Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
President Joe Biden almost immediately backtracked on his economic optimism Thursday, while giving a strong indication that he is fond of the idea of sending Americans checks.
Earlier in the day, when news first emerged that the U.S. economy had shrunk for the second consecutive quarter, Biden expressed optimism about the financial state of the union and pointed to the availability of jobs and manufacturing investment.
“We’ve created 9 million new jobs so far, just since I’ve become president,” Biden said to the reporters gathered to hear him support the Inflation Reduction Act. “Businesses are investing in America at record rates — at record rates. Foreign businesses like [South Korean megacorporation] SK and others are investing in America hundreds of millions and trillions of dollars, sum total…That doesn’t sound like a recession to me.”
Hours later, when Biden held a roundtable meeting with the CEOs of numerous companies, among them Marriott and Bank of America, he was far less chipper about how the economy looks and feels to the average American.
“One of the things that I find is — I look at and I take it very seriously the confidence level of the American people in the economy,” Biden said. “And they’re so down and they’re looking — there’s reason to be down, but I started thinking about it.”
That line of thinking led the president back to the height of COVID lockdowns and the issuance of stimulus checks.
“You know, the first year, we were able to, with [American Rescue Plan,] to send them a check for eight grand,” Biden said. “I mean, a check … if you’re making 120 grand and you get a check for 8 grand, that’s a lot of money. And so it helped save a lot of people, in terms of getting thrown out of their homes and rental housing and a whole range of things.”
The president then went into what can only, and charitably, be described as a jumbled explanation of his point.
“One year, even though you didn’t have the job you have now, even though you didn’t get a raise that year, the difference between having a job, having a 5 percent raise or whatever — 3,5,7, whatever it happens to be — in the face of inflation, the price at the pump — although that’s down every day so far,” Biden stammered. “But, you know, it’s like, ‘Whoa, I feel worse off.’ But then again, I didn’t get a check for eight grand from the government. They just — among other things. Does that make any sense to anybody, or is it just me?”
In his 98-word statement, the president seemed to be attempting to say that during COVID, people’s optimism about the economy was better, even though many were out of work or not getting normal raises. Now, the problem of inflation is causing people to feel worse about the economy even though they are doing better financially. And, according to the president, the differences were the $8,000 checks and other government protections.
Finance Secretary Janet Yellen, who was also in attendance at the roundtable, responded as though the efficacy of the checks was the primary reason for the previous quote.
“Well, it really makes a huge difference, Mr. President, because, as you said, it kept food on the table, helped people take care of their kids, especially at a time when many were out of school and it was hard to work,” Yellen said. “And — and the spending it generated put people back to work.”
“We need to bring down inflation, but we need to preserve the success that that plan achieved in the labor market,” Yellen added.
Neither the president nor Yellen made any broad proclamations about sending checks in the future to help Americans navigate inflation, but the mention of such a plan will no doubt raise eyebrows.
Numerous economic experts — chief among them Dan Celia, the late founder and CEO of FISM, who was also critical of the American Rescue Plan — have argued that COVID-era checks were a major contributing factor in the inflation crisis the nation currently faces.