President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party had a much-needed great-news day on Friday, upsetting the favoured political media narrative.
Definitive predictions of doom went up in smoke, reminding us how the pack mentality that drives coverage often leads to a cringeworthy disconnect between headlines and reality.
Pundits on the right and left had spent a week insisting that the Democratic Party was in a death spiral, and that the popular Biden agenda was the source of the party’s woes. Then the ground shifted.
First, the October jobs numbers released on Friday put to rest the notion that Mr Biden has not been addressing issues most important to voters. With a boost of 531,000 jobs and an upward revision of 235,000 jobs for August and September, Mr Biden could claim his agenda was working.
“This did not happen by accident or just because,” he said. “We laid the foundation for this recovery with my American Rescue Plan that Congress passed at the beginning of my term. It put money in working families’ pockets.”
He also pointed out: “We got more than 220 million shots in arms in my first 100 days. And we didn’t stop there.
“In recent months, we’ve started implementing vaccination requirements, which have helped bring the number of unvaccinated adults down in this country from around 100 million several months ago to 60 million now. You know, that’s good for our health, but it’s also good for our economy.”
The constant refrain from Republicans and much of the political media that Mr Biden has been focused on the wrong things simply does not hold up to scrutiny.
One can question whether presidents get too much credit for economic numbers, but if you’re going to hold him responsible for the outcome, he has every reason to boast about the 5.6 million jobs created since the start of his term, an unemployment rate down to 4.6pc, an average gain of 600,000 jobs per month and a rise in hourly wages of nearly 5pc this year.
Moreover, in the agonising struggle to pass two giant pieces of legislation, Mr Biden could finally declare victory.
The House on Friday voted to adopt the $1.2trn (€1trn) infrastructure plan. The final Build Back Better vote will take place by the week of November 15.
Consider the narrative incessantly pushed by virtually every media outlet until Friday: Mr Biden has not delivered on the economy. His agenda is too far left, threatening to expand the debt and fuel inflation. He cannot corral the left and/or the centrists.
None of that was borne out by subsequent events. By week’s end, the economy looked on much firmer footing – and, unlike his predecessor, the president had achieved a historic infrastructure investment.
The Joint Committee on Taxation declared the Build Back Better agenda would raise about $1.47trn over 10 years and in all likelihood would not add to the deficit.
A pack of Nobel Prize-winning economists confirmed that the agenda would reduce long-term inflationary pressure. As one told the Washington Post, “This is sound and uncontroversial economics – increasing supply and capacity reduces the bottlenecks that fuel inflationary surges”.
Separately, Moody’s Analytics reported that Mr Biden’s legislation “will strengthen long-term economic growth, the benefits of which would mostly accrue to lower and middle-income Americans,” and it dismissed inflation concerns as “overdone”.
If the Virginia governor’s race had taken place after Friday, the good news might or might not have made a difference in the outcome.
But the jobs numbers and legislative wins surely would have blunted the gloomy coverage that no doubt depressed Democratic turnout. The “Biden failure” narrative, in retrospect, appears alarmist.
If only the political media would exercise self-restraint, it might not continually wind up defending foolish predictions.
© Washington Post