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Strong economic growth, stock market gains not good enough for Biden: top adviser

The Hill logo The Hill 5/4/2021 Sylvan Lane
Jared Bernstein wearing a suit and tie: Strong economic growth, stock market gains not good enough for Biden: top adviser © Getty Images Strong economic growth, stock market gains not good enough for Biden: top adviser

President Biden will not consider a strong year for economic growth and the stock market to be a successful rebound from the coronavirus recession, one of his top economic advisers said Tuesday.

Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said Tuesday that Biden will not consider the recovery from the downturn to be complete if it does not provide greater access to education, health care and well-compensated jobs for low- and middle-income families.

"From the perspective of President Biden, if he presides over an economy with strong [gross domestic product] GDP growth, a big rising stock market where quality jobs, access to higher education and child care do not reach the middle class and people of low income, he will consider that not to be the success that he is seeking," Bernstein said during a virtual interview hosted by Politico.

The U.S. economy is on track to grow by 6 percent or more this year and bring millions of Americans back to work after more than a year of pandemic-related challenges. Even so, Bernstein expressed concerns about the "K-shaped dynamic" of the recovery.

While the rapid rebound of the stock market and housing market in mid-2020 boosted wealth for many financially stable Americans - the upper prong of the "K" - those who lost their jobs or experienced economic hardship because of the pandemic - the lower prong - have struggled to stay afloat.

"If you're only looking at overall growth and if you're looking at a stock market wherein, by the way, the bottom half owns virtually no shares of stock at all, you're absolutely going to miss this president's agenda," Bernstein said.

The state of the economy come November 2022 could play a crucial role in whether Democrats are able to defend narrow Democratic majorities in the House and Senate during Biden's first midterm election. Midterm elections often go poorly for the party in control of the White House and just a handful of Republican pickups could derail Biden's legislative agenda.

Biden and Democratic lawmakers are hoping to cement a strong rebound across all levels of the economy through a total of roughly $4 trillion on infrastructure projects and social safety net expansion. While Republicans say they're willing to strike a deal on physical infrastructure, Democrats will likely attempt to pass the rest of Biden's proposal through budget reconciliation, which would require only simple majorities in each chamber.

"Anyone who wants to come to the table to talk about these goals is more than welcome," Bernstein said. "They're gonna need to bring something real when they sit down with him because he's playing in a very real ballgame here."


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