Expect the economy to take up a big chunk of President Biden’s State of the Union Address tonight.
It’s going to be a tough crowd. But it’s not just the GOP — Americans, in general, are pessimistic about the economy despite some positive economic data.
The message tonight is likely to be some version of ‘Yes, there’s still work to do, but the economy is doing well — REALLY!’
The White House previewed some themes of the speech in Monday’s press briefing.
“If you look at the progress that we have made, with inflation coming down, gas prices coming down, real wages as a result going up and the labor market opportunities that come from a historically strong job market — those are all reasons why we should continue down the path of the progress that we have made,” said Brian Deese, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council, in Monday’s briefing.
But the White House has been struggling to get that message across.
“It’s hard to convince people when they don’t believe that,” said Neil Bradley with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “If you look at the surveys, whether you’re talking about consumers, small businesses, midsize businesses, even large businesses, you do have this moment where people’s perception of the overall economy is quite negative, yet, their view of their own business operations or their personal finances tends to be much stronger.
Bradley calls it “secondhand pessimism” and it’s pretty pervasive. Some of it has to do with partisanship — the opposing party is usually more down on the broader economy when someone they don’t like is in the White House.
But people are feeling some real economic challenges. Polling by Megan Brenan, a senior editor at Gallup, found Americans are feeling pretty negative about the next six months on inflation, unemployment, interest rates, economic growth, and stock market values — and of course, the gridlock in Washington.
“We had one in five Americans saying that the government is the most important problem facing this country,” Brenan said. “The next measure was inflation. So I think those two points you know, the economy and where we’re at and where we’re headed, is clearly a big concern to Americans.”
Inflation is real, after all, and so is people’s worry about the future. And that fear is what Biden really has to address in the State of the Union.