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Biden-Harris administration is touting an economic recovery ahead of holidays

President Biden will deliver his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, with honored guests who embody the administration's policies in attendance. Here, Biden and Vice President Harris stand onstage at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting on Feb. 3 in Philadelphia.
Patrick Semansky
President Biden will deliver his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, with honored guests who embody the administration's policies in attendance. Here, Biden and Vice President Harris stand onstage at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting on Feb. 3 in Philadelphia.

It points to the October PCE report noted that inflation has fallen to its lowest at 3% since March 2021, and monthly inflation held flat at zero. WGVU spoke with Heather Boushey, member of the Council of Economic Advisers & Chief Economist for the President's Invest in America Cabinet asking about inflation and high interest rates impacting American’s perceptions.

Heather Boushey: I think it's really important to recognize what we have accomplished since the president took office. You know, when you think back to what the economy looked like, to the fact that there was, you know, at that time, about 60,000 jobs were being created on average in the months leading up to the president's inauguration. You think about the fact that the pandemic was still raging. And the president took decisive action. It got the economy back on track. And there is no denying the reality. that this is not only one of the strongest, not one of, it is the strongest economic recovery in recent memory going back decades, and the recovery in the United States has been more robust on a number of really important metrics than among other countries that are like ours, who also face the pandemic like everyone did. So it's important to know that You know, under the president's watch, we've seen nearly 14 million jobs created. Now that may sound like some, you know, a random number. What does that mean? Well, after the Great Recession. It took years for the unemployment rate to get back down. And that meant that there were millions of workers and small businesses that were struggling. In the parlance of economics, we call that scarring from the recession. So they weren't in work, they didn't have a good fit with the kind of job that they were in a job. And that meant that they have lower earnings. And you can trace those, they have an effect over a person's lifetime or over a small business's existence. Yet in this recession, When the president came into office, because of his decisive action, we've now seen the unemployment rate lower than 4 percent for 21 months. That's a record streak that we have not seen going back over 50 years, over half a century. So those are just a couple of the metrics that I think are really important to ground whether or not this is a truly unique and historic economic recovery, which I think it is.

Patrick Center: and yet there is this psychology out there. Can you put your finger on what is causing this disconnect in our country when it comes to the economy?

Heather Boushey: Well, so why are people still frustrated? Why isn't consumer sentiment off the charts? And I have a couple of answers to that. First, I will note that this has been a challenging time for workers, for families, for folks all across the country. The pandemic was really challenging. We've seen those high prices because of all of those supply chain shocks that we saw. And then on top of that, Putin's unprovoked war in the Ukraine of ended global energy prices. We saw those prices go up. Of course, they have come down by about two thirds in terms of the pace of price changes. But we know that the prices are still higher than they had been pre-pandemic. And that's hard on folks. But a couple of other things that we've seen is that... When you actually look into the polls, you actually see that because of low unemployment, because people are at work and the fact that real wages are now outpacing inflation, there's a lot of good economic news. And it turns out when you ask Americans about the particular pieces of the president's agenda, they overwhelmingly support it. So over 80% of Americans support capping insulin costs at $35 a month. Similarly, over 80% support giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices, which they are now doing. And the majority of Americans, about three quarters, support the bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act. It's strengthening our supply chains and making sure we're making investments in cutting edge technologies. So when I look at those kinds of polls, I see Americans who see what we're doing and are excited about those specific pieces of the agenda.

Patrick Center: We can all see these things, they're happening, but there still is that unease. Inflation has come down, but it's still not quite where the Federal Reserve would like it at 2%. And then as we've raised interest rates, there is a younger portion of Americans who feel that they're being left out of the housing market. So what do you say to them?

Heather Boushey: Well, you know, I understand that these are challenges. The president understands that these are challenges. I will say for many younger workers, it's one of the reasons that the president... prioritized questions around student debt and trying to forgive those student loans and of course why we have the pause during the pandemic. So that is one place where debt really has played an important role for the president. And I know he's very, very proud of the fact that we now have a new program at the Department of Education that makes it possible for people to pay their student loans at a level that is more commensurate with their incomes and that has all up and running. So. Certainly, these are challenging economic times. A global pandemic is not an easy thing. This is something that affected families all across the country, all across the world. And we learned that it was easier to turn the economy off than it was to just turn a magic switch and have everything back up to, back up and running so quickly again. That has been challenging. But that is why the president has prioritized the creation of jobs and good jobs. And that is benefiting workers, particularly younger workers in our economy benefit them moving forward. It's why the president quite frankly has prioritized climate change knowing that those younger folks who are out there getting their start in life, these questions around what climate change means for them and for their jobs and their communities are front and center. And of course the president does have a robust housing agenda. He has a housing supply action plan, which is focused on easing the cost of housing over time, boosting the supply of quality housing all across the country. And I could point to a specific example. Things like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been focused on helping homeowners know their rights and remain in their homes when they have trouble with their mortgage payments and a host of other policies. So the president understands. And let me just note one last thing here on this. For all these reasons that we've been talking about. higher costs and the challenges facing families and communities. The president has prioritized making sure that markets work and core to that has been making sure that supply chains have function. During the pandemic, global supply chains became upended. That led to higher prices all across our economy and the reality that people couldn't get things that they needed or wanted. And so the president has really prioritized making sure that those supply chains are functional again and doing all the things that he could do to really take on businesses. who have been not able to make their supply chains work. So I just wanted to make sure that, you know, we're really, as we've been thinking about price points, that is one place that the president's focused a lot of his attention.

Patrick Center: Heather Boucher, you are a member of the Council of Economic Advisors and Chief Economist for the President's Invest in America cabinet. Thank you so much.

Heather Boushey: Thanks, bye.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.