Dear Commons Community,
Senator Mitt Romney urged President Joe Biden to shift course on the economy in order to tackle growing inflation in a critical op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal yesterday. Romney recommended Biden’s administration adopt several policies to address rising costs, including cutting regulations, expanding oil and gas production, and relieving the supply chain crisis.
The senator then called on Biden to shake up his economic team, writing that the president “needs to ditch his woke advisers and surround himself with people who want to get the economy working again.”
Hard-charging conservatives use “woke,” a word that has pretty much lost all its original meaning, as a catchall pejorative to bash Democrats. It’s striking to see it used by a “maverick” who has been one of the few Republicans to support parts of Biden’s agenda and who recently voted to confirm his Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Romney also called for reducing the deficit by cutting entitlement programs and blamed Democrats for expanding unemployment insurance in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, government spending he said contributed to growing inflation.
“The Biden administration did pretty much everything wrong, injecting $1.9 trillion into a supply-constrained economy, sending out stay-at-home checks, letting tenants live rent-free, squeezing oil and gas production, launching an avalanche of growth-killing regulations, lining up behind unions, and pushing yet another deficit-financed budget,” Romney wrote.
Economists are divided on how much federal spending has contributed to inflation, but either way, Republicans aren’t totally off the hook when it comes to pouring money into the U.S. economy since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, its first major tranche of pandemic aid, on a broad bipartisan basis, and President Donald Trump signed it into law. Democrats then promised to pass more aid on the eve of the 2020 presidential election; indeed, the proposal to send another wave of stimulus checks to American families helped Democrats win two runoff elections in Georgia, giving them narrow control of the U.S. Senate.
Now, some Democrats want Congress to do even more. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned this week that the party could be headed toward “big losses” in the November midterm elections if they do not fulfill the promises they made to voters about policies like bolstering child care and tackling climate change. (Though at this rate, Democrats are likely to face big losses anyway.)
That would mean passing a scaled-down budget reconciliation bill that includes some elements of Build Back Better, the proposal that died in the Senate last year. It’s unlikely that Republicans will support that version either ― Romney wrote in the Journal op-ed that Biden must shelve his Build Back Better plan “permanently” ― meaning Democrats will once again be waiting hand and foot for Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to come around and endorse a proposal that can pass with only 50 Democratic votes.
Romney has been one of the lone moderate Republicans in the Senate who does not always tow the party line. There are kernels of truth in what he is saying. I would add that Biden desperately needs to improve his messaging to the American people on economic issues.