President Joe Biden cheered the news of higher than expected GDP growth and slammed Republican plans to impose a national sales tax in a speech Thursday at a steamfitters union hall in Springfield, Va., his first major economic speech of the new year.
“I’m not sure the news could have been any better – economic growth is up stronger than experts expected, 2.9%,” Biden said, referencing a report released earlier Thursday by the Commerce Department. “I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this is all evidence that Biden economic plan is actually working.”
Biden spent much of the second half of 2022 asking Americans to bear with him through historically high gas prices and inflation. In previous speeches, he’s acknowledged the economic pain many Americans are feeling, while pointing to strong economic reports that show his policies are finally taking hold.
Data from the past month has been positive: the U.S. is at its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years and, over the past two years, job growth has been at its strongest rate ever, although that’s partially due to the historic drop during the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. Though consumer prices are still higher than they were a year ago, Biden has pointed to a slow down in the pace at which they are rising.
The overall consumer price index, a common measure of inflation, dropped 0.1% in December from the prior month, marking the largest month-over-month decrease since April 2020.
Biden warned legislation proposed by House Republicans would reverse that progress and inflict more pain on the economy.
“MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives are threatening to destroy this economy, this progress. Look, this ain’t your father’s Republican Party. It’s a different breed of cat,” Biden said.
He cited a Republican proposal to eliminate the IRS and national income tax and implement a 30% national sales tax. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised the bill’s backers he would put the legislation up to a vote as part of his deal to secure support for his speakership. McCarthy on Tuesday told reporters he does not support the bill.
“They want to impose a 30% national sales tax on everything from food, clothing, school supplies, housing cards, the whole deal – 30%,” Biden said. “They want to eliminate the income tax system because guess what? That’s the only way that millionaires and billionaires have to pay any taxes.”
The bill is dead on arrival without McCarthy’s support and has no chance of passing the Democratic-majority Senate. Still, Biden vowed to veto if it made it to his desk.
“Why why? This nation has gone through too much, we’ve come too far to let that happen. Not on my watch. I’ll veto whatever they send me,” he said.
Biden’s speech also comes as Republicans in Congress prepare for a standoff with the White House on the debt ceiling. The White House has repeatedly said Congress should automatically lift it as it’s routinely done for years, adding that it will not allow Republicans to hold it hostage to get other policies through. House Republicans have threatened to withhold support unless measures are implemented to cut spending, a position that they ignored during the Trump administration and previous Republican presidents.
The debt ceiling is the legal limit set by Congress of how much the federal government can borrow. It covers federal programs that have already been authorized by Congress, not new spending. Failing to lift the debt ceiling could lead the U.S. to default on its bond payments, potentially causing catastrophic effects on the economy.
The last time the U.S. was close to defaulting on its debt in 2011, the move caused Standard & Poor’s to issue its first ever downgrade of the government’s credit rating. The environment then was similar to the situation currently playing out where a newly-elected Republican majority refused to lift the debt ceiling under a Democratic president.
A Moody’s Analytics report from September 2021 said a default on Treasury bonds could throw the U.S. economy into a tailspin as bad as the Great Recession. Moody’s projected a 4% GDP decline and the loss of nearly 6 million jobs if the U.S. defaulted.
The U.S. hit its $34.1 trillion debt limit last week. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the agency has started taking “extraordinary measures,” like suspending some investments in federal employees retirement funds, to keep the U.S. from missing its debt payments.