The (Obvious) Problem with Bidenomics


Many on the periphery of the President’s reelection campaign have been fretting that Bidenomics is not doing the job of reversing troubling polling numbers. Yes, President Biden passed landmark programs in microchips, manufacturing infrastructure, and clean energy. But none of this has given voters a great deal of confidence in his ability to manage the economy. (Not that Presidents actually “manage” a $27 trillion economy, but the illusion of control exists, for better or worse.)

Apparently, this fretting is not having much effect. A December 20 Wall Street Journal headline read: “President Sticks to ‘Bidenomics’ Message Despite 2024 Campaign Worries.” 

Bidenomics’ political impotency can be traced back to a number of sources. Here are two possibilities, one fairly obvious and one less so.

The obvious failing is not distinguishing between the political impacts of micro vs. macro effects and long vs. short time horizons. Pretty much everyone in the country is hit with the big macro problem of inflation, and many are hit with a knock-on effect, high interest rates. And those problems are here and now. 

Most of Bidenomics, however, focuses on specific industries that will expand in specific geographical areas, creating good jobs for a small share of the national population sometime in the future. “Maybe someday, if I move to a new city, I’ll get a job in one of the new semiconductor fabrication facilities. But geez, the price of groceries is just killing me today.”

The less obvious failing goes back to a lesson I learned from local political guru Bob Gogerty: you can’t beat a negative with a positive. Positive messages about job growth and competitiveness cannot, by themselves, overcome the negatives of inflation and high interest rates. 

I learned this when working on the campaign for what is now Lumen Field, for which Bob was chief strategist. All the messaging in the world about the wonderfulness of sports would be useless if people think they are being taxed unfairly. Once the messaging about taxes got through (no general taxes are used to pay for the stadium), the campaign could air gauzy ads showing families playing touch football. I recall that about two thirds of the ad buys were focused on the “no new taxes” message.

This idea is consistent with the “loss-aversion” principle in behavioral economics: most people place greater value on losses than on equivalent gains. We tend to focus more energy on avoiding bad things than we do on gaining good things. So the unemployed worker getting a job in a new solar panel factory will still focus on the frustrations of inflation, even if their new higher wages will more than make up for higher prices.

The Gogerty Axiom is that you minimize or mitigate the negatives before attempting to sell the positives. Ignoring the negatives in the economy—or, worse, telling voters they are misperceiving those negatives—and trying to generate excitement about the programs in Bidenomics is a risky messaging strategy.

Team Joe can only hope that with inflation moderating, voters will get used to the new price levels and come to appreciate that prices are stabilizing. If recent reports are accurate, interest rates will begin to fall next year. With enough good economic news, voters might be receptive to hearing about roads, bridges, and high-speed internet.

Michael Luis
Michael Luis
Michael Luis is a public policy consultant who has been wrestling with housing, growth and economic development issues around Washington State for over 30 years. He is author of several books on local history and served as mayor of Medina.


  1. The adage ‘peace and prosperity’ is still important to people. Sadly, at the moment, we have neither peace nor prosperity.

    Mr. Biden’s problem is ideological not performative and thus unfixable. The animating theme of the Biden Administration is ‘redistribution’ and government has made itself the executive arbitrator on fairness and equity issues.

    Packing and public relations ploys won’t help reconcile matters of substance.

    • To say as you do that “we” have neither peace nor prosperity is a gross exaggeration. Compared to the rest of the world we are a prosperous nation — albeit one with great inequities of wealth — and not at war with any state — in an active role, at least. Throw the fact that we are generally safe in terms of person and property, protected by just laws fairly applied (Yes, I know there are many injustices and waaay too many firearms in the hands of criminals and irresponsible people).

      So what is the alternative you have in mind? Get rid of the “redistribution”? Make Fox News the “executive arbiter on fairness and equity issues?”

      Why not skip the high-falutin’ verbiage and get to your bottom line…“You got a pretty nice country here, be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

  2. Under normal circumstances I would agree that Biden’s march against income inequities has lofty, likely unattainable, goals but millions of people will be helped along the way. Most people I talk with are not happy with the choices, apparently inevitable, choices: Biden/Harris and likely (if Trump has any sense) Trump/Haley. The prevailing topic Democrats are strategizing in the 2024 election is less about political corruptions than FEAR of what Trump has said he would do, what he is capable now of doing and how radically the world order would change along with democracy itself.

  3. The Gogerty Axiom Lives, and our lack of political and civic leadership understanding that reality remains our ages’ tragic failure. Managing the politics was once an, if not noble, then at least a useful skill set. Today we confront the immediate and ignore the consequences.

  4. Jobs, security, inflation are the 3 top concerns of blue-collar voters. Education is up there as well. DEI, abortion, climate change don’t play well outside of the blue fortresses.

  5. I don’t think the answer is economic or material, but social. The last president didn’t create particular material gain for his political base, but his supporters loved him for the way he made them feel. Not sure there is an answer to that on Biden’s side. A movement prevails over a policy or a campaign any day.

  6. When i was young, a loaf of bread was a quarter. I remember when 15k was a good salary. And i won’t be content until all goes back to the good old times.
    To quote Steely Dan, ‘Only a fool would say that.’


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