Despite polls showing Americans believe the state of the union is dismal, a defiant President Biden insisted his first year has been a success, while reaffirming his support for trillions in new federal spending and aggressive green energy policies.
It was a State of the Union speech that’s unlikely to bring comfort to Democrats facing a tough midterm election in November, or turn around Biden’s plunging polls.
After beginning with a tribute to the bravery of the Ukrainians in the face of the Russian onslaught, Biden launched a defense of his presidency and the spending proposals from the Build Back Better plan. That included a list of hundreds of billions of dollars for green energy proposals, taxpayer-funded childcare, healthcare subsidies and more.
Veteran pol and Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod noted on Twitter, “Hard to avoid making a SOTU speech sound like a laundry list. The Tide did not turn tonight.”
More significant for Biden’s fellow Democrats, he didn’t turn the tide on messaging regarding inflation. While polls show soaring costs are by far the top concern of voters, Biden only mentioned it a handful of times. He didn’t acknowledge the role trillions in federal spending played in sending prices higher. Instead, he called for more funding to help consumers offset higher costs.
“I have a better plan to fight inflation, lower your costs, not your wages,” Biden said. “Economists call it ‘increasing the productive capacity of our economy.’ I call it building a better America.”
Republicans called it nonsense.
“If you’re a Democrat up for re-election this year, you’re wishing the President had stopped speaking right after all the anti-Russian/Pro-Ukrainian applause lines,” said Massachusetts- based GOP strategist Patrick Griffin. “The longer Joe Biden rambled, the more voters were reminded that his policies — supported almost 100 percent by Hassan and Pappas, are exactly wrong.
“With friends like Joe Biden, Democrats in Congress don’t need enemies,” Griffin added.
“President Biden began his speech tonight with a good message about Ukraine. I hope that his actions match his rhetoric, and he will impose the comprehensive sanctions against Russia that I, and my Republican colleagues, have urged,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R). “The president then went on to rehash a mostly partisan, liberal wish list, including the tax-and-spend agenda that recently failed in Congress.”
“Brilliant speech that exceeded expectations,” said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California. “He addressed Ukraine, inflation, COVID. He could not have done better.”
DC-based Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who worked on the Clinton 2016 campaign, told InsideSources Biden’s comments on crime and explicitly rejecting “Defend the Police” represented a shift to the center.
“Biden spent 2021 engaging his progressive base. Tuesday night, he went home to moderates. The President is telling you that he needs the middle more than the base to stay in the White House.”
Rather than addressing the money supply or the impact of federal spending on an overheated economy, Biden blamed higher prices on greedy corporations “exploiting” markets and “driving up prices” and “announcing a crackdown on these companies overcharging American businesses and consumers.”
It’s not an argument most economists take seriously. As the left-leaning Washington Post editorialized:
“Economists across the political spectrum are rightly calling out the White House for this foolishness. Even some within the White House are questioning this approach, The Post reports.”
Biden also doubled down on green energy technology like wind and solar without any mention of expanding U.S. production of oil or natural gas. This is a blow to states in the northeast that rely on heating oil and propane and where home heating costs have soared 50 percent or more.
As Biden repeatedly declared his support for “Buy American” policies, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted: “You know who would like to Buy American right now? Europeans who need oil and gas and want to isolate Russia. But POTUS and climate extremists made sure they can’t do that.”
And a letter signed by 24 Republican governors accused Biden of sidestepping the most critical issues.
“From the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, to deadly drugs flowing in through the open southern border, to halting efforts to make our nation energy independent, this Administration has put America on a path toward decline,” they wrote.