Marc’s Micro Blog

Democrats’ Perception Problem


Democrats’ Perception Problem

Despite controlling the presidency and Congress, Democrats have failed to deliver for those who elected them. They have created inflation and can’t stop it.

This is the political perception of our moment. But, that perception is deeply flawed, and we must change it before the critical mid-term elections.

Delivering Results

What have Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats delivered? A partial list:

This Congress is likely to pass yet more legislation, potentially including:

Do the lists above contain everything Democratic constituencies want? Nope. Did many of those items involve compromises liberals didn’t like? Yep. But, with Democrats controlling the Senate by a single vote and the House by ~1% of votes, these are good outcomes. Democrats should crow more about them.


“But, Democrats and inflation!” you may cry. Inflation in the U.S. is indeed alarming. And, Democrats have contributed to the problem with too much recent fiscal stimulus. But, that is far from the full, bipartisan picture.

In December 2017, Trump and Congressional Republicans passed massive tax cuts favoring the wealthy and corporations without corresponding spending cuts. The cuts are estimated to add $2 trillion to $2.4 trillion to the national debt over ten years. Too much fiscal stimulus is a bipartisan problem.

Trump paired his tax cuts with protectionist trade policies that raises prices or keeps them high. He pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and imposed tariffs on Chinese imports. But, Biden hasn’t joined TPP’s successor or removed the tariffs on China. Protectionist trade policies are a bipartisan problem too.

Inflation is also being driven by supply chain issues due to COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Republicans and Democrats didn’t create either of those problems. (Though, I would argue Biden has responded more effectively to COVID and Russian aggression than Trump did.)

Finally, the Federal Reserve waited too long to raise interest rates to combat inflation. That’s a bipartisan problem, too, given that both parties have nominated Fed governors in recent years. (Clearest example: Chair Jay Powell is a Republican appointed to the board by Obama, later made chair by Trump, and then renominated as chair by Biden.)

Massive tax cuts, massive stimulus, supply chain problems, and loose monetary policy. Many things have combined to create our inflationary environment, most of them being bipartisan in nature.

Changing Perception and Changing Policy

Democrats need to trumpet their achievements, to revel in them. They need to make it clear that Republicans bear their share of the blame for the current economy. And, they need to convince mid-term voters to give them larger Congressional majorities to more meaningfully tackle major problems. The most important of those problems is, yes, inflation.

The Inflation Reduction Act is a good start, but bolder action is needed. While free trade and immigration may look like political third rails, Democrats should dare to touch them.

A good start would be for the U.S. to join the successor to TPP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or a new agreement much like it. More goods entering the U.S. at lower prices would reduce inflation while helping to balance against Chinese influence in APAC.

Congress also needs to take another stab at comprehensive immigration reform. Allowing appropriate numbers of new immigrants with needed skills would help bring high wage growth and low unemployment to healthier levels. It would increase entrepreneurship in our economy. It would also help deal with our below replacement level birth rate and aging population.

Biden and Democrats shouldn’t allow misperceptions about their achievements, the causes of inflation, or the best solutions for it to continue. Voters need to understand what Democrats have gotten done and what they want to do next.