Were one, however, to read the headline, or even its first few paragraphs, one would come away with the incorrect notion that Mr. Biden — who the editors acknowledge has less ability to affect the economy than popularly conceived — has engaged in failed policies that have left people worse off than they ought to be.
The Times can and should do better.
To the Editor:
The Times’s failing grade for President Biden’s economic performance needs to be re-examined. The editorial tells us your main measure is real weekly wages — the average worker’s wages adjusted for inflation. The editorial determined that Mr. Biden has failed, since the average real weekly wage fell by 2.3 percent over the last year.
There are two major problems with this measure. The first is a composition effect. In 2020, many low-paid workers were laid off. This raises the average, in the same way the average height in a room rises when the shortest person leaves. The composition effect went the opposite way in 2021, as low-paid workers were rehired.
The other is a pandemic price effect. Many prices, most notably gasoline, were depressed when the world economy shut down because of the pandemic. Predictably, these price declines were reversed when the economy reopened.
If we want a more honest measure, we would look at real wage growth over the last two years, which is a very respectable 2.9 percent.
The writer is senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
To the Editor:
The problem is, nobody really understands the economy.
Different economists will give different reasons for why the economy is doing what it’s doing. Some will get it right, many won’t. Some might be only partly right.
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