Obama, Clinton on why Americans don’t love the Biden economy

By Jeff Mason

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton dug into an issue that has vexed economists, political strategists and the White House on Thursday – if the U.S.’s fiscal numbers are so good, why are Americans so unhappy about the economy?

Speaking at a high-dollar fundraiser for President Joe Biden at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Obama and Clinton urged thousands there to stick with the Democratic president for a second term, while trying to pin down the reasons economic concerns are high despite job growth, healthy spending and better-than-expected GDP increases.

There are “structural problems” that frustrate people, Obama said, including the suppression of unions. That’s something Biden has specifically battled against, he said.

“If you’re working hard, and your paycheck is getting stretched, beyond the breaking point, and you’re worried about rent, and you’re concerned about the price of gas, it’s understandable,” Obama said.

The thing Biden and the people who support him need to communicate is: “Who do you think is actually going to look out for you?” Obama said. He made clear he did not think former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, would meet that test.

Trump and Republicans have blamed Biden for high prices that hurt American pocketbooks in grocery stores, the housing market and other sectors of the economy. Biden has pointed to company profit-taking, lack of competition and argued that inflation is coming down but there is still more work to do.

Clinton, who was president from 1993 until 2001, seemed to compare the current situation to the run-up to the 2016 election that his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lost to Trump.

The 2008 financial crisis marred and limited what Obama could accomplish, Clinton said. Biden, at the time Obama’s vice president, did a “heck of a good job” running the 2009 Recovery Act then, Clinton said, as they worked to fill a $3 trillion hole in the economy. But at the end of Obama’s term, people couldn’t fully feel the economic progress yet. They did later.

“President Trump, let’s be honest, had a pretty good couple of years ‘cause he stole them from Barack Obama,” Clinton said about the economy Trump inherited from his predecessor.

“I listened to him tell us how terrible the American economy was all during 2016 and then by January 2017, after the inauguration, it had become wonderful, miraculously, overnight.”

The country should not make the mistake of 2016 again, Clinton said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Heather Timmons; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)