60 Percent of Voters Say Biden Is Failing on Economy, Why Are Economists Praising His Job?

Sixty percent of the 1,895 surveyed for a CNBC/Change Research poll said they "disapproved" of the way President Joe Biden has handled the economy. About 72 percent of them disapproved of his handling of the prices of everyday goods, and 66 percent disapproved of his efforts to "help their wallets."

Such complaints have been echoed by both Republicans and moderate Democrats, particularly in regard to the rate of inflation. Centrist Democrat Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, had said, "From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and [Washington] D.C. can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day." Echoing his concerns, Republican Senator Rick Scott, of Florida, lamented, "Joe Biden and Democrats are leading our nation down a dark economic path of fewer jobs, higher prices and less opportunity."

At the center of their concerns lies the fact that over 2021, the rate of inflation jumped by 6.8 percent, the highest increase since 1982. The cost of energy expenses, including gas, rose by 33 percent, and the price of food has climbed by 6.1 percent.

As Americans find themselves paying more for some of their most consistent month-to-month expenses, the perceptions around Joe Biden's economy have bled toward the negative, as indicated by the CNBC poll. However, when it comes to actually measuring the Biden administration's performance of the economy, Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek that perceptions may not mirror reality.

Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Delivers Economic Policy
Brookings economist Gary Burtless told Newsweek that Americans historically do not like inflation, even if it's the sign of a healthy economy. Here, then-Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden lays out his economic policy plan to help rebuild the middle class during a campaign stop at the Scranton Cultural Center on October 23, 2019 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Photo by Rick Loomis/Getty Images

"As an economist, without any political axe to grind, I would say that the Congress and former President [Donald] Trump and President Biden have done a lot to alleviate the pain of the recession for ordinary families," he said. "I would say the United States has actually done better than most of the industrialized world."

To back this claim, Burtless pointed to the rapid recovery from the recession seen during the early days of the pandemic, the continued healthy performance of the stock market, the fact that average household spending has remained stable, and that the economy grew in 2021 despite the ongoing concerns of the pandemic.

"I'm more surprised at how good things have turned out to be from an economic standpoint," Burtless said. Burtless is not alone in this rosy assessment.

Karl W. Smith, former vice president for federal policy at the Tax Foundation and assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, penned an article in Bloomberg that stated "the president deserves some credit for avoiding the policy mistakes of [2009]." Paul Krugman, who won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, wrote in The New York Times that "this is actually a very good economy, albeit with some problems. Don't let the doomsayers tell you otherwise." And Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told CNN in May that "the economy is booming. It's busting out all over."

Senators Hold Weekly Policy Luncheons
"Joe Biden and Democrats are leading our nation down a dark economic path of fewer jobs, higher prices and less opportunity," Rick Scott said when criticizing America's rising inflation. Here, he speaks about inflation before a Senate Republican Policy luncheon at the Russell Senate Office Building on May 18, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Why then do most Americans feel that the president is failing on the economy? Burtless said it comes down to a cultural hatred of inflation and the fact that political opponents are effectively tapping into this hatred to undermine Biden's performance.

"There's just a lot of historical evidence Americans do not like inflation, regardless of whether the inflation that we have is actually a side effect of the prosperity of the country," Burtless told Newsweek. "Inflation is certainly something that I think a lot of people see tangible evidence of every day. Even though I think a sizable segment of the American population are, from an economic standpoint, actually better off than they were before the pandemic, they still think things should be better and could be better."

According to the data gathered by Statista, the wealth of the top 1 percent jumped by 2.6 percent between the first quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021. For the bottom 50 percent, wealth jumped by 0.5 percent. As programs display the lifestyles of the rich and news commentators bash the performance of the current administration, Burtless said it's easy for people to feel they could have it better and blame the president, especially if they are not following the nuances of American economic policy.

"The fact that we have lots of political battles, some of them are very closely fought battles, is disturbing to a lot of people who do not reflect a lot on how the country is governed," Burtless told Newsweek. "Inflation...has a pretty big effect on how your typical respondent to an opinion poll [views the economy]."