- - Monday, September 6, 2021

President Biden has given Republicans good reason to be optimistic about taking back the House in 2022.  

He could have walked away from President Trump’s peace deal in Afghanistan—that required the Taliban to negotiate a cease-fire with Kabul. Mr. Biden ignored the warnings of his Defense Secretary, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Military Commander in the Middle East before withdrawing U.S. and NATO forces.

As the disaster unfolded, the president justified himself by stating the U.S. mission was to get Osama Bin Laden—something accomplished in 2011—and not nation-building. The truth is we stayed in Afghanistan to maintain a forward guard against terrorism.
Now Joe Biden, without remorse, has made America more vulnerable and betrayed our allies in Europe and the Middle East—seriously stained America’s honor and credibility as a reliable partner.

He suffers the delusion that U.S. aid will turn around dysfunctional regimes in Central America and stem the flow of illegal immigrants. With catch and release for asylum seekers, he attempted an open immigration policy along the Mexican border.

The $1.9 trillion American Recovery Act was terribly excessive, and now inflation is outpacing wage gains.

Mr. Biden doesn’t get it—too much spending and printing money make ordinary Americans worse off.

He has done little about the surge in crime in America’s big cities—especially those burdened by Justice Department police practices consent decrees.

Add bungling of the Delta variant and mask policies and businesses that can’t get employees because Mr. Biden’s stay-at-home payments discourage work, it’s no wonder President Biden’s job approval rating has fallen precipitously.

It’s overdone to say midterms are a referendum on the incumbent president, as most that are eligible for another term win reelection. But those do offer voters an opportunity to impose a “course correction” on chief executives who too often act as if they have a mandate to impose radical change when they don’t.

Since political parties emerged in the 1820s, the party of the incumbent president has lost seats in the House in 34 of 36 midterm elections. The opposing party has gained an average of 34 seats, and the GOP needs to pick up four to capture a majority.
Just before the Afghanistan debacle, House Democratic Campaign Chairman Sean Maloney circulated polling data to members that showed them trailing by 6 points in battleground districts.

The GOP controls the redistricting process for 187 seats and Democrats only 75, with the remaining mostly in the hands of independent commissions. After Afghanistan, Mr. Biden won’t be much of an asset on the campaign trail, and Vice President Harris is too politically inept and acerbic.

Democrats have a few aces in the hole. States and cities have lots of COVID-19 relief money left to spend, and Democratic mayors can spread that around to lock in voter loyalty.

Both parties have troublemakers—Bernie Sanders and AOC for the Democrats and Mr. Trump for the Republicans—who pull their moderate members to extreme positions and out of line with critical swing voters.

Out of all that, the Democrats have perfected buy now and pay later for voters. Mr. Biden, inspired by bullying from the hard left, will deliver a permanent regular monthly child allowance to middle-class families in the form of the Child Tax Credit, enhanced tax breaks for child care expenses, paid family leave, and other goodies.

The whole social program package will cost as much as $5.5 trillion, not the $3.5 trillion advertised, and won’t raise as much revenue as promised through new taxes. The combination will unleash a torrent of additional deficit spending, printing press monetary policy, and inflation. Still, much of the pain is beyond November 2022, and budget warnings make voter’s eyes glaze over.

America’s diminished standing when Secretary Blinken seeks cooperation from allies is an abstraction. Americans are weary, and memories of the Afghanistan mess will fade by November 2022—unless we get another 9-11scale attack.

More importantly, though, the Republicans don’t have a program but to oppose all the goodies Democrats are doling out. To economic historians, they may prove sage in their warnings, but the pandemic has conditioned middle-class voters to stimulus checks and childcare allowances, and they want relief from expensive college tuition.

The Republicans carry a lot of baggage. They are associated with the anti-vax and anti-mask hysteria through governors that oppose mandates. And have a history of denying climate change as the West suffers the second-worst drought in 1200 years.

It’s simply not enough to be against bumbling Joe, a party must stand for something attractive to get elected.

• Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland and a national columnist.

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