The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Biden’s rescue plan is looking like a home run

A now-hiring sign outside a store in Larkspur, Calif., on April 2. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A lot of good economic news emerged this week. The Post reports: “First-time unemployment claims fell sharply last week to a pandemic low of 576,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That’s down 193,000 from the preceding week’s surprise spike, an unexpectedly strong showing even as unemployment remains elevated.” On top of that, “retail sales soared 9.8 percent in March as stimulus checks hit bank accounts, business restrictions loosened and spring weather arrived. The better-than-expected jump comes on the heels of a 2.7 percent decline in February.” In other words, after President Biden and the Democrats pump more money into consumers hands, unemployment declines and consumer spending rebounds. Gosh, could economic results translate into political popularity?

It sure looks that way. A raft of polls, including the latest survey from the Pew Research Center, suggests Biden’s rescue plan was pretty much a home run. Meanwhile, unanimous Republican opposition to the plan looks like political malpractice.

The Pew poll finds that a stunning 72 percent of Americans, including 55 percent of Republicans, say “the Biden administration has done an excellent or good job managing the manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Americans.” (The poll was completed before distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused.) Asked specifically about the rescue plan, a supermajority (67 percent) approve while only 32 percent disapprove. Republicans, it seems, are wildly out of touch with voters. Overall Biden’s approval rating has ticked up five points since March to 59 percent; only 39 percent disapprove.

And despite Republicans’ ludicrous attempts to paint Biden as too partisan or feeble-minded, Pew reports that views of Biden’s conduct in office are more positive than they were for Trump last year: 46 percent of Americans say they like how Biden conducts himself in office; in February of 2020, just 15 percent said this of President Donald Trump. Similarly, 44 percent say Biden has changed political discourse for the better, while just 29 percent say it worse and 27 percent say he has made no difference.

This poll is largely in line with other polls on the popularity of the rescue plan, the vaccine rollout and the president’s approval. Several aspects of the poll are worth emphasizing.

First, the notion that Biden is not really running things because he does not tweet regularly — as per the appropriately ridiculed suggestion from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) — does not seem to have caught on, to put it mildly. Maybe an empathetic, detail-oriented president who is churning out executive orders and legislation at a furious rate while largely staying off social media (and staying out of sight on weekends) is precisely what Americans wanted.

Congressional Republicans said on April 11 President Biden's infrastructure plan is too expensive — and too wide ranging to be called an “infrastructure” bill. (Video: The Washington Post)

Second, despite Republicans shouting about the need for more “unity,” rarely has there ever been a government undertaking as complicated and extensive as Biden’s that has garnered more than 70 percent approval. It is equally rare to see two-thirds of the public support a gigantic spending bill. Moreover, contrary to Republicans’ specious claim to be the party of working-class Americans, lower-income Republicans (55 percent) favor the rescue bill while rich Republicans do not (18 percent). What Biden has not done — and what no mortal politician ever could do — is drag millions of Republicans out of the MAGA cult. They do not like anything he has done, it seems, no matter how successful or beneficial. The good news is that they are a small — albeit persistent — minority of voters.

Finally, it is a wonder why Republicans in Congress are doubling down on their oppositional behavior. A poll from Navigator Research is just one of many showing the overwhelming popularity of Biden’s infrastructure bill. Fixing roads and bridges received 88 percent approval, removing lead from drinking water drew 83 percent, preventing future pandemics got 81 percent and modernizing schools drew 76 percent. Extending broadband (76 percent) and investing in clean energy (70 percent) were also winners.

Still, it seems Republican are bent on opposing a variety of tremendously popular items because they do not want to acknowledge that they are “infrastructure.” And despite the popularity of increasing the corporate tax rates, Republicans still want to protect their business friends and donors. (Biden has proposed raising the corporate from 21 percent to 28 percent. Republicans are ardently opposed to raising it at all, even though not too long ago, many of them — as well as business interests — were eager to set it at 25 percent.)

At some point, one might think Republicans would notice their current positioning is a political bust. Then again, if their goal is just to get on right-wing media, I suppose they will keep on this self-destructive track.

Read more:

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Greg Sargent: Why Democrats shouldn’t sweat GOP attacks on Biden’s jobs plan

James Hohmann: Republicans will keep up the craziness until they pay a real price

Gabriel Sterling: Mr. President, your misinformation on Georgia’s voting law is dangerous