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Biden’s State of the Union: Everything is awesome

President Biden gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Feb. 7.

Let’s get one item out of the way: State of the Union addresses are among the most overhyped events of any presidency. Thousands of words, many designed for easy applause lines from one side of the chamber. Ample sound and fury signifying nothing. 

Think about it for a moment: Outside of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sophomorically tearing up President Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address, what memorable line or moment has ever stood out in these speeches? They are little more than a laundry list of policy positions marinated in self-congratulation.

Tuesday night’s address by President Biden was no different. The commander in chief engaged in happy talk that would have one believe that:

— inflation were 1.4 percent (the number Biden inherited) instead of 6.5 percent as it currently stands.

— violent crime weren’t climbing in most cities across the country. (It is.)

—the border were closed and secure. (More than 5 million illegal migrants have entered the country since Biden took office, including more than 100 on the terror watch list.) 

—fentanyl overdoses were minimal. (They’re the leading killer of adults between the ages of 18-49 due to lax border policy that allows the lethal drug, produced in China, to be shipped to Mexico and brought into the country relatively easily.)

—the U.S. educational system continues to improve. (College admissions scores are at their lowest in 30 years.)

—the world is a relatively stable place. (U.S.-China relations deteriorate and the Russia-Ukraine war drags on with no diplomatic solution in sight, while terror groups continue to expand in Taliban-led Afghanistan.) 

No matter. The president spun the numbers to make it feel like it’s the Roaring ‘20s again. 

“Inflation has fallen every month for the last six months, while take-home pay has gone up,” Biden declared. What he failed to mention was that inflation is still nearly five times higher than it was the day he took office, while wages are still not keeping up with inflation. 

As for the national debt, the spin continued. 

“The two years since we’ve been in power, we’ve reduced the national debt, so far, $1.7 trillion in two years. And we still grew the economy. But we did it because we paid for everything. We paid for everything, and we grew the economy at the same time,” said Biden.

This simply isn’t true. On the day Biden was inaugurated, the national debt was about $27.7 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury. And as of Feb. 6, 2023, it had jumped to $31.5 trillion.

The conditions on the ground as seen in the minds of Biden’s speechwriters and as experienced by the public are as disconnected as ever. A recent NBC News poll asked voters if they felt the country was on the right track or the wrong track, and more than 70 percent said it’s on the wrong track. This marks the ninth consecutive poll during the Biden administration where at least 68 percent or more of likely voters have expressed that gloomy sentiment. 

NBC News has never before recorded this level of sustained pessimism in the history of its polling, which includes following the 1992 recession and 2008 Great Recession. 

No matter: Before the speech, many in the media touted what an awesome job Biden has done. After the speech, they predictably hailed the speech in glowing terms.

This disconnect only reinforces the public’s lack of trust in the media. Per an in-depth 2022 Pew Research study, 65 percent of the nearly 12,000 journalists surveyed said the media does a solid job of “covering the most important stories of the day” and reporting news accurately. But when the public was asked how they viewed the media, just 35 percent felt the same way. That’s a 30-point perception gap. 

The State of the Union is strong, proclaimed the president before at least 30 million people watching at home. But when a record 44 percent of Americans say they’re financially worse off since Biden took office, that underscores the disconnect.

But don’t expect Biden’s team to change their communications strategy. Especially when there’s so many in the press willing to push the same narrative.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

Tags Biden Biden economy Donald Trump Great Recession Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi State of the Union State of the Union State of the Union address

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