The White House thinks you’re stupid

Whether things are going well or badly, presidents are almost always awarded too much credit or blame for the state of the economy. As the White House is eager to point out, Joe Biden cannot eradicate inflation or solve the supply chain crisis with the stroke of a pen.

What he can do, though, is help. He and his advisors can listen, try to understand the struggles of American households and act accordingly. Faced with this option, however, the Biden administration has instead chosen to stick its fingers in its ears. On the massive spending bill that Congress is set to vote on soon, the Biden administration has not swerved. No recent events have persuaded senior Democrats that anything about the legislation needs to change.

What has changed, however, is the messaging. And it has done so at breakneck speed. It has been quite something to see the Biden spin machine come into contact with the cold, hard realities of the global economy. In no time at all, we have gone through the following stages.

One, denial that inflation has happening. Two, a breezy insistence that inflation is actually a “quality problem.” Three, an acknowledgment that higher prices are less than ideal but they need not affect Biden’s domestic agenda. Four, the reinvention of exactly the same $1.75 trillion spending package as, first and foremost, an a counter-inflationary policy. The argument is, to put it generously, unpersuasive. If you were feeling less charitable, you might say it was made in bad-faith, and is both patronizing and cynical.

That would be bad enough, but now we have reached stage five, when the White House claims that they are the real inflation hawks. Yesterday, Jen Psaki asked herself a question on Twitter: “Why, when Americans are seeing higher prices, are Republicans united against a bill to lower core costs on prescription drugs, healthcare, child care and elder care?”  Her answer: “They’re rooting for inflation.”

The charge of gaslighting is over-deployed in politics these days. But I can’t think of a better description of a line of argument that says: “If you’re so worried about inflation then why aren’t you voting for the $1.75 trillion of spending in social welfare?”

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg blithely says America needs to “walk and chew gum” at the same time: exactly the sort of smarmy debate-club defense you’d expect from the Rhodes scholar turned transportation secretary. It sounds good. But it doesn’t actually mean anything.

Similarly, the White House’s economic messaging is stuck in its own echo chamber. None of it has anything to do with, you know, the actual economy. It’s lazy. It’s out of touch. It takes all of us for fools. And it isn’t working.

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Sinema sounds off

Tight-lipped moderate Kyrsten Sinema has given a rare interview to Politico reporters Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine. Some choice quotes from the Arizona senator:

On whether she would ever join the GOP: “No. Why would I do that?

On Mitch McConnell: “He has a dry sense of humor. It’s underrated.

On discussion of her fashion sense: “It’s very inappropriate. I wear what I want because I like it. It’s not a news story and it’s no one’s business.

On the president’s agenda: “There’s this growing trend of people in both political parties who promise things that cannot be delivered, in order to get the short-term political gain. And I believe that it damages the long-term health of our democracy.

Uh oh, Cuomo

It’s been a tough twelve months for Andrew Cuomo. First, he saw his reputation as pandemic hero evaporate as the truth emerged about care-home deaths in New York State. Then he was ousted as New York governor after allegations of sexual harassment. Now it looks like he might have to pay back the whopping great advanced he was awarded to write his self-lionizing memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic. The book was a commercial flop for which Cuomo earned $3.12 million and is due another $2 million. But the New York ethics board has voted to revoke its authorization for the book. When will Andrew catch a break?

Mask off, mask on

DC is finally ditching its indoor mask mandate. The illogical rule’s departure is a welcome development. From Monday, the absurd theater of masking up to walk from from a restaurant entrance to your table will be a thing of the past. As will the double standard that means a crowded bar of maskless drinkers is OK, but gym-goers must mask up as they huff and puff on the treadmill. (It’s worth noting that there are exceptions, like schools, and that businesses will obviously be free to request mask wearing if they wish.)

One place not making the most of this return to normal, however, is the White House. A spokesperson for the president said that they would be following CDC guidance which recommended masking in areas of “high or substantial transmission.”

What you should be reading today

Bridget Phetasy: Pregnant at the end of the world
Jesse Singal: Netflix’s Chappelle of hate
Teresa Mull: Fall is America’s sentimental season
Yuval Levin, the Dispatch: The changing face of social breakdown
Michael Schuman, the Atlantic: Xi Jinping’s terrifying new China
Ryan Grim, the Intercept: Democrats are losing normal voters of all races

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.7 percent
Disapprove: 52.9 percent
Net approval: -11.2 (RCP Average)

Do you agree or disagree with the statement that Biden is in good health?
Agree: 40 percent
Disagree: 50 percent (Politico/Morning Consult)

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