On Friday, the White House and its allies in Congress pushed through the Orwellian named Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Rather than a win for the American people, the legislation reads more like a laundry list of deception and soon-to-be broken promises.
Words have meaning. They create ideas in your head. But they don’t always square with reality. Yes, applying government price controls on prescription drugs for seniors will lower medicine costs for some. But left unmentioned is the consequence of raising prices for others. Costs of research and manufacturing will shift from Medicare to private insurance plans as pharmaceutical companies recoup hijacked revenue.
President Biden has promised ad nauseam not to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year. But the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the bill will levy an additional $17 billion financial burden on those earning below $200,000. And puzzlingly, it does nil to slow rising prices as the bold name suggests.
Congress and Mr. Biden are hardly the first cohorts of politicians to spin reality to curry popularity. Past residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are repeat offenders.
Americans did have something to fear in addition to fear itself as the Great Depression drove a majority of Americans into poverty. Former President Richard Nixon did not have a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. And former President Jimmy Carter, while facing a recession, insisted on avoiding the term — leaving presidential economic adviser Alfred Kahn to jokingly replace the dreaded R-word with “banana” when publicly discussing economic conditions.
Former President George H.W. Bush did raise taxes despite what his lips suggested. And former President Bill Clinton did have “sexual relations” with that woman. Former President Barack Obama’s statement during the Obamacare debate that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” was dubbed Politifact’s “Lie of the Year.”
However, during its short time in office, the Biden administration has set a new speed record for twisting the truth.
As millions of illegal immigrants from around the world are crossing the Rio Grande, Biden administration officials continue to claim the border is “closed.” Despite the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan where billions in military hardware and thousands of Afghan allies were left behind, and more than a dozen American soldiers were killed, the White House labeled the operation a “success.”
After gas prices rose to an all-time high earlier this year, Mr. Biden blamed the “Putin price hike” rather than his own anti-domestic energy production policies. Over the course of several months, inflation went from not being real to being “transitory” to being so bad that it became the namesake of major legislation. This dynamic messaging left a CNN reporter acknowledging, “the White House has been so wrong, so often, on inflation.”
And the icing on the proverbial cake is the Biden administration’s recent denial of the term “recession.” After the U.S. economy shrank for two consecutive quarters, which is a common, shorthand test used by economists and journalists to detect a recession, the White House went on the offensive to message it out of existence with cherry-picked data.
To live up to the day-one promise of “bring[ing] transparency and truth back to government,” the Biden administration needs to reset its communications strategy or walk back its commitment to telling it like it is. While not the first White House to play fast and loose with the facts, this racket has quickly become the default operating procedure.
• Richard Berman is president of Berman and Co. in Washington.