When a reporter asked President Joe Biden to assess his first year in office, Biden argued that he “outperformed what anybody thought would happen.” It’s true that few Americans predicted the events of 2021, and even fewer believe the president’s performance has exceeded their expectations. As Biden took a victory lap on the eve of his first anniversary as president, so many citizens believe the nation is rudderless that a Republican congressional leader told me his constituents are asking, “Who’s leading the country?”
Biden highlighted several economic accomplishments during 2021. We fact-checked these assertions. We also asked the ranking Republican on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), to comment on the president’s self-assessment.
Fact-checking Joe Biden’s press conference on January 19, 2022:
Biden claim #1: “We created 6 million new jobs — more jobs in one year than at any time before.”
While the U.S. economy added 6.1 million jobs between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2021, that’s slightly fewer jobs than the Congressional Budget Office projected would have been created if he had done nothing. Last February, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the U.S. economy would add an average of 521,000 jobs a month during that time for a total of 6.252 million jobs — 136,000 more jobs than Biden delivered. Biden’s surrogates promised at least a million more jobs thanks to his own legislation.
“2021 should have been a banner year,” Rep. Brady told me. “Biden inherited an economy that was rebounding much faster than anyone expected.”
“Instead, here’s what we got under the president,” he continued. “He missed all three quarters of economic growth expectations. … He is now 1.1 million jobs short of his promises from the last COVID stimulus.”
Brady said much of the American Rescue Plan was wasted. “The president rushed through a one-party, nearly $2 trillion COVID stimulus. Very little of it actually went to fighting COVID — certainly not enough for the tests or the treatments that would have helped,” he said. “He inherited an opportunity with lifesaving vaccines and treatments and tests that were already being developed and just simply was not competent in executing any type of plan on COVID.”
“President Biden began his presidency to use the baseball analogy, standing on third base and promptly stole second,” he said.
Biden claim #2: “The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%.”
While this is true, the problem facing the nation is not so much unemployment as job vacancies and a depressed labor market. “Small business pessimism is at a 48-year low, and economic optimism by families has just fallen through the floor,” said Brady.
Biden claim #3: “Child poverty dropped by nearly 40% — the biggest drop ever in American history.”
This number is purely speculative and based on a speculative analysis of Biden’s reinvented Child Tax Credit, from The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University. Its scholars computed that the CTC, which has essentially been recast as a monthly welfare check, “has the potential to reduce monthly child poverty by up to 40 percent on its own.” Among other things, they assumed that every eligible family signed up for the credit — which is erroneous. The left-wing People’s Policy Project found that “90% or more of the (mostly very poor) kids the IRS needed to reach through its much-maligned non-filer portal have not in fact been reached.” A different group of scholars at the University of Notre Dame looked at real data and concluded that, while the CTC reduced child poverty somewhat, “we still do not see the sharp decline in the poverty rate for children that had been forecasted.”
Biden claim #4: “For the first time in a long time, this country’s working people actually got a raise — actually got a raise. The people — the bottom 40% saw their income go up the most of all those that got a raise.”
It’s true that wages rose 4.7% in 2021 but inflation rose by 7%, the highest price spike since 1982. “For a lot of families, because inflation has been so high in one year, President Biden took back all of the wage gains that families were seeing from the previous years under President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” said Rep. Brady. Real wages fell by 2.4% last year, cutting the average family’s paycheck by $5,000 a year. Consumer prices surged by $3,500, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, while an additional $1,500 came in the form of higher income taxes due to a phenomenon known as “bracket creep.” The condition, which was common in the 1970s, occurs when inflation pushes taxpayers into higher tax brackets, despite the fact that their real wages have stagnated or eroded.
Biden claim #5: “We heard dire warnings about how these supply chain problems could create a real crisis around the holidays, so, we acted. We brought together business and labor, and that much-predicted crisis did not occur. … I often see empty shelves being shown on television. Eighty-nine percent are full, which is only a few points below what it was before the pandemic.”
President Biden said last year that “only Santa Claus” could solve the nation’s snarled supply chain, but he now implies that he is Santa Claus. While fewer ships are docked off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, that is because officials at those ports began fining ships $100 a day if they docked off the coast for too long. This made it appear that there was less cargo to unload when, in fact, the number of ships at those ports carrying unloaded foreign goods surged to a record-breaking 105 vessels in early January 2022.
“I just don’t think you ought to mislead the American people like that,” said Rep. Brady.
Biden claim #6: “We cut health insurance premiums for millions of American families.”
Insurance premiums for employer-sponsored health plans — which cover more than 156 million Americans, or 49% of the U.S. population — actually increased by 4% last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Biden was referring to expanding Obamacare access and subsidies, which increases the cost to the American taxpayer.
Crime, immigration, Afghanistan, and more: the crises Biden didn’t mention
In Biden’s retrospective, some topics seemed conspicuous by their absence. Biden once again defended his withdrawal from America’s two-decade-long war in Afghanistan — which most Americans support — but he made no apologies for the poor execution, which left American citizens stranded and hunted by the newly empowered Taliban.
The president entirely omitted the topic of violent crime, although murders rose in at least 22 major cities, placing them at or near record highs. The murder of police officers hit its highest level in years: A total of 346 officers were shot in the line of duty and 73 were killed. Biden also said nothing about the highest rate of illegal immigration in U.S. history, nor a related issue: the explosion of fentanyl overdoses, which have eclipsed car accidents and suicide as the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45.
“The country has lurched from crisis to crisis for the past year,” said Rep. Brady.
All of these issues, which Americans find pressing but the president found unworthy of mention, have left U.S. citizens wondering who’s looking out for their interests.
“Americans are losing faith in [Biden’s] ability and confidence to lead this country,” Rep. Brady told me. “They see him as a weak leader internationally. They don’t understand why he’s not addressing inflation, the border crisis, or the crime crisis in America.”
“The most common question I get back home in Texas, where I live is, ‘Who’s leading this country?’”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.