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Experts Weigh In on Recession Talk’s Impact on Midterms, Biden

News Analysis

From the Roe v. Wade reversal and the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol to the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and President Joe Biden’s busy August, a long list of topics are on the minds of Americans.

The economy, many political strategists believe, remains the number-one issue for voters as midterm elections approach.

Pundits and officials from both parties are sharing their opinions about whether the economy’s current condition will affect the November general election as Republicans strive to regain control of the House and the Senate.

While speaking to a crowd of donors in a Maryland suburb last week, Biden launched his mission to get Democratic candidates elected in November.

Former President Donald Trump greets supporters during a rally in Waukesha, Wis., on Aug. 5, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

He touted that the economy is “heading in the right direction” and warned that Republicans are stripping Americans of reproductive rights and voting rights while bowing to extremists and the toxic influence of former President Donald Trump.

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said. “It’s not just Trump. It’s the entire philosophy that undermines the—I’m going to say something—it’s like semi-fascism.”

Historical trends show that the party that occupies the White House loses seats in midterm elections.

“Republicans don’t need a wave to win back the House and Senate,” Nathan Gonzales, publisher of nonpartisan political handicapper Inside Elections, wrote in a tweet.

Red Wave?

Last week, Democrat Pat Ryan defeated favored Republican Marcus Molinaro in a special election to fill a vacant seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District.

The upstate New York district voted for Barack Obama in 2012, Trump in 2016, and Biden in 2022, making it a bellwether.

“Republicans can say goodbye to their ‘red wave’ because voters are clearly coming out in force to elect a pro-choice majority to Congress this November,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

David Carlucci, a former New York state senator who is a Democratic political strategist, agrees with Maloney, using Ryan’s victory as an example.

“The predicted Republican tsunami will turn out to be a ripple,” Carlucci told The Epoch Times. “Republicans have strayed so far to the right in their primaries that they now face a long journey to make it back to the center, and that is a challenge because Trump continues to be front and center in headlines for controversial reasons.”

Dave Wasserman, a reporter at Cook Political Report, had a different opinion, and said that the New York 19th Congressional District results do not reflect November’s expected voter turnout.

More voters will head to the polls on Nov. 8 than they did in New York last week, he pointed out, which could determine whether Ryan will remain in the seat long term as he is running for reelection.

“The caution flag on Dem overperformance? These have all been low-turnout specials decided by a fraction of November’s likely electorate,” Wasserman wrote in a tweet.

The Economy Matters

Current economic numbers are not favorable for Democrats.

The economy plunged into a recession, according to its textbook definition, after the gross domestic product declined for a second straight quarter, from April to June.

Inflation reached a 40-year high of 9.1 percent in June, before dipping to 8.5 percent in July, according to the Consumer Price Index.

A Monmouth University survey released in early July revealed that 63 percent of the respondents say inflation, gas prices, the economy, or everyday bills/groceries is their family’s biggest concern.

Abortion was the top issue for just 5 percent of those surveyed, followed by 3 percent for guns/gun ownership, health care costs, and job security/unemployment.

According to an NBC News poll conducted between Aug. 12 and Aug. 16, a majority of Americans believe the economy is already in a recession and that Biden’s recently signed Inflation Reduction Act will do little or nothing to reduce inflation.

The NBC News poll was completed during and after the period when the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and a Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that 528,000 jobs were created in July.

The same survey showed that 42 percent of registered voters approve of Biden’s performance, while 55 percent do not approve. The president had the same job approval rating in May.

A late July study from Bloomberg Economics forecasts ballot outcomes through the Misery Index, which is calculated by adding the inflation and unemployment rates, and projects it forward through Nov. 8.

Democrats can expect to lose 30 to 40 seats in the House and a few in the Senate, the study indicates.

Inside Elections says it is likely that Democrats lose 12 to 30 seats in the House.

The Misery Index rose to 12.7 percent. Bloomberg Economics projects that the index will be 12 percent in October. That rivals the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008–09, when unemployment climbed to 10 percent and Democrats were dealt with what former President Obama described as a “shellacking” in the midterms.

“The economy always matters. People vote with pocketbooks,” Wes Farno, an Ohio-based Republican political strategist, told The Epoch Times. “We continue to see ramifications of Biden’s policies, including high gas prices and out-of-control inflation. It will have an impact.”

“Democrats are pointing out that gas prices are down from the high, but they are nowhere near as low as they were when America was energy independent,” Farno added. “The economy always affects the results of an election.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) stands by a sign during a press conference on the Inflation Reduction Act at Glynwood Boat House in Cold Spring, N.Y., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Carlucci says that Biden’s recent signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, his executive order to forgive student loans for many Americans, and the inflation rate decreasing from 9.1 percent in June to 8.5 percent in July are signs that the president “is on a roll at the right time.”

