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Be On The Lookout For These Lies In Biden’s State Of The Union Address

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

By Connor O'Keeffe, Mises Wire | March 6, 2024

On Thursday evening, President Joe Biden is set to give his third State of the Union address. The political press has been buzzing with speculation over what the president will say. That speculation, however, is focused more on how Biden will perform, and which issues he will prioritize. Much of the speech is expected to be familiar.

The story Biden will tell about what he has done as president and where the country finds itself as a result will be the same dishonest story he’s been telling since at least the summer. He’ll cite government statistics to say the economy is growing, unemployment is low, and inflation is down.

Something that has been frustrating Biden, his team, and his allies in the media is that the American people do not feel as economically well off as the official data says they are. Despite what the White House and establishment-friendly journalists say, the problem lies with the data, not the American people’s ability to perceive their own well-being.

As I wrote back in January, the reason for the discrepancy is the lack of distinction made between private economic activity and government spending in the most frequently cited economic indicators. There is an important difference between the two:

Government, unlike any other entity in the economy, can simply take money and resources from others to spend on things and hire people. Whether or not the spending brings people value is irrelevant.

It’s the private sector that’s responsible for producing goods and services that actually meet people’s needs and wants. So, the private components of the economy have the most significant effect on people’s economic well-being.

Recently, government spending and hiring has accounted for a larger than normal share of both economic activity and employment. This means the government is propping up these traditional measures, making the economy appear better than it actually is. Also, many of the jobs Biden and his allies take credit for creating will quickly go away once it becomes clear that consumers don’t actually want whatever the government encouraged these companies to produce.

On top of all that, the administration is dealing with the consequences of their chosen inflation rhetoric. Since its peak in the summer of 2022, the president’s team has talked about inflation “coming back down,” which can easily give the impression that it’s prices that will eventually come back down. But that’s not what that phrase means. It would be more honest to say that price increases are slowing down.

Americans are finally waking up to the fact that the cost of living will not return to prepandemic levels, and they’re not happy about it.

The president has made some clumsy attempts at damage control, such as a Super Bowl Sunday video attacking food companies for “shrinkflation”—selling smaller portions at the same price instead of simply raising prices. In his speech Thursday, Biden is expected to play up his desire to crack down on the “corporate greed” he’s blaming for high prices.

In the name of “bringing down costs for Americans,” the administration wants to implement targeted price ceilings—something anyone who has taken even a single economics class could tell you does more harm than good. Biden would never place the blame for the dramatic price increases we’ve experienced during his term where it actually belongs—on all the government spending that he and President Donald Trump oversaw during the pandemic, funded by the creation of $6 trillion out of thin air—because that kind of spending is precisely what he hopes to kick back up in a second term.

If reelected, the president wants to “revive” parts of his so-called Build Back Better agenda, which he tried and failed to pass in his first year. That would bring a significant expansion of domestic spending. And Biden remains committed to the idea that Americans must be forced to continue funding the war in Ukraine. That’s another topic Biden is expected to highlight in the State of the Union, likely accompanied by the lie that Ukraine spending is good for the American economy. It isn’t.

It’s not possible to predict all the ways President Biden will exaggerate, mislead, and outright lie in his speech on Thursday. But we can be sure of two things. The “state of the Union” is not as strong as Biden will say it is. And his policy ambitions risk making it much worse.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Connor O’Keeffe produces media and content at the Mises Institute. He has a master's in economics and a bachelor's in geology.

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