Robert Reich: Biden’s State Of The Union, And The Paradox At The Center Of His Presidency – OpEd


In his first State of the Union address since Democrats lost control of the House, President Biden celebrated recent economic gains — especially declining inflation and soaring job growth — while taking a bow for legislative victories that will curb prescription drug prices, expand health benefits for veterans, slow climate change, and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

I thought Biden’s speech was solid and his delivery strong.

I also liked that Biden called on Congress to slap a minimum tax on billionaires and quadruple the tax on corporate stock buybacks, and challenged the new House Republican majority to extend more social aid to those in need and rule out cuts to Social Security and Medicare — even though none of this will happen because the House is controlled by the most rabid right-wing Republican Party in history.

Biden’s speech reminded me of how good a president he has been, especially given what he inherited from the former guy, who made a fetish out of dividing and angering us while accomplishing nothing except giving a giant tax cut to big corporations and the rich. Biden has steadied the nation. He has brought competent people into government. He has enacted important legislation. He has fortified America’s alliances against despots like Putin. He has strengthened American democracy. 

All of which raises for me a troubling paradox. Only 42 percent of Americans approve of his presidency — barely above the 41 percent at his last State of the Union address, and a lower percent at this point than any president in 75 years of polling except for Trump and Reagan (who at this point was hobbled by a deep recession).

And despite Biden’s significant achievements, fully 62 percent think he has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing” during his presidency. Even on his signature initiatives — from improving the country’s infrastructure to making electric vehicles more affordable to lowering prescription drug costs to creating jobs — majorities believe he has made no progress.

I’m bewildered by these numbers. It’s easy to blame faulty polling (lord knows, pollsters have repeatedly demonstrated their fallibility). But I fear something else is going on here that may make it difficult for Biden to win a second term in next year’s (next year!) presidential election. And I have a few ideas about what it is.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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