Where are the jobs?
A dozen years ago, frustrated Americans surveying the effects of the Obama administration’s economic policies asked that question of Democrats who promised a job boom from the then-largest stimulus legislation in American history. This year, Americans fuming at the pump over record-high gas prices might similarly ask “where are the lower gas prices” the Biden administration has repeatedly promised but failed to deliver.
Americans over age 30 will probably recall the jobs promises made by supporters of the Obama stimulus law. The Obama administration and its surrogates predicted that $800 billion legislation would create millions of jobs—including, infamously, “shovel-ready jobs”—while holding the unemployment rate under eight percent. Then-Vice President Joe Biden served as “sheriff” over the law’s implementation, and an administration report offered detailed projections of the expected impact on jobs. But instead of creating “between three and four million jobs by the end of 2010,” employment fell and at the end of 2010 was 6.7 million jobs short of those promises.
President Obama later lamely admitted the shovel-ready jobs were “not as shovel-ready as we expected.” When unemployment soared to 10 percent, or above the level the administration predicted without their massive spending plan, Americans rightly asked “where are the jobs?”
Those failed jobs promises contributed to the “shellacking,” as President Obama put it, Democrats took at the polls in 2010, when Republicans picked up 63 seats and control of the House in the biggest midterm swing since the 1940s.
Fast-forward to today. The Biden administration outsourced the task of forecasting the supposed jobs impact of their even larger $1.9 trillion stimulus law, citing only Wall Street estimates. That meant there would be no administration report to mock this time if job creation didn’t work out as planned.
But the administration may regret not doing the same with gas prices. As displayed below, President Biden and his administration have issued repeated statements in recent months suggesting their policies would “lower gas prices”—all followed by steadily rising pain at the pump for American consumers:
When Biden was sworn in, the average U.S. retail price for all grades of gasoline was $2.46 per gallon. By November, when the White House promised to “lower prices for Americans” by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the price was over a dollar higher at $3.49. Two weeks later, Biden tweeted “prices are down 7 cents and falling”—right before prices started to take off again. With prices at $4.33 last March, the White House said it would “lower gas prices at the pump” through more releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Two weeks later, the White House said allowing higher-ethanol gasoline would “lower costs for American families.” Instead, prices rose to $4.43 per gallon in May, when the president announced his latest plan to “further drive down prices.” Prices now average $5.11 per gallon—more than double what they were when Biden took office.
That repeated failure likely explains the president’s newest claims that his administration simply can’t reduce gas prices after all. The President said on June 1 that “the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term.” Like his repeated references to “Putin’s price hikes,” that’s an attempt to deflect blame—fast becoming a Biden trademark.
But it’s also the opposite of what his administration told the American people for the prior six months—starting three months before Russia invaded Ukraine. Throughout that time, the administration repeatedly promised their policy actions would “lower gas prices.”
None of it worked, and frustrated consumers are right to ask “where are the lower gas prices” that the administration repeatedly promised but failed to deliver.
Matt Weidinger is a senior fellow and Rowe Scholar in poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute.