Biden heralds 'greatest comeback never told' in 2024 election pitch

US President touts economic record as polls show voters disapprove of his job performance

US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in Washington. AP
Powered by automated translation

President Joe Biden used part of his State of the Union address this week to convince US voters that their financial futures will be better protected under his leadership than under Donald Trump's.

“Folks, I inherited an economy that was on the brink. Now, our economy is literally the envy of the world,” he said.

The President entered the Capitol building on Thursday night with dismal polling numbers, and one of the biggest complaints among voters is how he has handled the economy – even as it shows signs of strength.

Only 36 per cent of voters approve of how Mr Biden has handled the economy, according to a recent Gallup poll. This is despite strong job gains and wage growth, low unemployment and an economy that has beaten down recession fears.

But while inflation has fallen considerably since peaking at 7.1 per cent in 2022, food prices still remain high.

Grocery store prices increased 5 per cent last year, while prices for takeaway/restaurant prices increased by 7.1 per cent, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Consumer confidence dipped last month because of “persistent uncertainty”, the Conference Board reported.

Mr Biden appeared to address the disconnect between the strong economy and dismal polling in his address.

“In a thousand cities and towns, the American people are writing the greatest comeback story never told,” he said.

A sizeable audience tuned in to hear Mr Biden's pitch. Early returns showed 27.7 million people watched his State of the Union address, a slight increase from 27.3 million last year.

Still, both figures represent a decline from the 38.2 million who watched him in 2022.

Biden pitches populist economic agenda

With the economy is set to partially define this year's election, Mr Biden rattled off a list of his accomplishments and populist economic policies throughout his 66-minute speech.

Those accomplishments included 15 million jobs added – which were regained from job losses suffered when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit in 2020 – domestic production of semiconductor chips and the 2022 bipartisan infrastructure bill.

He also laid out a populist economic policy approach, promising to eliminate so-called junk fees and lower the cost of insulin and prescription drugs.

“I’m going to get in trouble for saying that, but any of you want to get in Air Force One with me and fly to Toronto, Berlin, Moscow,” he said, mistakenly saying “Moscow”.

“Well, even Moscow, probably. And bring your prescription with you, and I promise you, I’ll get it for you for 40 per cent the cost you’re paying now.”

He also went after “shrinkflation”, a term used to describe how companies make their products smaller but keep prices the same, and called on Congress to pass a bill that would end it.

“The snack companies think you won’t notice if they change the size of the bag and put a hell of a lot fewer … chips in it. No, I’m not joking,” he said.

He also turned his attention to taxes, which will be a hotly contested issue when Mr Trump's tax law expires in 2025. Mr Biden called for a higher corporate tax rate and promised a tax credit to assist homebuyers seeking a mortgage.

“Folks at home, does anybody really think the tax code is fair?” he asked.

Katie Britt, the US senator who delivered the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union, gave her speech from inside her kitchen in an apparent attempt to underscore the “kitchen table” issues that voters face today.

“The American people are scraping by while the President proudly proclaims Bidenomics is working … We know better,” she said.

Updated: March 14, 2024, 3:55 AM