Biden's Unclear Economic Diagnosis

The White House, via Biden, trumpets its first big success in the stimulus package. But with more than a few asterisks involved, commentators aren't buying what the VP is selling, and he may not even be selling what he says.

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Conservative commentators could hardly contain themselves following Joe Biden's speech to the Brookings Institution yesterday. The vice president used the occasion to promote the effectiveness of the nearly 200-day-old stimulus bill on kick-starting the nation's sagging economy, claiming that it was working better than the White House initially expected. Biden's sunny depiction was tempered by newly released figures showing that unemployment rose again in August to 9.7%. But with public approval of the President sliding in recent days, many concluded that speech was less about the economy and more of a new campaign to win back support for the president's broader agenda.

  • No Sale National Review's Editorial picks apart Biden's speech, using a report by the AP to point out key exaggerations and omissions. "There are plenty of reasons to think that the stimulus has been as inefficient and ineffective as its critics feared it would be — unemployment is getting worse rather than improving as predicted, countries that spent less on stimulus (and those that employed tax-rate reductions), are recovering more quickly, etc. — and Biden’s exaggerations only served to highlight these reasons."
  • Read Between the Lines Nick Gillespie of Reason's Hit & Run blog says that if you look carefully at the VP's words about the overall role of government intervention in the economy, even he isn't totally confident in the results . "[It] all sounds really great and stimulative and wonderful. And yet, even Biden cannot fully believe that the stimulus won't end up being reckoned to be little more than a massive boondoggle."
  • Misdirection at its Finest Writers at 24/7 Wall St. do the methodical thing and compare the effects of the stimulus so far to its stated goals, noting that the picture is, at best, inconsistent. They conclude that the package probably did "help the neediest"  via increased Medicaid and unemployment benefits spending, but funds for other important projects like increasing security at airports and the border were slow to come and often misdirected.
  • You Can't Buy Popularity Massimo Calabresi of Time begins by acknowledging that it would be difficult for anyone to prove that the stimulus helped stave off a worse recession or depression. Coupled with the fact that those receiving the most stimulus funds probably saved them instead of pumping them back into the economy, the overall picture becomes increasingly murky, which isn't good for an administration trying to get back into the public's good graces. As Calabresi writes, "Giving money to the poor never won anyone many critical swing votes."
  • It's the Health Care Reform, Stupid! At Slate, Christopher Beam comes right out and says what everyone must be thinking: "The stimulus commemoration dovetails with the administration's attempted CPR on health care reform." Whether the White House likes it or not, the fracas over Health Care will continue to cloud all other aspects of the Presiden'ts agenda. But Beam pushes further, arguing that there are more than a few meaningful areas of overlap between the two efforts, including a $19 billion stimulus allocation to digitizing health records. He warns that there is a distinct disadvantage to so closely tying the two efforts, "If the public is less concerned about its economic welfare, it may also think saving money through health care reform is less important."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.