“Whether we oppose or support Biden’s policies, people are saying, ‘Look, the guy is doing something,’” Carlucci said. “The president is using the few tools at his disposal to fight inflation and help make sure the economy is moving in the right direction.”

“Republicans have fear because Biden is delivering results, and they have a long journey in the general election because the party is more to the right than where most Americans are,” he added. “Far-right beliefs like denying the 2020 presidential election was legitimate and not condemning Jan. 6 are causing problems for Republicans. They want to run solely on the economy, and Democrats are doing what they can to right the economy.”

Biden’s Inflation Fight

The Inflation Reduction Act is designed to address a variety of issues, including climate change, adding 87,000 IRS agents, and allowing Medicare to negotiate with drugmakers on prescription prices.

Yet one problem it does not solve is actually reducing inflation in the short term.

The Penn Wharton Budget Model, an applied research organization composed of economists and data scientists at the University of Pennsylvania who analyze public policies and project their economic and fiscal impacts, stated in an August report that the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on inflation “is statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

The bill would decrease annual inflation by 0.1 percentage points over the next five years, according to the study.

That reduction would start “once major deficit-reducing provisions of the legislation are fully implemented, but the act would have no measurable impact on inflation after 2028. All these point estimates are not statistically different from zero, indicating a low level of confidence that the legislation would have a measurable impact on inflation,” the report states.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated in August that the legislation would have a “negligible” impact on inflation in 2022 and 2023. The CBO reported that it expects the bill to help lower inflation in future years.

Many Democratic candidates are avoiding Biden during his official visits to their states. In Ohio, for example, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is running for retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s seat against Trump-endorsed J.D. Vance.

Though congressional voting records show that Ryan, a 10-term representative, has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time, but has not joined the president during his visits to Ohio this year. Ryan did, however, recently announce that he will appear with Biden at a Sept. 9 groundbreaking ceremony for Intel’s sprawling computer-chip manufacturing complex in suburban Columbus.

Student Debt Relief

Last week, Biden announced his student loan forgiveness plan that forgives as much as $10,000 in debt for individual federal loan borrowers who earn less than $150,000 a year and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.

A poll by the progressive think tank and polling firm Data for Progress announced that 45 percent of voters in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would be “somewhat more likely” or “much more likely” to vote if Biden erased a minimum of $10,000 in student loans.

A throng of Democratic candidates, including Ryan, spoke out against the decision.

“As someone who’s paying off my own family’s student loans, I know the costs of higher education are too high,” Ryan said in a statement. “And while there’s no doubt that a college education should be about opening opportunities, waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet.”

Ryan encouraged an “across-the-board tax cut” for “working- and middle-class families,” medical debt cancellation, and opportunities for borrowers to refinance their student loans, among other ideas.

Sen. Alexandria Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who is involved in a contentious general election against Trump-endorsed former State Attorney General Adam Laxalt, said in a statement that she does not approve of Biden’s executive action and that “we should be focusing on passing my legislation to expand Pell Grants for lower-income students, target loan forgiveness to those in need, and actually make college more affordable for working families.”

Christopher Briggs is a Washington D.C.-based GOP political strategist and public affairs Counsel for the Independent Institute, a conservative think tank. He believes that the student loan forgiveness plan, the Inflation Reduction Act, inflation, and the skyrocketing cost of living will benefit Republicans—at least in the House.

“The economy is in a terrible freefall. I don’t think many people are fooled by Biden’s actions,” Briggs told The Epoch Times. “I think Republicans will take back the House, but the Senate is more difficult because it is a statewide election, and there is a divided electorate in each state. The Roe v. Wade reversal has energized the left, and that issue will have a larger impact in Senate races.”

An analysis published by the Penn Wharton Budget Model about the loan forgiveness plan indicates that it will cost around $300 billion for taxpayers and have the most impact on those in the top 60 percent of income distribution.

“First, I think it probably does help the president with some of his progressive base,” Dr. Mark Caleb Smith, director of the center for political studies at Cedarville University in Ohio, told a Dayton, Ohio, TV news outlet.

“On the other hand, I think that it probably does make it harder for Democrats to appeal to white voters. Especially those without a college degree,” he added. “That’s really been the battleground group over the last couple of elections between Republicans and Democrats. I think the president’s decision probably made that a lot tougher for Democrats in the fall.”

The Commerce Department will publish its third-quarter GDP data on Oct. 27, less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 general election. Most economists define a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

But if there were a third straight quarter of decline, it could spell doom for Democrats in the House and the Senate, National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Mike Berg believes, adding that “you can draw a straight line from the inflation crisis caused by the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan to this recession.”


Jeff Louderback is a national reporter for The Epoch Times who is based in Ohio and covers U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial races in Ohio and surrounding states.

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