By Victor Reklaitis
As President Joe Biden’s administration marks the one-year anniversary of his inauguration this week, analysts are assessing where his administration has succeeded and failed so far in his time in office.
“Biden’s problems start with two big ones: the pandemic and inflation,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “In both cases, he has incorrectly believed that they were improving, while objectively they were not.”
“His administration got inflation completely wrong, and a good deal about the pandemic wrong too. No one can be faulted for projecting variants inaccurately, but Biden’s experts simply were not prepared for what seems like probable eventualities — the need for more testing instruments, and the like,” Sabato told MarketWatch in an email.
In addition, the Biden administration had a “disaster” with its withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to Sabato. The University of Virginia expert said the chaotic exit probably was not “permanently damaging” for Biden politically, but it “ruined what otherwise would have been a very popular move to end a two-decade war,” as “inadequate planning for contingencies was obvious.”
Matthew Continetti, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, picked the same three topics as Sabato when asked what the 46th president is getting wrong.
“On inflation, Afghanistan and the pandemic, I think he’s failed, and this is responsible for his political dilemma,” Continetti said. Some 54% of Americans don’t approve of Biden’s performance, while 41% do, according to a RealClearPolitics average of job-approval polls .
Pandemic strategy has been one of Biden’s strengths, but he “didn’t quite anticipate” how the coronavirus would change with its delta and omicron variants, and he didn’t account for the number of Americans who are “not going to listen to the government and rebel at the idea of vaccine mandates,” Continetti said.
Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy at Veda Partners, said messaging is the No. 1 thing that the Biden administration needs to work on. Some 51% of Americans think the U.S. economy is getting worse, even as the unemployment rate has dropped and the economy keeps growing , she said.
The message about economic improvements “just doesn’t come across when omicron variants, inflation fears , travel disruptions and school closures continue to wreak havoc on the everyday lives of average Americans,” Treyz told MarketWatch. “Getting a consistent macro message out about the coming months of COVID is something the administration could do better.”
After noting the upcoming one-year mark, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday touted “the biggest year of job growth in American history,” saying it was the “direct result of actions taken by President Biden and Democrats in Congress, including the American Rescue Plan, the vaccination effort it helped fund and now the bipartisan infrastructure law.” Speaking to reporters at a briefing, Psaki said the U.S. economy regained 6.4 million jobs over the past 12 months, as the unemployment rate fell to 3.9% from 6.4%.
With those two measures, he pumped almost $3.5 trillion into the economy, Treyz said, helping to “pull the U.S. out of the COVID recession and emerge with a more powerful and rejuvenated infrastructure grid.”
Continetti said he didn’t think the aid package was necessary, but it was an achievement, while the bipartisan infrastructure /zigman2/quotes/200238288/composite PAVE -0.93% measure was “an example of exactly what a lot of voters thought Biden would spend all of his presidency doing — which is cut deals with Republicans on non-controversial things like roads and bridges.”
“It took him a while to get there because, of course, he was pairing it for a long time with the much more ambitious Build Back Better plan, which went nowhere ,” the AEI senior fellow said, referring to the political maneuvering around the infrastructure law .