Can Biden Cut Through the Noise in His State of the Union Address?

Image courtesy of hsb

When the President addresses the nation tonight, let’s assume the Insurrectionist Caucus’s demand that metal detectors be removed from the Capitol will somehow be circumvented to ensure his safety, that of the Vice President, the members of Congress, and visitors.

Good grief! What appalling decisions are being made in the People’s House.

And when I hear the media reports that the majority of Americans don’t want either President Biden or Donald Trump to be President in 2024, I am astonished by the linkage of the names.

One man is devoting himself to strengthening democracy and improving life at home and abroad; the other man should be paying for his many crimes against this country and its individuals. And I include his cruel politicization of Covid right up there with the Insurrection, hate-mongering, etc.

But I digress. President Biden did have a moment of justifiable pride when the news media–even Fox–fairly accurately reported the most recent jobs numbers: a surprising 517,000 new jobs, with signs of inflation ebbing, at least for now.

Unemployment is the lowest it’s been since 1969. Fifty-four years!

Many economists are puzzled: how can that be? How can employment go up and inflation go down simultaneously?

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said economists just have to throw out the textbook and learn about “Bidenomics”—because the President’s actions in the package of legislation he’s successfully passed are working.

As Reich observed, the Biden administration is remaking the free market so that it serves the majority of Americans, not just the top few percent.

Why, then, aren’t Americans happier? The Washington Post just published a poll stating that 62% of Americans believe Biden has achieved “not very much” or “little or nothing.”

Pulitzer prize-winning economist Paul Krugman had a recent column on this topic that I found worthwhile. The New York Times ran it under the headline “Will Americans Even Notice an Improving Economy?”

Krugman wrote:

“Imagine that your picture of the U.S. economy came entirely from headlines and cable news chyrons. Would you know that real gross domestic product has risen 6.7 percent under President Biden, that America gained 4.5 million jobs in 2022 and that inflation over the past six months, which was indeed very high last winter, was less than 2 percent at an annual rate?

“This isn’t a hypothetical question. Most people don’t read long-form, data-driven essays on the economic outlook. Their sense of the economy is more likely to be shaped by snippets they read or hear.

“And there is a yawning gulf between public perceptions and economic reality. Recent economic data has been positive all around. Yet a plurality of adults believes that we’re in a recession. In an AP-NORC survey, three-quarters of Americans described the economy as ‘poor,’ with only 25 percent saying it was ‘good.’”

Krugman points out that even people’s own experiences in an improving economy don’t seem to factor in. Though a majority say their personal financial circumstances are good, they still feel gloomy about the economy as a whole.

Though Krugman says he’s covered the “disconnect between economic perceptions and reality” before, this time that disconnect is stunning.

He attributes it to two factors. One is partisanship. Though majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the AP-NORC survey he cited said their own economic situations were good, 90 percent of the Republicans termed the national economy “poor.”

Indeed, a Michigan Survey of Consumers found Republicans saying the economy today is even worse than it was in June, 1980—“when unemployment was above 7 percent and inflation was 14 percent.”

Perhaps we can call this phenomenon “alternative factual memory.”

The other factor is media coverage. Krugman again cites the Michigan survey, which asked respondents what they’d heard about “specific business conditions.”

Throughout 2022, “as the economy added 4.5 million jobs—more people reported hearing negative than positive news about employment.”

The good news is that when people are better informed, their attitudes come closer to reality. The Navigator Research organization summarized a report released on February 1, with these key findings:

*”Americans continue to hold negative views of the economy and perceive prices to be rising; they also do not believe Republicans in Congress are focused enough on inflation and jobs.

*”The most convincing reasons to believe the economy is improving are record job creation rates over the last year and the low unemployment rate.

*”Learning about recent economic successes boosts Americans’ trust in Biden and Democrats on jobs and the economy over Republicans.”

Returning to Krugman, who notes that if we get through to 2024 with both unemployment and inflation low,

“At this point we have to assume that as long as a Democrat sits in the White House, Fox News and Republicans in general will describe the economy as a disaster area whatever the reality. What’s less clear is how mainstream media will cover the economy, and what voters in general will perceive.”

If Biden’s many accomplishments are new to you, I encourage you to read my previous posts on this topic, which you can find here and here, and here.

I hope you’ll watch President Biden deliver his State of the Union address tonight, and keep in mind that he has–partisan perceptions and press coverage notwithstanding—begun setting the American economy in an important, sustainable, even transformational new direction.

“Building from the bottom up and the middle out” is the way he describes his vision. That vision has become more than verbiage. It is now a workable plan in action toward an America that is fairer and has begun to narrow the shameful economic inequality that has fueled resentment and scapegoating among Americans.


ADDENDUM: After posting this piece earlier, I read Robert Hubbell’s Today’s Edition Newsletter, which adds further examples of the press’s distortions. Here’s the opening to his thoughts headlined “Damn the Polls.”

“On cue, the media began a ‘re-buttal” to President Biden’s State of the Union address by releasing dire polls that claim–contrary to all objective evidence–our nation is on the verge of economic collapse and will soon experience rioting in the streets. Headline writers cherry-picked negative facts to ensure that President Biden doesn’t get to full of himself given record-low unemployment, record job creation, decent GDP growth, falling inflation, the first major infrastructure bill in generations, the biggest investment in green energy and chip manufacturing in the US ever, more federal judicial appointments in a two-year stretch than any president ever, and a 100% shootdown rate of defenseless ballons the size of three school buses.”

