A sense of urgency swirls about President Biden. His age — he’ll be 79 in two months — is one reason.
But there is also this: Biden, the oldest chief executive in American history, is looking more and more like a one-termer, a one-and-done transitory figure between the Trump era and whatever comes next. I think he knows this, and understands that he now has a rapidly narrowing window — just a few months — to cross off the items on his ambitious to-do list.
Why just a few months? Because the 2022 midterm election is fast approaching, and history tells us that whoever the president is, his party is quite likely to lose seats in Congress.
The odds are heavily stacked against Biden. There have been 18 midterm elections since 1946, and the president’s party lost ground in 16 of them — 88% of the time.
More ominously for Biden, his approval in two aggregate polls — Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight — stands at 46.3% and 46.5%, respectively. Incumbent presidents with similar numbers got shellacked in past midterms. In 2010, Barack Obama’s approval stood at 45% (Gallup); Democrats lost 63 seats — and with it, the House. In 1994, the same thing happened to Bill Clinton. His Gallup approval was 46% and Republicans gained 53 seats, and the House. Do the words “Speaker Newt Gingrich” ring a bell?
But Republicans don’t need one of these “red wave” tsunamis to flip the House. They only need to pick up a modest five seats. Based on present conditions and the above history, I think a Republican takeover of the House a year from now is almost a certainty.
So there’s little reason for Republicans to cooperate with the president on much, certainly not his plans to raise taxes. The president wants to hike the top tax rate to 39.6% on individuals earning more than $400,000, or $450,000 for couples, and there would be a 3% tax on wealthier Americans with adjusted income beyond $5 million a year.
Corporations would see their rate lifted to 26.5% from the Trump-era 21%. There are other taxes too, but you get the idea.
The Tax Foundation, in a revision of prior estimates, said last week that the overall Democratic proposal “would reduce long-run economic output by 0.98 percent and eliminate 303,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the United States. It would also reduce after-tax incomes for the top 80% of taxpayers over the long-run.”
Hours after that analysis was made public, the president appeared before TV cameras to claim otherwise, saying the Democratic plan will create “real, sustained economic growth, and that benefits everyone, including working people and middle-class folks.”
In any case, the tax plan is part of the president’s gargantuan $3.5 trillion social spending package, which is proceeding through Congress at the speed of molasses.
Meantime, as the president takes flak from Republicans over that, his other big initiative — an infrastructure bill, which which has passed the Senate — is being held hostage in the House by far-left Democrats like New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who say they won’t vote to fix roads, bridges and all the rest until the social spending plan is passed first.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to bring the infrastructure bill up for a vote by Sept. 27, just days away, but so far the lefties in her caucus haven’t budged. There’s a very real possibility that the centerpiece of this president’s entire agenda could be shot down by his own party.
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am,” sang Stealers Wheel (best known for accompanying a gruesome scene in the movie “Reservoir Dogs”), and it describes the president’s predicament well.
He’s getting it on all sides.
He needs some wins to reverse his sagging fortunes, but so far has come up empty. Meanwhile, thanks to millions of Americans who refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks, the death toll from the pandemic is now back over 2,000 a day, with predictions of a bad winter, as people spend more time together spreading germs indoors.
Biden has laid it all on the line with the pandemic, but as of Monday, only 63% of adults have been partially vaccinated. That’s the lowest rate among G-7 nations, according to data analysts at England’s Oxford University. Biden has begged, beseeched, blamed the unvaccinated for their refusal to cooperate, and yet here we are.
“It’s hell to be president,” Harry Truman once said.
If Joe Biden didn’t quite understand this before, he surely does now. He surely understands as well that time is running out.