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Roth: SOTU 2022 preview: The state of the union is a mess; here’s how Biden is likely to spin it

Op-ed
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The state of the union is a mess. Inflation is running at a 40-year high, with the prices of everything from energy to food to housing making the cost of American living much higher. Broken supply chains aren’t helping inflation or the ability to get goods and services, and we have substantial dislocation in the labor market. And if that wasn’t enough, many jurisdictions are just starting to dial back onerous COVID-related policies that have trampled on individual rights, with a backdrop of a treacherous geopolitical landscape.

But none of that will stop the president from trying to put a rosy spin on what is going on in America and selling his “accomplishments,” no matter how removed from reality they may be, during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address to Congress and the American people.

Here’s what you are likely in for:

Severe economic gaslighting

As noted above, the economy is in disarray. The administration knows that and will do everything possible to ensure President Biden touts half-truths and statistical spin as reality. Biden will likely talk about the supposed record job creation under his administration. This is a wild claim, given that there have been no new jobs created since the pre-pandemic February 2020 levels; there has been merely the reclaiming of some, though not all, of the jobs lost directly as a result of the government at various levels closing businesses and then re-opening them.

Biden will also likely address low unemployment, due again in part to the low starting point in February 2020 and the large number of individuals who have permanently left the workforce since then, in large part due to government policies.

While he won’t talk about his administration’s role in stoking inflation, from the very unnecessary $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to canceling oil and gas leases and the Keystone XL pipeline, Biden may trot out wage increases as a highlight, of course failing to mention that these inflationary increases have also not kept pace with inflation overall and that every dollar today buys you substantially less than it did before he took office.

As many Americans haven’t filed their taxes yet and may still not realize that the child tax credit payment they received was in large part an advance, not a gift, he will also likely shout out that policy, again not talking about its role in inflation.

The wild card is the stock market. Knowing that it was a favorite measure of President Trump, Biden may mention that the broader stock market, although currently off its highs, is up since he has taken office, with the S&P 500 hitting 68 record highs during his first year in office and in aggregate, up around 12% since his Inauguration Day. While that’s largely the result of Fed intervention in the market instead of policy and facing challenges from both inflation and a potentially slowing economy, Biden may still try to grab credit here.

Green energy cheerleading

Just a couple of short years ago, the U.S. was energy independent and the leading producer of petroleum and natural gas in the world. Among Biden’s first actions in office was suspending oil and gas leases and withdrawing the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

This has created economic instability and national security implications for the U.S. and its allies, particularly given that the European Union reportedly gets 40% of its gas imports from Russia, a number that is expected to increase. It also is counter to “green” initiatives, as it shifts energy production from the U.S., which has the technology and desire to produce more cleanly, to countries that don’t.

However, Biden will likely spin the Russian invasion of the Ukraine as some sort of “proof” on why we need more green energy and why his decisions show green leadership, despite the underlying realities.

He will also likely try to talk about how tough he has been on Russia with sanctions that widely have been criticized as weak.

Taking credit for vaccines and virus cycles

Both President Biden and Vice President Harris during the 2020 election cycle expressed doubts about any vaccine brought to market under Trump. At the State of the Union, we will likely hear Biden shift to taking credit for the vaccines brought about under Operation Warp Speed.

Despite admissions by many politicians and experts that COVID is likely to be endemic and the Biden administration did very little, if anything, to help the situation, as well as more COVID deaths recorded under Biden than prior to him taking office, the president will most likely take credit for safely navigating the country through the pandemic.

For extra pandering, Biden may have some front-line workers in attendance for their heroics during the pandemic, despite the fact that his administration fired any of these heroes who weren’t vaccinated.

Those are likely to be some of the key “highlights” of the president’s speech. It will likely be written to tug on emotions, as there’s only so much he can do to spin the facts and truth.

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