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Taking unearned credit or deflecting deserved blame isn’t exactly unprecedented in American politics. In fact, some politicians have turned these approaches into unfortunate artforms.
President Joe Biden delivered a particularly big whopper recently that managed to combine taking credit for something he didn’t do while skirting some responsibility at the same time. It was not a good look, and it should remind people to be skeptical of strident claims coming from the political sphere.
Biden and his administration tried to take credit for a significant increase in Social Security benefits. The increase is happening while Biden is in charge, but it isn’t happening because Biden is in charge.
“Seniors are getting the biggest increase in their Social Security checks in 10 years through President Biden’s leadership,” the White House said in a now-deleted tweet from Nov. 1.
Twitter flagged the tweet as lacking context. The White House eventually deleted it and said it was incomplete. But Biden has echoed this same misleading message elsewhere.
The underlying claim, that Social Security recipients are getting an especially large increase in benefits, is true. Beneficiaries are getting an 8.7 percent increase in their monthly payments in 2023. This is the largest cost of living increase for the program since 1981.
The attempt to link this to Biden’s leadership, however, is easily disprovable. It is just plain wrong. The increase is happening because of a 1970s law that tied Social Security benefits to increases in the Consumer Price Index.
The cost of living increase in Social Security benefits is a good thing in that it will help seniors deal with rising costs and the hardships that accompany them. But this is not a reflection of strong leadership from Biden; it is a reflection of the continued hurt caused by inflation.
This is not an achievement for the Biden administration. It is a sign of difficult times for many people. If anything, it raises questions about the Biden administration’s approach to managing inflation.
To be clear, inflation is a global problem with many forces involved, and we’re skeptical of the notion that any leader has sole ability or culpability in influencing it. Yes, massive pandemic spending in the U.S. is part of the inflation puzzle, but a majority of this multi-trillion dollar spending has been approved on a bipartisan basis and across multiple administrations. There is plenty of blame to go around.
How much of that blame Biden gets is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate, however, is that he doesn’t get credit for a statutorily-required cost of living increase to Social Security payments. He and his administration were wrong to imply otherwise.