Interview by Okubo Wataru with Mizuho Research & Technologies chief economist Yasui Akihiko
U.S. President Joe Biden launched his administration [last year] by calling a divided United States to return to unity. His approval rating, however, has been dropping because his COVID countermeasures and economic policies have not been well received.
The American people are showing an exceptional level of interest in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden touched on this issue at the opening of his State of the Union address and stressed the importance of the United States and its allies banding together under the banner of democracy. The Ukraine situation is a difficult challenge that will influence the future of the Biden administration, and I sensed in the address that the President is attempting to use this to restore unity and restart his administration. The President’s leadership has been questioned since he withdrew the nation’s troops from Afghanistan, and he must certainly want to avoid making the same mistake he made there.
In his address, Biden also called for reviewing the supply chain and increasing manufacturing that takes place in the United States. These are inward-looking statements, similar to the “America first” principle advocated by former President Donald Trump. Such statements felt out of place because they were inconsistent with President Biden’s earlier call for allies to unite.
In domestic affairs, Biden has stopped launching major structural reforms, such as climate change countermeasures, and changed course to focus on issues that are close to home, such as employment and inflation measures. He likely emphasized a “return to normal life” [in his speech] because people are tired of COVID measures.
I also sensed that Biden was giving consideration to the Republican Party to a certain extent. He mentioned the need to strengthen border controls and did not focus on the January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol building. The midterm elections this autumn are expected to be tough for Biden, as he battles the headwinds of COVID and inflation, with no date in sight for enacting the “Build Back Better” bill. He may have given consideration to the Republicans as a way to prepare for the Democrats’ losing the majority in the midterm elections.