WASHINGTON >> In a self-appraisal that didn’t always fit with the facts, President Joe Biden today made the dubious assertion that he’s outperformed all expectations on the pandemic in his first year and inflated his contribution to COVID-era economic growth.
A look at some of Biden’s comments in a news conference that stretched for nearly two hours:
BIDEN on COVID-19: “I didn’t overpromise. I have probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen.”
THE FACTS: That’s a stretch. The month before the election, he vowed: “I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country.” The pandemic is obviously far from being shut down — instead it’s been surging. The world may be headed to a future in which the virus becomes a manageable risk, not one in which it vanishes.
It is not true that he has outperformed everyone’s expectations on the coronavirus. Vaccine supplies have been a success; COVID-19 tests have been a widely acknowledged failure that the administration is trying to fix by making the tests free and sending them to homes. Biden conceded Wednesday that more tests should have been available sooner.
Biden himself set higher expectations than have been met when he held a July 4 event headlined a celebration of “Independence Day and Independence from COVID-19.” His remarks acknowledged the rising delta variant while stating “we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.”
BIDEN: “We just made surprise medical bills illegal in this country.”
THE FACTS: He ignores the fact that President Donald Trump signed that consumer protection into law before leaving office in December 2020. The achievement is Trump’s.
The act prevents patients from being hit with “surprise” medical bills if they seek emergency care from a health provider that is not in their insurance plan’s network. It also protects patients from unanticipated charges if an out-of-network medical provider works on a patient at an in-network hospital. It requires hospitals, doctors and insurers to sort out those charges in a resolution process.
Biden’s administration developed rules implementing the law over the past year, before it took effect Jan. 1.
BIDEN: “We created 6 million new jobs, more jobs in one year than any time before.”
THE FACTS: He’s taking too much credit. As Trump did before him, Biden makes some grandiose economic claims that gloss over one central reason for historic growth — the U.S. population is far larger than in past decades (and continued to grow last year, despite COVID-19 deaths).
The economy added 6.4 million jobs in 2021, the most on government records dating back to 1939, but part of that is just a natural rebound from what had been the steepest job loss on record in 2020, when 9.4 million jobs were cut.
And since the late 1970s, the U.S. population has grown by more than 100 million people, so any hiring surge under Biden will be larger in raw numbers than that achieved by his predecessors. On a percentage basis, the number of jobs in the U.S. grew 4.5% in 2021. That is still a sizeable increase — the biggest since 1978 — but not a record-breaker.
Many economists do credit Biden’s $1.9 trillion financial rescue package, approved in March, for accelerating growth and hiring, but some also blame it for fueling a surge in demand that overwhelmed supply chains and pushed inflation up to four-decade highs.