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President Biden has been pointing to solid hiring trends for months now as evidence that his agenda has rebuilt the economy after the pandemic shutdowns.
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VonZolan Kanno-YoungsEMichael D. Shear
PHILADELPHIA — President Biden on Friday capitalized on what he called "remarkably good news" about the economy, praising the creation of half a million jobs and ending a week of presidential fanfare about the country's direction.
Just a few days earlier, he delivers his second reviewstate of the nationIn a speech before Congress next week, Biden all but abandoned the "I feel your pain" message he delivered so often last year as inflation soared.
Instead, Mr. bidentraveled across the countryThis week, he pointed to the real-world implications of legislation that has campaigned to spend billions of dollars on the country's crumbling infrastructure and unabashedly enjoyed what he bets will be a lasting turnaround if the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.
In Philadelphia, Biden bragged about new bridges being built and rusting lead pipes being replaced as a result of his efforts. And he praised the country's companies for having created 12 million jobs since taking office.
"There are now 12 million more Americans who can look at their kids and say, 'It's going to be okay,'" he told a group of workers at a water treatment plant. "And what is mainly done is to bring dignity to these families."
But looking on the bright side has its risks, especially sinceJob growth on the rise in Januaryhas the potential to trigger more aggressive rate hikes from the Federal Reserve as it tries to contain high inflation. Prices are still rising at a rate of 6.5%, less than last year but well above the average of the last few decades.
And the economic uncertainty is far from over, as Republicans threaten not to raise the debt ceiling later this year, a move that economists say would undermine global financial confidence and plunge the country into recession.
Here is the president at the start of his third year in office.
- nation state:President Bidenwill deliver his second State of the Union address on Feb., the moment he faces youAggressive House Controlled by RepublicansEa special investigator investigationthe possible misuse of classified information.
- An unfinished agenda:As the president prepares for his national address, his team considers whether to make a remarkabout your unfulfilled plansfor child care, kindergarten and more.
- Economic aid waives:Brian Deese, who played a crucial role in negotiating the economic legislation, signed Biden through his first two years in office.resigns as chief economic adviser to the president.
- 2024 in mind:Biden has lashed out at House Republicans over their tax and spending plans, including possible changes to Social Security and Medicare.while he is running for a likely re-election.
Former presidents who were too optimistic about the economy have been chastised by voters who see them as far removed from their real problems. President George Bush lost his reelection in 1992 after apparently ignoring the impact of an inflationary recession on middle-class workers.
"It's the hardest thing to do in politics," said James Carville, the Democratic strategist who helped Bill Clinton defeat Bush that year. “When in a recovery can you say there is a recovery and things are good? If people don't like it and you say it's okay, they get mad at you.”
The same dynamic undermined Clinton politically in 1994, Carville recalled.
"Even though the economy was better, the backlash when we said, 'The guy is out of reach,'" he said. "It's the most difficult and irritating problem any starter faces."
The White House is also concerned about labor shortages as Biden this year focuses on implementing his infrastructure, economics and climate legislation to impress voters. The job market remained tight; Data released this week showed that the number of vacancies per unemployed person rose again in December.
But Biden and his team seem to have decided it's not time to back down.
517,000 jobs were created in the United StatesIn January alone, the Labor Department said on Friday, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent, the lowest since the first lunar landing in the summer of 1969.
The 12 million jobs added since Biden took office represent "the strongest two years of job growth in history -- by far," exulted Biden in remarks at the White House, adding that the new jobs report proves that a "Chorus of Critics" were simply wrong in their approach to economics.
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These critics often note that the dramatic job growth during Biden's tenure is the result of much-needed rebuilding following the loss of an estimated 10 million jobs in the country due to pandemic-related shutdowns.
Moments after Friday's work report was released, members of the Biden team took to social media. Noting the unemployment rate, Shalanda Young, Director of the President's Budget, said: "@POTUSit's working." White House spokesman Ian Sams criticized Republicans for "political coup" investigations.
“House Rs could join instead@POTUSfocus on issues that affect people's lives, like jobs, and work together on this historic breakthrough," he wrote next to a graph showing the drop in the unemployment rate since Biden took office.
The president and his team are unlikely to receive that kind of cooperation from their opponents, especially after the announcement of his likely candidacy for re-election, a move expected in the coming weeks or months.
Despite his administration's achievements, after two years in office, Biden remains in a politically dangerous position for voters. Arecent NBC News public opinion pollhighlighted that a large number of voters do not consider him "honest and reliable", "crisis management capacity", "competent and effective" or "uniting the country".
In the poll, 54 percent said Biden lacked "the mental and physical health necessary to be president." Only 28 percent said yes.
Still, the president's aides are betting that voters will focus more on how they experience the economy: Do they have jobs? Can they afford to buy groceries and gas? Do you have the means to go on vacation or buy a car?
A year ago, as gas prices soared, Biden went out of his way to make sure Americans knew he felt their financial frustration over the situation, saying, "I understand," adding, "I know how much it hurts."
On Friday, that sentiment was largely replaced by unbridled enthusiasm after one of the biggest job gains in months.
Biden has spent months pointing to job growth as proof his agenda has rebuilt the economy after the coronavirus pandemic brought much of the United States to a standstill. On Friday, he reinforced that narrative to draw a contrast between what he sees as policies that have resulted in steady growth and the tax and spending plans of some House Republicans.
Throughout his tenure, rising consumer prices have been one of Biden's most glaring policy weaknesses. The Fed on Wednesday raised interest rates for the eighth straight year in a bid to curb rapid inflation.
Republicans accused the White House of exacerbating inflation by pumping too much money into the economy and called for significant cuts in spending.
When asked about his comments on whether he took responsibility for persistently high inflation, Biden said he did not.
"Because it was already there," he said. "When I got here, man. Do you remember what the economy was like? Jobs bled. Inflation went up? We didn't do anything here. We were in serious economic trouble."
"That's not why I do it," he said.
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