Saturday, June 15, 2024

What is Bidenomics, and is it working for Black Americans?

President Joe Biden on Wednesday delivered a carefully crafted speech on his economic policies – dubbed “Bidenomics” – in an effort to convince Americans that his agenda is building a stronger middle class and an economy that is more equitable and works for everyone.

In his more than 30-minute remarks in Chicago, Biden touted the economic achievements in the United States, including the creation of 13 million jobs since taking office and bringing down the unemployment rate to historic lows. 

U.S. President Joe Biden unveils his economic plan during an event in the lobby of the old post office building on June 28, 2023, in Chicago. He is also scheduled to attend a fundraising event during the visit. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The president linked those achievements to policies enacted by the Biden-Harris administration that are building a “new economy from the middle out, the bottom up, not the top down.” The president called it a “fundamental break” from the “trickle down” philosophy of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and other Republican presidents before him, that has “failed America’s middle class for decades.”

Biden’s remarks come as the White House and the Biden-Harris reelection campaign begin to build the case for why he deserves a second term in office ahead of the 2024 presidential contest. 

A major aspect of President Biden’s economic agenda has focused on equity and creating pathways for Black and brown Americans who historically and persistently lag behind their white counterparts in a range of economic categories from wealth attainment and homeownership to wages and debt reduction

Senior adviser to President Biden, Mitch Landrieu, told theGrio that rather than focusing on big tax cuts for the rich and wealthy corporations and hoping it eventually reaches the middle class and low-income communities, the president’s policies are designed to “invest in America” by ensuring that those investments “get down to the ground” in Black and brown communities.

“His feeling is that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” said Landrieu. 

He added, “Not only is it going to provide a better environment for people to grow up, it’s going to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for people in the communities that have been hollowed out and left behind whether it’s an inner city or a rural area.”

President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd about his economic and infrastructure plans on Jan. 4, 2023, in Covington, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Jared Bernstein, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told theGrio that Bidenomics focuses on three pillars: investing in America, empowering and educating workers, and promoting more competition to lower consumer costs and small businesses.

Bernstein noted that the recent historically low Black unemployment rate is a result of Bidenomics, which has also “increased their bargaining clout and helped to boost their wages as well.”

While the wage gap between Black and white workers remains significant, doing more to close it remains “at the top of the agenda” for the White House.

“When low unemployment disproportionately helps less advantaged workers, when it disproportionately helps communities of color, that’s actually quite a reliable way to start chipping away at those gaps,” said Bernstein.

The Biden economic adviser also touted the president’s key legislation since taking office, including the COVID-19 pandemic recovery law, the American Rescue Plan, and the multi-billion dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that is funding the rebuilding of America’s roads, bridges, railroads, and airports. 

Bernstein also highlighted the CHIPS and Science Act, which invests in Made in America-only manufacturing, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provides historic investments in clean energy production and lowers health care costs for millions of Americans.

The Stanton Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant and the Stanton Solar Farm are seen in Orlando. The power plant is projected to convert from burning coal to using natural gas by 2027. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told theGrio that investments in clean energy from the IRA, for example, will significantly lower costs for communities as the country works to move away from fossil fuels.

“If you want to bring down costs for people, you will deploy…more solar,” said Granholm, who is touring the Southeast to promote Biden’s energy investments in underserved communities. “Even if you are skeptical about climate change or the economy, for energy security and for jobs, this is a critical moment for us to explode and invest in this industry for the country.”

And while polling indicates that Americans remain lukewarm to President Biden’s job performance, Secretary Granholm acknowledged that it might “take a little bit of time for them to realize all of this stuff that is happening,” particularly after the pandemic, threats of a recession amid inflation and the economic policies during the Trump administration. 

Andre Perry, an economic researcher and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told theGrio that it’s fair to say that the economic health of Black Americans has improved under the Biden administration. 

“There are fewer…Black people in poverty,” said Perry, who pointed to Biden’s Child Tax Credit as a driver, and “there are more Black people in the middle class.” 

However, he said the record-low Black unemployment is likely more of a result of a tight labor market and actions taken by the Federal Reserve, which makes independent monetary policy decisions. 

“It’s one of those things where I say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job, but let’s not take too much credit for some of the macro forces,’” said Perry. He added, “Overall, there’s been some good things, but the policies that Biden enacted, you won’t see those impacts for years to come.”

Perry noted that the pause of student loan payments also gave Black households economic relief. He said Biden’s student debt forgiveness program – which could potentially be struck down by the Supreme Court – would also go a long way in closing the racial wealth gap. He would like to see more economic policies implemented, including more cost-saving measures for child and health care and instituting baby bonds and forms of reparations.

Another area of economic policy where Bidenomics is seen as effective is homeownership. 

A house for sale on June 13, 2023, in Bloomington, Indiana. Most Black families in the U.S. are first-generation homebuyers, said Chris Tyson, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust. (Photo by © Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Chris Tyson, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, a non-profit that promotes community-based property development, told theGrio that he is particularly impressed by the Biden administration’s investments to grow Black homeownership.

“The new [Housing and Urban Development] budget increased dollars for downpayment assistance which is critical for Black families,” said Tyson. “They have [also] increased dollars for first-generation homebuyers.”

He added, “When we talk about first-generation homebuyers, that’s a real racial equity play because most Black families are first-generation homebuyers.”

Tyson’s organization has been consulting with the Biden-Harris administration, which he said has been “receptive” to proposed reforms. “There’s still work to do, but we appreciate the effectiveness of the Biden administration,” he told theGrio. 

During his speech on Wednesday, Biden acknowledged that despite the results touted by his administration, “I’m not here to declare victory on the economy.” He explained, “I’m here to say we have a plan that is turning things around incredibly quickly.”

Seemingly laying out his agenda for the 2024 presidential election, President Biden said the next phase of his economic agenda is recalibrating the tax code so that it is “fair for everyone,” which includes making “the super-wealthy and big corporations begin to pay their fair share without raising taxes at all on the middle class.”

“I believe that every American willing to work hard should be able to get a job no matter where they are,” said Biden. “To raise their kids on a good paycheck and keep the roots where they grew up – that’s Bidenomics.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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