EXCLUSIVE: Economists Rip Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist’s Fairy Dust Defense of ‘Bidenomics’

September 19th, 2023 6:43 PM

Philadelphia Inquirer national columnist Will Bunch gaslit the American public in an outrageous full-throated defense of “Bidenomics.” 

Bunch’s Sept. 14 column headline speaks for itself: “The problem with ‘Bidenomics’? It didn’t go far enough.” The columnist doubled down on his absurd logic in the sub-headline: “New census data shows how ‘Bidenomics’ was helping America's working class and poor — until a key anti-poverty program was killed.” Economists interviewed by MRC Business showed why the argument was nonsense.

The columnist attempted to bend the recent jaw-dropping Sept. 12 U.S. Census Bureau report that showed the overall U.S. poverty rate spiked 4.6 percentage points in 2022 to 12.4 percent, with the child poverty rate also more than doubling as the nation grappled with a 40-year high inflation crisis spurred on by government spending. Bunch actually tried to spin that the “main reason” for America’s poverty turmoil was Senate Republicans who didn’t vote to extend or permanently institute the expanded Child Tax Credit under President Joe Biden’s disastrous $1.9 trillion inflation-inducing stimulus. 

Bunch even had the temerity to compare Republicans [plus Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)] not rubber-stamping Biden’s agenda to — wait for it — the invasion of Normandy during World War II. “It was a gobsmacking retreat. For America’s anti-poverty advocates, it was the equivalent of watching Americans storm Omaha Beach in 1944, capture Normandy, and then go back to their boats to sail back to England,” Bunch spewed. Talk about being high on a “Bunch” of fairy dust. 

“If [not expanding the Child Tax Credit] were the only reason [for the increased poverty rate], then poverty rates would’ve simply returned to the level they were at before Biden’s expanded child tax credit,”Heritage Foundation economist EJ Antoni told MRC. “Instead, poverty rates greatly increased. What changed was inflation.” 

Antoni ripped Bunch for deceiving readers into believing that anything other than the inflation crisis was responsible for the spike in poverty:

People seem to forget that the only thing that can actually move the threshold for poverty is inflation. Because inflation was so high last year, it moved the poverty threshold up at the fastest rate in decades. And because wages have lagged so far behind inflation during the Biden economy, people’s wages did not increase fast enough to keep many Americans from falling into poverty. The take away from the 2022 poverty report is not that we need to spend more money through inefficient government programs, but reduce inflation, which requires less government spending, [emphasis added].

Bunch doesn’t even mention the word “inflation” until the 13th paragraph of his column. 

Center for Freedom and Prosperity President Dan Mitchell pointed MRC Business to three analyses he conducted illustrating why Biden’s “per-child handouts” Bunch haphazardly celebrated were a textbook case of government stupidity, not benevolence. “The bottom line is that the United States already has a big problem with government dependency. Per-child handouts will make a bad situation even worse,” Mitchell wrote in a June 27, 2021 blog post. Mitchell also directed MRC Business to an X post by American Enterprise Institute Center on Opportunity and Social Mobility Director Scott Winship, who directly addressed the propaganda Bunch was pushing: “You'd be wrong if you think the expiration of the expanded CTC was the most important factor in raising SPM child poverty or if you think child poverty would have fallen had it not expired.” 

Apparently Bunch didn’t get the memo. 

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board also addressed the issue. The Journal noted that “[m]ost of the increase in child poverty owed to the end of stimulus payments, inflation and higher taxes,” not the expiration of the Child Tax credit, as Bunch argued. In fact, The Journal confirmed Antoni’s arguments that inflation bolstered by bad government policy was the real culprit behind America’s poverty issue: “[Government handouts] provided temporary income boosts in 2020 and 2021, but at the cost of fueling the historic inflation surge that gutted real incomes.” The angle that the GOP (and Manchin) were somehow responsible for the increase in child poverty — said The Journal — was nothing but a deceptive White House talking point to protect the fecklessness of Bidenomics: “As usual, too many in the press corps bought the spin.”

The Journal concluded that the census data actually show that Bidenomics is nothing but “[a] gusher of unprecedented and unnecessary social-welfare spending helped to produce the highest inflation in 40 years that has made Americans poorer.” 

But in Bunch’s alternate reality — which clearly illustrated The Journal’s point about media outlets drinking the White House kool-aid — Bidenomics was just the cat’s pajamas until those darn GOPers (and Manchin) ruined it. Even the way he framed the issue of government spending’s effects on inflation was disingenuous and hyperbolic. “Most economists say more money in the pockets of struggling families did marginally contribute to inflation — that’s ECON 101 stuff — but was clearly not the biggest factor.” What a joke.

Bunch couldn’t even be bothered to get his facts straight in the first two paragraphs of his column: “It took 57 long, up-and-down years — far longer than the Cold War — for America to seemingly win the war on poverty. It took just one year after that to lose it.” 

Wrong again, as Antoni noted: “Poverty rates declined faster before the war on poverty than after it began. The government has literally been losing the war on poverty since day one – it didn’t simply lose it last year.”

But Bunch’s slew of falsehoods don’t stop with the poverty rate. He also dabbled in revisionist economic history too. 

“But there is also a much bigger point here about ‘Bidenomics’ — our current president’s economic program that aims to show that after 40 years of a mostly conservative, free-market agenda, the government can help rebuild a reeling middle-class — and the political reality that policy interventions inevitably help some groups more than others,” Bunch falsely claimed. 

Mitchell in particular wasn’t having it. “I also can't resist commenting about [Bunch’s] claim of forty years of free-market policies. You can make a very solid claim that free markets reigned supreme under Reagan and Clinton, but every other president in the past four decades has expanded the burden of government.” 

Conservatives are under attack. Contact The Philadelphia Inquirer at 215-854-2450 and demand it distance itself from Bunch’s ridiculous defense of Bidenomics.