President Joe Biden this week spun the numbers to brag about a mere two-cent rise in real wages. Economists say that’s both misleading and embarrassing.
Biden in a Sunday social media post boasted that real wages, which reflect a worker's pay after accounting for inflation, are higher than before the pandemic. "That's Bidenomics," the Democrat said. Biden's claim, however, relies on data from February 2020, when real wages were just two cents lower than they are now. Over the next 11 months—from March 2020 to January 2021, when Biden took office—real wages rose, only to continuously decline under Biden. In total, real hourly wages have dropped more than 3 percent since Biden became president.
Biden is nonetheless insisting that his "Bidenomics" have clawed Americans out of a deep economic hole created by the coronavirus pandemic, a message that comes as he faces a difficult reelection campaign and abysmal approval ratings.
For now, Americans aren't buying it—just a third approve of the president's economic decisions, according to an Associated Press poll released in June. Many economists agree, contending that the U.S. economy is not in the shape Biden says it is.
Hillsdale College economics department chair Charles Steele, for example, told the Washington Free Beacon he "would be embarrassed" to brag about a two-cent jump in real hourly wages. "I'm reminded of when my wife and I each measured a course we were running and disagreed over where the half mile point was—by a distance of four feet. That's the kind of argument they are making," Steele said. "It is dishonest to pretend this shows 'Bidenomics' works. 'Bidenomics' has failed to match the economic growth of the Trump era."
EJ Antoni, a public finance economist at the Heritage Foundation, echoed Steele's rhetoric. Antoni told the Free Beacon that Biden is "either ignorant or intentionally deceptive" if he believes his economic policies have helped Americans.
"The administration seems to be implying that real earnings have clawed their way back up from depressed levels, but the opposite is true," Antoni said. "Real earnings are still down relative to when Biden took office."
Still, the White House defended Biden's Sunday claim, arguing that March 2020—when real wages were higher than they are now—is not an accurate portrayal of the pre-pandemic economy because the United States was already in a recession. As a result, the White House told the Free Beacon, the labor force was "substantially distorted" and did not reflect a "pre-pandemic normal."
That argument is "nonsensical," Antoni said. He noted that wage data are "gathered the week of the month containing the 12th," meaning the data for March 2020 would have been compiled before "government-imposed lockdowns and mass layoffs" plagued the U.S. economy.
"You can certainly consider March 2020 as pre-pandemic when it comes to wage data," Antoni told the Free Beacon. Using March 2020 as a pre-pandemic benchmark would mean real wages are not higher today than before the pandemic, as Biden claimed.
Biden is far from the only prominent Democrat to use misleading stats to pump up the economy. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) on Monday said the "Biden economy" has produced "declining inflation," adding that "extreme MAGA Republican haters are having a meltdown" as a result. Under Biden, however, inflation in 2022 reached a 40-year high. While inflation is now slowly coming down from those record levels, prices remain high. Nearly 60 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a CNBC survey published in April.
For Job Creators Network president and CEO Alfredo Ortiz, Biden "is desperate to distract from the reality that average Americans have gotten poorer under his presidency."
"Over the course of his term, inflation has risen by approximately 16 percent, significantly faster than average wages," Ortiz told the Free Beacon. "In an attempt to sell 'Bidenomics,' Biden is making a series of misleading and false claims about Americans' wages. But as any consumer or small business can tell you, the reality is that 'Bidenomics' equals Bidenflation."