WASHINGTON — As President Biden has said in recent months, America has the fastest-growing economy in the world, his student debt relief program passed Congress by a vote or two, and Social Security benefits have become more generous under his leadership.
None of it was accurate.
President, which has long been considered a beautifying truth, has recently overestimated its impact on the economy, or omitted key facts. This week, during a speech in Florida, Mr. Biden boasted that he had given pensioners a raise.
“For the first time in 10 years that I’ve seen, seniors are getting increased Social Security checks,” he declared. Problem: This increase was the result of an automatic increase in the cost of living caused the fastest inflation in 40 years. Mr. Biden did nothing to increase retiree checks — it was just a byproduct of the skyrocketing inflation the president has pledged to fight.
During stops around the country in recent weeks, Mr. Biden has also taken credit for reducing the federal budget deficit — the difference between what America owes and what it earns.
“This year, under our leadership, the deficit is coming down by $1.4 trillion,” he said last week in Syracuse, N.Y. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the largest single-year deficit reduction in American history.”
Left unsaid was the fact that the deficit was so high primarily because of pandemic relief spending, including the $1.9 trillion economic relief package the president pushed through Congress in 2021 that has not been renewed. Mr. Biden actually claimed credit for not going through another round of emergency aid.
White House officials say so robust tax revenues that helped reduce the deficitthey are largely the result of strong economic growth that has been fueled by Mr. Biden’s economic policies.
State of the 2022 Midterm Elections
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
It is common for presidents to spin economic numbers to improve their standing with voters. Like many of his predecessors, Mr. Biden has highlighted economic indicators that are favorable to his record, including low unemployment and record job growth in his first two years in office – to win over an American public that polls show remains on the economy deeply pessimistic.
But as it nears the midterm elections that will determine the fate of the rest of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, the president’s cheerleading has increasingly expanded to include exaggerations or misstatements about the economy and his policies.
White House officials have sometimes been forced to awkwardly correct Mr. Biden’s claims. Other times they doubled down on them.
Senior administration officials have acknowledged that the president and other administration officials have occasionally inadvertently misrepresented the economy, but denied that Mr. Biden or his administration had ever tried to mislead the public about the economy. They said his record required no exaggeration.
“The president’s economic agenda has given us an economy with historic job creation, unemployment falling faster than previous recoveries, and private sector investment in new industries across the country,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said. “Where we have occasionally erred, as every man is permitted to do once in a while, we have acknowledged and corrected or clarified such honorable errors.”
Mr. Biden’s economic hyperbole generally pales in comparison stories spun by his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump. A former president whose lies included insisting that he he did not lose in the 2020 election and that the Capitol was not attacked by his supporters on January 6, 2021, he regularly boasted about “the largest economy in the history of the world” – a statement that is not based on any facts. Mr. Trump also had his say a giant tax cut package paid for himself when not and relied on strange economic growth projections to have balanced budgets.
November 4, 2022, 12:56 PM ET
Jason Furman, a Harvard University economist and former economic adviser to the Obama administration, said some of Mr. Biden’s recent claims appeared to be the types of “logical leaps” that were common during election periods. He pointed to the president’s claims to reduce the deficit and oversee increases in Social Security payments as examples.
“It’s not like making it up,” Mr. Furman said. “It’s just a rather far-fetched and strange causal argument around the true facts.”
He added that Mr. Biden’s message did not compare to the falsehoods that Mr. Trump told about America being among the highest-taxed countries in the world, an inaccurate statement given the much higher tax rates in countries such as France, Denmark and Belgium.
“You had complete factual errors with President Trump,” Mr. Furman said.
Mr. Biden’s pitch centered on the notion that he is leading a post-pandemic transition to steady economic growth and that if Republicans take control of Congress, they will cut social safety net programsshut down the government and weaponize America’s need to borrow money to pay its financial obligations.
But as the United States has grappled with inflation, the Biden administration has at times resorted to cherry-picking the most favorable data points or missing crucial context. In some cases, it was a presentation of graphics that didn’t tell the whole story.
For example, a White House chart from late last year depicted the drop in gas prices for the month as a significant drop. However, rows of dip bars reported a decline of just 10 cents.
Inflation has been the most slippery topic, with Biden administration officials frequently targeting various measures as they look for silver in the monthly news.
Cecilia Rouse, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, apparently misstated the numbers in an interview with CNN last month when pressed about why “core” inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, was at a 40-year high in September .
“So if you look month by month, it’s actually been flat,” Ms Rouse said.
The monthly rate has actually gone up by 0.6 percent, a significant increase. The administration said Ms. Rouse misspoke and meant to say that core inflation had been unchanged for two consecutive months, not zero.
Mr. Biden comment to Jimmy Kimmel in June that America’s rapid economic growth was the fastest in the world was contradicted by an International Monetary Fund report in July that showed several countries in Europe and Asia had grown faster than the United States this year. At the time, the fund predicted that the United States would grow at a rate of a stagnate by 2.3 percent in 2022 and further lowered its outlook last month. In that case, the administration said Mr. Biden was referring to the pace of America’s recovery from the pandemic compared to other major economies.
A more recent presidential statement at the forum in October that the student debt relief program passed Congress was perhaps the most harrowing. It was in stark contrast to the reality that Mr. Biden had developed the initiative through executive action and that it had been challenged in the courts. A White House official said Mr. Biden was referring to passing an inflation-reduction bill that did not include student debt relief.
And when Mr. Biden said in September that gas prices averaged below $2.99 a gallon in 41 states and the District of Columbia, they were actually $1 higher. White House they corrected the transcription his notes and said it was a one-off unintended slip.
The Social Security misstep was portrayed across the spectrum as the biggest mistake.
Mr. Biden’s suggestion that an increase in the cost of living on Social Security is a sign of economic health drew confusion from Democrats and scorn from Republicans after the White House reinforced the point in a Twitter post from his account on Tuesday.
“The only thing the White House can take credit for is the historic inflation that led to the need to increase Social Security payments,” Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee said in a statement.
On Wednesday afternoon, the White House deleted the tweet.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, tried to explain its removal by saying the report lacked crucial information about other ways older Americans are saving money through lower Medicare premiums.
“Look, the tweet wasn’t complete,” she said. “Usually when we post a tweet, we post it with context and it didn’t have that context.”