Is the American economy about to turn the corner — or, has it already? With a general election on the line, the Biden administration is done waiting to find out.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Chicago today, where she’s scheduled to deliver what the administration is calling a “major” address on the economy and President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
Is this a victory lap? It’s probably too early in 2024 to say. But it sure sounds like the Biden administration is willing to reembrace the state of the economy after seeking some distance late last year.
“Though some forecasters thought a recession last year was inevitable, President Biden and I did not,” Yellen will say in prepared remarks. “Instead of contracting, the economy has continued to grow, driven by American workers and President Biden’s economic strategy. It now produces far more goods and services than it did before the pandemic.”
Congressional Democrats have been pretty bullish that voters would eventually come around on the Biden economy. Judging by the latest consumer sentiment data, they might be on the verge of being right.
“As I’m traveling around Virginia, a common thing I hear is, ‘You know, I’m doing pretty well,’ or ‘My business is doing pretty well, but I’m worried about three months from now,’” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told us. He blames that on the pandemic-era pessimism. “Covid was so tough on people — they didn’t want to let their hopes get up,” the Virginia Democrat said.
But “I think people are now seeing, ‘OK, this is more than just a flash in the pan,’” Kaine added.
Still, the backdrop of this speech is complicated. Inflation is better but still not great. The housing sector is pricey but getting cheaper. Wages have been beating inflation since summer 2023 — but only after two solid years of inflation winning that duel.
Biden and Yellen, however, are banking on the political long game. Building bridges, fixing roads and laying broadband takes time. Just hopefully, in their view, not too much time.
One thing worth flagging: Expect Yellen to even take a shot or two at former President Donald Trump’s administration. Case and point:
— Brendan Pedersen