Inflation Reduction Act a $700B midterm Hail Mary for Biden

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Every dog has his day, and apparently so does every miserably inadequate president.

Joe Biden, who has been out of touch, tone-deaf, and disturbingly incompetent from the outset of his presidency, suddenly has the “Big Mojo,” or at least the “Moderate-Sized This-Isn’t-Quite-the Legislative-Debacle-We-Expected Mojo.”

The climate and health-care spending deal forged by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and longtime Democratic holdout Joe Manchin has revived talk in the media and among Democrats of Biden’s transformative agenda as — if not quite FDR- or LBJ-level — substantial and to be reckoned with.

There’s no doubt that Biden has spent a lot of money between the so-called $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package and now $700 billion in the latest bill.

It’s also true that winning is better than losing, success is better than futility, and passing something is better than nothing.

The Schumer-Manchin bill, though, is a shadow of the original sprawling proposal that constituted nearly the entire progressive wish list, from free community college to universal pre-K to expanded parental leave, stuffed into one legislative casing.

The scaled-back version is a not particularly coherent combination of whatever Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and his fellow resistant Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, were willing to support.

Its claim to reduce inflation is a joke; its deficit reduction is backloaded and has already been vitiated by other unpaid-for spending; its taxes will hit Americans earning less than $400,000 a year, despite Biden’s promises; its electric-car subsidies are frustrated by its own requirements that key components not come from China — requirements that no car can currently meet.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., left, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y., depart Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017
The bill was concocted by Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
AP/J. Scott Applewhite

The bill doesn’t remove any of the doubts about Biden, whose main contribution to the process of cutting the deal was to stay out of the way.

Agenda still flailing 

Otherwise, the president still hasn’t successfully made the public case for anything. Indeed, he has almost zero capacity for persuasion — something that the White House clearly realizes and that’s reflected in his limited schedule and interactions with the press.

He’s allowed the left to lead him around by the nose on most things, mouthing its lines about the Georgia voting law supposedly being “Jim Crow on steroids” and slamming the Supreme Court while he was on a trip overseas.

Gas prices are displayed at a Sunoco gas station along the Ohio Turnpike near Youngstown, Ohio, Tuesday, July 12, 2022.
The bill was signed into law after inflation hit a record 40-year high earlier this summer.
AP/Gene J. Puskar

His agenda has been almost entirely removed from the concerns of ordinary Americans. The title of the new spending bill is a nod to inflation, but what it really offers Americans groaning under double-digit price increases in key goods is — just what they need — more solar panels and wind turbines.

Of course, Biden’s first big achievement, the COVID bill, turned out to be most consequential for what it did to stoke an inflation that has disrupted the lives of much of the country and eroded its standard of living.

It is this failure, more than the border or Afghanistan, that has sent Biden below 40% approval in most polls. It’s one thing to sag in popularity before a midterm election — that’s normal. It’s quite another to convince almost everyone in the country, including members of your own party, that you are unsuited to running for president again.

Only 18% of Americans in the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll say that Biden should run for a second term. Just 29% of Biden voters are ready for him to suit up and ride again in 2024, an astonishing repudiation from people who presumably wish him well and were hoping for the best.

Well, at least Biden, the oldest man ever to serve as president, set up his succession with foresight and care, right? Naturally, only 30% of Democrats and Democratic independents want Vice President Kamala Harris to be the nominee in 2024.

Perhaps it makes Biden’s legislative achievements all the more impressive that he’s been able to manage them while simultaneously cratering. If that’s a distinction of sorts, it’s not one any president should welcome.

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