Jared Bernstein has once again demonstrated his complete ignorance of both economic theory and fact—an alarming trait for the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. In his attempts to defend the abysmal record of “Bidenomics,” Mr. Bernstein is resorting to misrepresenting data and making false statements.
That does nothing to ease the financial pain of the middle class. Worse, Mr. Bernstein’s economically illiterate statements are dismissive of the plight the Biden administration helped inflict on Americans.
A prime example is Mr. Bernstein’s whitewashing of our nation’s burgeoning credit card debt, which has surpassed $1 trillion for the first time. Even as interest rates soar, Americans are increasingly relying on credit cards to make ends meet. But when confronted with these facts, Mr. Bernstein claimed that the financing costs for consumers have declined relative to disposable personal income, which is not true.
Both credit card debt and the interest rate charged on that debt are at record highs. Mr. Bernstein’s attempt to dismiss these figures because of the growth in disposable personal income only displays his ignorance of the data—despite its being produced by the very administration of which he is a part.
While disposal personal income has risen 3.8% under President Biden, credit card debt has risen 34%, and interest rates are up 40%—roughly 10 times the increase in disposable personal income. That makes Mr. Bernstein’s claim about financing costs on credit cards relative to incomes being lower today mathematically impossible.
To save the Biden administration narrative, Mr. Bernstein has tried comparing today’s situation to conditions before the pandemic. In that case, he is still wrong. Although disposable personal income outpaced credit card debt (18% versus 11% from February 2020 until today), interest rates on credit cards are still up 37%.
The higher interest rate is a vital consideration because the amount of interest charged on a credit card is a function of both the card’s balance and its interest rate. The combination of more credit card debt and higher interest rates makes it mathematically impossible for financing costs on credit cards relative to incomes to be lower today than before the pandemic, directly contradicting Mr. Bernstein’s claim.
And his rhetoric becomes laughable once inflation is considered. Because the buying power of the dollar has declined about 17% under Mr. Biden, real disposable personal income has declined 8.3%.
The higher cost of living means people have less money at the end of the month to pay down their credit cards and other debts.
And it’s the growing amount of consumer debt that is sustaining today’s spending levels, another fact of which Mr. Bernstein seems blissfully unaware. While he praised the growth in consumer spending in July, he neglected to acknowledge that there was no income growth that month, meaning the extra spending came from a depletion of savings and an expansion of debt.
That’s completely unsustainable, especially in an environment of rising interest rates. What is Mr. Bernstein’s answer? Platitudes like: “We want households to have some breathing room. We want their real wages to keep going up.”
But before real wages can keep going up, they need to start going up. Real weekly earnings fell in July, and the August report will show a second consecutive drop. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland estimates that real weekly earnings are down 4.9% since Mr. Biden took office.
Inflation has outpaced wage growth by such a wide margin under Mr. Biden that at no time in his presidency have the weekly earnings of the average American worker been able to buy what they could when he was inaugurated.
Thus far, the only “breathing room” provided to American families by the Biden administration is underwater.
This disconnect between administration narrative and economic reality is not surprising, given that Mr. Bernstein is not an economist. His degrees are in music, philosophy and social work. He doesn’t even seem to understand the statistics published by the administration, including the ones he boldly quotes in interviews.
With economic advisers like Mr. Bernstein, it’s no wonder that Bidenomics has the U.S. staring down the barrel of another recession.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times