25 thoughts on “Can Biden Cut Through the Noise in His State of the Union Address?

  1. As it happens, I read a Politico piece immediately after reading your post.

    Politico’s piece rated Biden’s performance against Biden’s “promises” [as they referred to Biden’s goals] in the 2022 state of the union address.

    While I would quarrel with some of Politico’s individual ratings, in light of your blog, the main point that struck me is that the evaluation is against “perfect.”

    The piece misses the context that says, in total, Biden has accomplished far more of his State of Union goals than any recent President.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Allan. I read the Politico piece, which I think helps explain the findings of that Washington Post survey that people think Biden hasn’t accomplished very much–if anything. I find this approach maddening. Context is, as the saying goes, “everything.” To fault Biden for a 50-year-old bipartisan failure to come up with a coherent immigration policy, for example, is both silly and dangerous.

      I’m going to append Robert Hubbell’s Today’s Edition Newsletter to my post. (I read it after putting up this post.) I think it’s helpful for people to be aware that a press maintaining neutrality is actually failing to reflect reality.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Louis Menand, writing in the Feb 6th issue of The New Yorker, writes:
      In the memoir slash manifesto “Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) from an Ink-Stained Life” (St. Martin’s), Margaret Sullivan argues that objectivity is not so much impossible today as meaningless, and that the press ought to stop striving to achieve it. The events of 2020 and 2021 showed that the press’s values were in the wrong place. “The extreme right wing had its staunch all-in media allies,” she writes. “The rest of the country had a mainstream press that too often couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do their jobs. Too many journalists couldn’t seem to grasp their crucial role in American democracy.”

      Quoting Sullivan, Menand continues:
      Sullivan’s position is an appeal to the original rationale of the First Amendment. We have a free press in order to protect democracy. When democracy is threatened, reporters and editors and publishers should have an agenda. They should be pro-democracy. Reporters should “stop asking who the winners and losers are,” Sullivan says; they should “start asking who is serving democracy and who is undermining it.” The press is in the game. It has a stake.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. let’s assume the Insurrectionist Caucus’s demand that metal detectors be removed from the Capitol will somehow be circumvented

    That particular point shouldn’t be an issue. Whenever the president or vice president are present in a venue, Secret Service standard procedures take precedence over whatever rules that venue normally has. All normal protections will be in place as they normally are at any appearance by Biden or Harris, whether they have metal detectors or not — presumably including standard precautions to ensure nobody brings weapons into the chamber.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I should hope so, Infidel! But I don’t believe we’ve had an event like this in the Capitol since the magnetometers were removed and House members were given permission to “pack heat” in the Congress–including in Committee hearings that often generate heat of their own.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Infidel’s assessment is correct.
        Buffalo Springfield sings … Paranoia strikes deep
        Into your life it will creep
        It starts when you’re always afraid
        Step out of line, the men come and take you away
        We can’t choose our fears but we can always choose to be brave.
        Secret deodorant ran an ad campaign years ago for the modern woman “Never let them see you sweat!”


  3. I also was wondering about the return of the metal detectors.
    Could envision nutcase thuglican taking potshot at Biden and then claiming legislative immunity since they were only tying to “fix” the 2020 election.
    Then Garland could spend 2 years trying to decide if they had the requite intent for it to be a crime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The metal detectors were of no value even when they were there. Congresspersons who objected to them routinely just walked around them, and security guards did nothing, since they were afraid to challenge members of Congress. The standard Secret Service precautions which will be in place are much more effective.


      1. ” Congresspersons who objected to them routinely just walked around them,…”
        Correct but under Pelosi they paid a cost of fines then. Also their flagrant flaunting of rules and laws were exposed.
        Now their is no cost in terms of fines or adverse publicity.


  4. The good news may be “that when people are better informed, their attitudes come closer to reality.” The bad news is that many (maybe MOST) people have little or no interest or willingness to become better informed — at least, not in a way that contradicts what they want to (or have been “programmed”) to believe. This suits the GOP just fine, and the Dems have seemed almost clueless as to how to deal with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately they can’t be made to drink mistermuse They will ultimately learn that they can not stop us from repeatedly sipping at the tree of knowledge. As all authoritarian fathers learn, forbidding the fruit only precipitates its distribution.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That isn’t what Tara McGowan is finding in her Courier Newsroom efforts, mm. That’s why I think groups like hers and the others I described in “We Have to Fight the Narrative”—and the community they’re building—are so valuable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Republican brain rot is strong in that one. I hope they have a nanny. Children’s Services should be checking on the three kids regularly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I though her rebuttal was a whole lot of nonsense and rambling, mostly about her, her thyroid cancer journey, her mothers spinal cancer diagnosis, Trumps Christmas trip as if he’s the only president who ever made one???

        Liked by 2 people

      3. This is the stuff of nightmares. This is a showcase for up and comers. If this is the future and a significant portion of the electorate is onboard our country’s travails have just begun.

        Liked by 2 people

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