Is This A Turning Point for the Democrats? – After months of polls showing the Democrats headed toward disastrous November midterm election results, some positive momentum in the economy could give President Joe Biden something to smile about.
But is it enough?
As inflation continues to soar, reaching a fresh four-decade-high in June, the Democrats have relied heavily on political posturing and misdirection to convince voters that Republican candidates are not the answer to their problems. From the seemingly non-stop coverage of the January 6 committee investigation to the overturning of Roe V. Wade, President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats have had plenty of sticks to beat the Republicans with – but some good economic news may finally help the party position themselves as a positive force rather than the least worst option in November.
Gas Prices Are Down
In mid-July, President Joe Biden touted falling gas prices as a victory for Americans and said that it constitutes “breathing room” for American families. The president described how the average price of gas had dropped by 40 cents per gallon since mid-June, and how oil prices have also fallen by around $20 per gallon.
Biden also called on oil and gas companies to “pass these lower costs on to consumers.”
In remarks on July 22, the president also said that gas prices had fallen for 38 consecutive days this summer, and noted that 30,000 gas stations in 35 states were now selling gas for less than $4 per gallon.
According to the American Automobile Association’s gas price tracker, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas as of August 6 was $4.084. That’s substantially less than the peak of $5 $5.016 on June 14, but it’s still substantially higher than during the Trump administration. While the president can honestly say that gas prices are coming down, they are still almost double what they were at some points during the Donald Trump administration. In the first week of January 2019, the national average price of a gallon of gas was below $2.50.
Biden and the Democrats will need voters to forget about the days of $2 gas before they consider $4 gas a victory.
Will Inflation Ease In July?
After inflation reaccelerated in June, rising 9.1% over the previous year and reaching a fresh forty-year-high, consumers believe that the next Consumer Price Index report could show inflation slowing for the first time in months.
According to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index survey, U.S. consumers believe that July’s inflation figures will be substantially lower at 5.2%, down from June’s expected figure of 5.3%. It’s the lowest inflation expectation figure since February, according to the survey – and if valid, could provide the White House with the good news it needs to prove to voters that President Joe Biden’s plan is working.
The survey also showed consumers expecting inflation to hit 2.9% over the next five years, down from June’s results that showed consumers expecting prices to rise by 3.1%.
The next Consumer Price Index report, which is a measure of the average change of prices paid by consumers for a basket of consumer goods and services, is expected to be released on August 10. It will reveal how much prices increased or decreased in July 2022 compared to July 2021.
One of the reasons the Biden White House refuses to accept that the United States economy is in recession is that the latest jobs report showed growth.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a July 28 press conference that she intends to avoid a “semantic battle” over the issue and that the economy is not in recession simply because it shrank in a second consecutive quarter. Yellen said that the United States experienced a “Historic economic recovery” and a rebound that is “unmatched” in modern history.
“Right now, even in the face of global headwinds, including a war in Europe and successive variants of the pandemic, our economy remains resilient,” Yellen said. “Our unemployment rate stands at 3.6%, household finances are strong, and industrial output continues to grow.”
The latest jobs report released by the Department of Labor on Friday showed an additional 398,000 Americans in work in July and a revised figure for June of 372,000. Unemployment also dropped down to 3.5% in July, matching levels last seen In February of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
It’s good news for sure, but it still doesn’t offset the rising cost of food, consumer goods, and fuel.
Will It Help In November?
According to a Monmouth University poll conducted between July 28 and August 1, 50% of voters would prefer Democrats to maintain control of Congress and 43% would prefer the Republicans to take back control. It’s a remarkable figure given President Joe Biden’s plummeting approval ratings.
With four months to go, however, the Democrats still have a lot of work to do. There is also still the possibility that the next Consumer Price Index report will show high inflation, and gas prices may increase or remain stagnant in the coming months.
A lot can happen between now and November, but the Democrats certainly have a few things to be thankful for right now.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.