(NewsNation) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised President Joe Biden’s economy in a speech Thursday, touting the speed of the post-pandemic rebound and calling it the “fairest recovery on record.”
“The recovery we’ve had — instead of one that was weaker or less fair — meant that we avoided financial pain for most middle-class American families,” Yellen said at the Economic Club of Chicago on Thursday.
The Treasury secretary pointed to the 37% spike in household median wealth from 2019 to 2022 as evidence of a strong recovery and said that’s the largest three-year increase on record.
Yellen also cited a new Treasury analysis that found a worker earning the median wage can afford the same goods and services today as they did in 2019 with an additional $1,400 left over.
“Though some forecasters thought a recession last year was inevitable, President Biden and I did not,” Yellen said. “Instead of contracting, the economy has continued to grow, driven by American workers and President Biden’s economic strategy.”
Government data released Thursday showed the U.S. economy grew at a faster-than-expected 3.3% annual rate last quarter. That’s slower than the 4.9% growth rate the quarter prior but better than forecasts.
The news comes amid growing optimism that the Fed is on track to pull off a “soft landing,” tamping down inflation without crushing the economy.
After skyrocketing to a 9.1% annual rate in June 2022, inflation has eased, reaching 3.4% in December. The jobs market has also outperformed expectations.
But even with the better-than-expected economic news, Americans remain skeptical. Biden ended the year with a 39% approval rating, and most voters aren’t excited about a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump.
Yellen took direct aim at Trump on Thursday and said his tax policy “prioritized tax cuts for corporations, disproportionately benefited top earners and did not fix the broken international tax system that encourages companies to shift jobs and profits overseas.”
She also criticized the former president for ignoring the nation’s “deteriorating” infrastructure.
“In the Trump Administration, the idea of doing anything to fix it was a punch line,” Yellen said.
In contrast, the Treasury secretary said Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is bringing new opportunities to middle-class families, particularly for those without a college degree.
It remains to be seen whether voters will buy what the Biden administration is selling. Many prices remain higher than they were just a few years ago, and they’re unlikely to come down.
Roughly 90% of voters are still concerned about inflation, and 46% of those recently surveyed by NewsNational/Decision Desk HQ think it’s a bigger issue than immigration (29%), crime (17%) and unemployment (8%).
Today, Americans owe a record $1.08 trillion in credit card debt, and more people are falling behind on their payments. At the same time, higher interest rates have chilled the housing market and pushed home ownership out of reach for the average family.
When it comes to the 2024 election, a plurality of respondents (40%) said the economy is the most important issue in determining who they choose followed by immigration (17%) and abortion (8%), per the latest NewsNation poll.
However, there’s evidence the dour mood is starting to change. Last week, consumer sentiment reached its highest level since July 2021. Compared to last spring, fewer people think the country is on the wrong track, and voters are less likely to say they are “very concerned” about inflation.
Biden will hope to build on that momentum as polls continue to show Trump leading in a possible rematch.
Yellen now heads to Wisconsin, where she’ll tour a skilled trades program that’s being expanded with federal funding.