Much of what’s distressing the public is beyond U.S. policymakers’ control, even though voters tend to blame whoever is in the White House. Gasoline prices, for example, have risen because of developments on world markets, not anything happening here. The same goes for food prices. And supply-chain problems, mainly reflecting a scramble to buy durable goods at a time when people are afraid to consume in-person services, are hitting many countries.
America’s third-quarter economic slowdown, however, wasn’t matched abroad. For example, over the same period euro area economies grew at an annual rate of almost 9 percent.
There’s no mystery about why we had a slowdown here that wasn’t equaled in Europe. It was all about the Delta wave, which was much worse on this side of the Atlantic. That wave is now receding. As it does, early indications, including claims for unemployment benefits and surveys of purchasing managers, suggest that a renewed economic surge is already underway. And as consumers start to feel safer, they may also shift demand away from stuff to services, which would ease some of the supply-chain pressures.
So the way forward for Democrats seems fairly obvious.
First, pass something. It doesn’t have to be perfect; in particular, given incredibly low borrowing costs, it doesn’t matter whether the proposed sources of revenue will fully pay for the new spending. What’s crucial for the politics right now is that something significant gets passed and that Biden then goes out and sells it.
Second, control Covid. The evidence is now overwhelming that vaccine mandates work and that threats of mass resignations if workers are required to get shots are mostly empty. When confronted with the prospect of actually losing a job, a great majority of workers comply.
On Thursday the Biden administration announced that Jan. 4 would be the deadline on two major vaccination mandates — for health care workers and for employees of companies with payrolls exceeding 100. It should stick to this plan and ignore the screams of protest.
Will Democrats be able to turn their fortunes around if they push forward on their agenda and hang tough on vaccines? I don’t know. But they’ll certainly fail if they respond to Tuesday’s setbacks by curling up into a defensive ball.