter, it appears, is not particularly interested in the long-term, but focused on the here and now. We MUST find a way to get the message out, though … if the Republicans take a majority in either or both chambers of Congress, I truly fear what next year will bring. There is talk of impeaching both Merrick Garland and President Biden, as well as criminal investigations against numerous others including Nancy Pelosi. They would rip this nation in two.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We have to keep stressing the importance of every vote and how high the stakes are. With any knowledge of the Jan 6 Committee hearings, people must see how corrupt all these Republicans are. “Team Normal” have only under duress told what they’ve known about the Big Lie since 2020–no points for heroism there! And still the Republican leadership kowtow to a depraved man who fomented what would have been a coup and might have begun a civil war!

        Add to that Republican determination to beat back Soc Sec, Medicare, plus their votes against Dem bills for baby formula, combating inflation, controlling medication costs, codifying Roe, securing voting rights….on and on.

        The mind reels!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Agreed. I was saddened and angered when, after watching his testimony a few weeks ago, I read that Rusty Bowers said he would still vote for Trump again. I … am speechless! Is it stupidity? Is it greed? I just don’t know.

        Yes, my friend, the mind reels … well into the night, and usually past dawn. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It’s all those characters, Jill. Barr said he’d vote for him again; I suspect that’s the case with much of “Team Normal”—a perversion of the language, IMO.

        I was thinking of writing about the conservative judges and lawyers behind the “Lost Not Stolen” paper trying to persuade the 30% who still believe the Big Lie that Biden won and it’s time to move on. They include Republican elections expert Ben Ginsberg and Judge Luttig, whose Jan 6 testimony was so valuable. But then I heard a spokesman asked why people still cling to trump. Because he delivered on his “policies,” this guy answered. What policies? “A tax cut needed to blah blah, and a Supreme Court in the mold of Scalia,” was the answer.

        Crap, I thought. I’m glad they wrote this for the history books, but I don’t want to spend time with them!

        Sorry you’re not sleeping. You need your rest to “keep calm and carry on.”

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It’s almost as if they’ve been lobotomized or given some drug … they KNOW what he is, and still they would vote for him. To me, that in itself is treason, for he would happily destroy not only the U.S., but the rest of the world.

        I like the idea of the piece you thought about writing, but frankly I don’t think that 30% are capable of listening, understanding, or engaging their minds. I’ve tried on a small scale — a couple of friends — to present the illogic behind the Big Lie, to explain the steps that had been taken to prove or disprove, and more, but they just tell me that I hate Trump (they’re right about that) and that I don’t know what I’m talking about. So … I gave up, for the effort wasn’t worth the ulcer it gave me!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, Neil, the disaffection is among Democrats and independents too—and appears substantial among young people, who were an important part of the Democrat’s 2020 constituency. Gotta try to get through to these folks somehow…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable. Hillary Clinton
    Joe Biden has had so far a steady hand steering our ship through an incredibly bad storm. We are not through it yet but I think we have someone with his eyes on the horizon and not on his feet.
    Unfortunately he is a true democrat so even 10 up in the eighth best keep your seat.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A true leader does not allow the noise to disturb his vision. Followers get there because the leader arrives at his place. Joe has a vision of a better America and as you point out Ms Annie a plan. I hope it works.


  6. It is a little puzzling that the public is not giving Biden more credit for the economic recovery. The MSM are not helping. It’s amazing how CNN (for example) keeps up a constant barrage of negativity about the economy. Whenever anything positive happens, you can count on them to be right there with an article claiming it’s not actually good news because blah blah.

    Remember too, though, that things like rising numbers of jobs and even upward pressure on wages are generally only visible to the minority of the population that are looking for a new job at a given moment, while inflation is visible to everybody — so inflation will dominate mass perceptions of how the economy is doing.

    The reason for the inflation seems obvious to me. During the pandemic, governments dumped huge amounts of stimulus cash into their economies. This was necessary to avoid collapse and support workers who could not work, but it inevitably meant more money chasing the same (or fewer) goods, meaning inflation. This explains why it’s happening in most developed countries (so any proposed explanation based on factors unique to the US is wrong).

    Biden and the party could be doing better to explain all this to the public, though. I haven’t seen much effort to do so.

    Reasonably-aware people probably realize that inflation isn’t being caused by anything the government is doing now, but they do expect the government to fix it. It’s the government’s job to address and solve problems, regardless of what caused them. I think there’s a lot of frustration that Congress seems to be spending so much time on investigations and hearings instead of staying laser-focused on solving the problems we elected them to solve. The January 6 hearings are at least bringing out relevant information about an important matter, but most Congressional investigations just come across as grandstanding and wasting time.

    Also, many people, not having read or understood the Constitution, mistakenly believe that the president rather than Congress is supposed to have supreme authority. So they blame the president for all that goes wrong and give him credit for all that goes right, whether he had anything to do with it or not.

