Issues & Insights

Biden’s Mounting Failures Summon Return Of Misery Index

Joe Biden. Photo: Gage Skidmore, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en).

It’s hard to imagine a more miserable performance than Joe Biden’s first nine months in the White House.  Everything his administration touches it wrecks and the president’s approval ratings are just one of a number of major casualties.

Build Back Better?  Please.  The economy is in tatters, as supply chain disruptions accelerate his newly minted inflation.  Everything from Afghanistan to open borders to energy prices are out of control and defining the art of this administration’s crisis of leadership.

Yet, all this presidential failure feels uncomfortably familiar to Americans who experienced the Carter years.  Jimmy Carter holds the record for leading the most deficient presidency in modern history, now stiffly challenged by Biden. 

Jimmy’s term did provide us the clearest guide to measure how his tragic policies affected America.  And it is as relevant today as it was over 40 years ago. 

The Misery Index was created as a simple calculus of the well-being of the general population by economist Arthur Okun in the 1960s by merely adding the unemployment rate on top of the inflation rate. While there have been some modifications in recent decades to include CPI and interest measurements, this simple index reveals a basic and valuable assessment of the economy and its effect on average wage earners and their families. 

In the Carter years that metric soared and peaked at nearly 22 percent in 1980.  By contrast, recent lows included three at around five percent during Trump’s term.  Biden has responded by pushing the Misery factor to over 11.9 percent — and its climbing.

The late 1970’s also acquainted the nation to the term “stagflation” which is a condition where the economy produces less despite rampant inflation.  Sound familiar?  It should: Today’s supply chain disaster is resulting in empty shelves in the face of government stimulated, over-heated economic handouts and, just as in the Carter years, leftist government policies are the root cause.

A recent survey by the Wall Street Journal of the nation’s economists notes that the supply chain issues and high inflation will likely last well into 2022.  The grinch that is poised to rob American families of a happy Christmas will linger into the midterms which should diminish the desire for congressional approval of more spending — perhaps modifying Joe’s push for a $3.5 trillion reconciliation (Bernie Sanders’ Socialist America) bill.

Inflation in the Carter years was classically defined as too much money chasing too few goods and resulted in long gas lines, high home heating bills (remember Jimmy’s advice to just wear more sweaters?) and prosperity sabotaging interest rates.  Today’s “Bidenflation” is complicated by supply chain issues and vaccine mandates which are crippling job growth.

Inflation is, at its core, a tax on everyone’s purchasing power and it’s the cruelest tax of all.  It hammers the working poor hardest but impacts all of middle America.  Only those wealthy enough to hold rising assets — including interest on the ascending debt — truly benefit in Biden’s new America. 

But don’t worry, offers the White House:  Inflation and supply-chain issues are “high class” problems.  How much more arrogant can you get, really?  Gasoline have been on the rise and home heating costs are jumping just in time for winter.  Only now, all those “Jimmy Sweaters” are stranded in shipping containers bobbing off the Port of Long Beach.

And Joe’s solution is to add more fuel to the fire.  In addition to even more outrageous spending proposals certain to further stoke unrequited demand, his regulatory excesses and vaccine mandates continue to chill job growth guaranteeing even deeper, more tragic producer issues.

Recently, consumer sentiment fell to a surprising low in new October numbers reflecting American’s uncertainty of the economy and growing weariness with the Biden agenda.  And the latest Rasmussen survey shows a steep drop in Americans’ confidence in Biden’s economic skills with a 17 point fall among independent voters since July.  Only 34% feel he knows what he’s doing.  On rising costs, a full 83% of voters now say they are concerned about inflation, including 57% who are very concerned, while just 14% are not.

There is no doubt, looking at the Misery Index, that the same big government spending and regulatory excesses are making Americans poorer and expose Biden’s pathetic leadership.  It’s little wonder his approval ratings are nose-diving when you factor in the real world effects his misguided policies are having on real people.

For those of us gray enough to recall the Jimmy Carter years, we know how this nightmare ends.  Ronald Reagan and his supply-side, pro-growth economic policies reversed those troubled times and ushered in the most prosperous three decades in world history.  So there is hope.  Unfortunately, we are going to have to endure more misery until then. 

Lew Uhler is founder and chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and the National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). Uhler was a contemporary and collaborator with Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in California and across the country.

Joe Yocca is NTLFs national policy director. A long-time political and policy consultant, Joe served in the California State Senate as chief of staff to the Republican leadership for decades and directed statewide, legislative and congressional campaigns throughout his career.

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1 comment

  • Look at the World Happiness Report. Countries like Finland, Denmark and Switzerland lead and the U.S. is around 14. The citizens in those leading countries are living under social Democratic policies. They are the happiest in the world.

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