Your State of the Union Bingo Card

The real question is how quickly someone will fill up five squares in a line (15 minutes? 22 minutes?). It seems a sure thing that every square of this card will be filled in by the end.

Meanwhile, I have a short piece up today at the Wall Street Journal on what Biden could learn from Ronald Reagan’s difficult second year in office in 1982: “Reagan Bounced Back After 1982. Can Biden?

If you don’t have a WSJ subscription to get past the paywall, you can take in a longer version of this essay that I wrote for the Reagan Library here. The lede:

Consider the scene: the new president, at the end of his first full year in office, is facing a poor economy, stubborn inflation, foreign policy challenges that don’t appear to be moving toward any improvement or resolution, and falling public approval ratings. The budget deficit is soaring, and the Federal Reserve is uncertain what to do. His opposition in a divided Congress is saying loudly that his policies have failed already, and need to be reversed. His party is expecting large losses at the upcoming mid-term election.

President Joe Biden in 2022? Actually this describes President Ronald Reagan’s precarious position at the beginning of his second year in office 40 years ago. How he sized up the political scene, and the course he chose for his difficult second year, is a case study in determined yet practical presidential leadership, as well as a reminder of the persistence of political realism.

President Reagan’s first nine months in office in 1981 rank among the most successful of any modern president. The Reagan Revolution was in full stride. His ambitious economic policy agenda of tax cuts and spending restraint had passed Congress with substantial bipartisan support by late summer, while executive branch agencies were deregulating or reforming regulation of key industries. The mood of the nation, as measured in opinion surveys at the end of summer, was upbeat. Public and private economic forecasts all expected an expanding economy in the coming year. The Congressional Budget Office, thought to be hostile to Reagan, issued a bright forecast for the coming year and projected declining budget deficits. CBO director Alice Rivlin told the media, “We are quite optimistic about the outlook for the economy.” Reagan basked in robust public approval ratings, already high after his bravado recovery from the assassination attempt in late March. Time magazine’s Walter Isaacson wrote, “Not since the first six months of Franklin Roosevelt’s Administration has a new President done so much of such magnitude so quickly to change the economic direction of the nation.”

What could go wrong? The next six months are a lesson in how quickly circumstances and political fortunes can change. The economy, which had recovered weakly in 1981 after several years of slow-growth “stagflation” (that is, simultaneously high unemployment and inflation), began to slump back into recession in the fall of 1981. Unemployment was rising fast, indicating

it could be a steep and deep recession. Interest rates remained punishingly high, and went up again. Industrial output was falling. In the last quarter of 1981, real GDP fell at an annual rate of 5.2 percent. The stock market slumped. The slowdown was quickly blowing up the federal budget deficit, which Reagan had promised to eliminate in his first term. His own budget office was projecting the deficit for the coming fiscal year could top $100 billion—an unimaginable and alarming figure at that time. Reagan’s job approval ratings started to fall precipitously by the end of the year. Fortune magazine was typical of the media coverage at the end of 1981: “Rarely has the public mood turned so swiftly.”

Lot’s more at the link.

By the way, I doubt Biden will take any of my “friendly” advice.

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