    Things are looking a lot better for the Democrats in this year’s election. Some economists think inflation peaked in May; official figures for June are coming out tomorrow, so we’ll see then. The wave of post-Roe medieval anti-abortion laws in red states are turning centrist voters off of Republicans. It would be foolish for Biden to announce a decision now about whether or not he’ll run again in 2024. That’s more than two years away. He doesn’t know yet how his health will be by then. If Democrats hold the House this year and get a bigger Senate majority, they’ll be able to get a lot more done during the second half of his term. It could be that by 2024 inflation will be quashed, the Democrats will have saved abortion rights, raise the minimum wage, eradicated Republican vote suppression, etc (as you said) and Biden will be viewed as a great success. He wouldn’t want to be stuck with a one-term pledge then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sure do agree about the media’s negativity, Infidel—and they seem to have latched on to the “Biden’s too old” story. It’s interesting that with all the awfulness surrounding trump—and his obviously poor physical shape—there’s no mention that he’d be 78 if he were to run again. But the 79-year-old Biden, riding his bike, has been deemed “too old.”

      Yes, inflation (and today’s figures are not encouraging), which is felt personally, is worldwide and includes in big measure the post-Covid impact. The war in Ukraine is also a large factor.

      I do agree the Democrats are very poor messengers. I don’t understand why, but there are lots of good stories to tell that don’t get through.

      And here’s to your potentially rosy scenario for 2024! But first we must expand the Supreme Court and hope somehow they don’t get five votes for that wacky “Independent State Legislature” theory!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Annie, there a few truisms we should consider:

    – Joe Biden is in a can’t win situation. Republicans with their spin doctors and misinforming (and disinforming) opinion hosts have been told Biden is evil. So, they vote in lock step. Progressives don’t think he is doing near enough, so they vote against him. His presidency is better than portrayed by both, but still short of what I had hoped. Contrary to Republican thought, Biden is not evil.
    – I have said for years Mitch McConnell (and Harry Reid on the Dem side) are poster children for what is wrong with Washington. Then along came Trump and showed how truly bad things could get. But, Mitch is still Mitch, so he will not go to the bathroom without judging the political ramifications of it. Right now, for example, he is letting the House Select committee do his dirty work, so he can play both sides against the middle. Take that to the bank.

    We citizens deserve the truth. We citizens deserve our public officials being among our better angels. not our worse demons. It is hard enough to solve problems when we use facts, but nigh impossible when we don’t.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ch`en Hao says: “to be on ‘desperate ground’ is like sitting in a leaking boat or crouching in a burning house.”
      Chia Lin remarks: “if you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if you cling to your corner.”
      Our history is full of men who have stood upon desperate ground against impossible odds. Read the medal of honor citation for Hector A. Cafferata Jr. When death is certain there is nothing left to fear. The orange cheeto lead us here on purpose to meet our end. Like it or not Joe was chosen leader and we unite behind him and die together or we will perish alone.
      I have some hope since there appears to be a large contingent that believes we might die Jan 6, 2025.
      Optimists. Tomorrow is more uncertain.


      1. I looked it up, found a reference that sounded similar, but before it could reach the ole hippocampus, things got garbled in the short trip from Google to here. Thank you!


    2. Keith, I just realized I didn’t respond to this comment. Sorry.

      I think if you’re talking about people responsible for “breaking” the system, that dreadful distinction goes to Newt Gingrich, who made Democrats the evil enemy. No Democrat, including the feisty Harry Reid, came close to that nadir, which has persisted.

      Would you care to elaborate about what you expected of Biden that led to your disappointment? Thx.


      1. Annie, ah Newt Gingrich. Well noted. My biggest disappointment in Biden was how he handled the Afghanistan withdrawal. He did not consult and involve our allies in the thought process and it was done so in haste, the fall of the elected regime took only days. And, by handling it poorly, he harmed his reputation as a collaborator. Again, his presidency is better than he is given credit for, but this was a major setback in my view. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  8. My hopes for Biden were modest: Don’t be a criminal, stop the chaos, be a functional human being, make politics a little more boring, don’t antagonize your allies. And I have to say he has come through, sad that the NYT doesn’t run a full page of “President Shows Compassion!” or something like that. I mean, that’s huge compared to the last guy.

    Alas, reporting is about generating controversy and outrage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, DougD! He has certainly come through by all those measures—and many more. There’s little understanding and respect among many voters and the press, I believe, for how much rebuilding he had to do simply to get the government functioning again after the trumpian horror show—and how much Biden accomplished in his first year.


  9. I think Joni among others has summarized it very well. History will have to size it up as this daily barrage of challenge President Biden faces can’t possibly be appreciated without perspective. Also agree that a divided party is weak. Joe Manchin will a lot on his conscience if he continues putting his own reelection (dressed up as constituency concern) above the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The thing I don’t get about Manchin is why he feels no compunction about failing to serve the often dire needs of so many West Virginians—and why they don’t demand more from him.


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