The president made the trip to promote a $1 billion infrastructure project, contrasting his performance with the chaotic “Infrastructure Week” plans of former President Donald J. Trump.Consumer confidence is up. Fears of a recession are abating. The economy is growing. And a corroded bridge in Wisconsin is receiving more funding.It is a wintry mix of positive news for President Biden, who traveled to the shores of a bay near Lake Superior on Thursday to stand at the foot of the Blatnik Bridge, a structure that his administration said would have failed by 2030 without a $1 billion infusion provided by the bipartisan infrastructure law that Mr. Biden championed.The president was there to talk infrastructure and the economy, and to contrast his performance with that of his predecessor and likely challenger in the general election , former President Donald J. Trump.“The economic growth is stronger than we had during the Trump administration,” Mr. Biden, dressed in a casual pullover sweater, said as he addressed Wisconsinites assembled at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wis. “We obviously have more work to do, but we’re making real progress.”As the president spoke, Mr. Trump was taking the stand in a defamation trial in New York, offering a striking split-screen comparison that the Biden campaign has welcomed.Mr. Biden and his advisers believe projects like the Blatnik, taking place in the backyards of Americans living in battleground states like Wisconsin, could be enough to bolster optimism and overcome pervasive skepticism about the state of the economy.In his event, Mr. Biden talked about the $6.1 billion that had been invested in Wisconsin and the $5.7 billion in Minnesota, located just over the bridge, which supports agriculture, shipping and forestry industries in the upper Midwest. The Blatnik, which spans the St. Louis Bay and connects the ports of Superior and Duluth, Minn., had corroded and been clogged with construction and detours.“For decades people talked about replacing this bridge, but it never got done,” Mr. Biden said. “Until today.”Bipartisan law or not, no Republican lawmakers assembled to greet Mr. Biden. (“I’m sorry to say the vast majority voted against it,” Mr. Biden said, a number that includes Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican representing the district where the bridge is located.)“The economic growth is stronger than we had during the Trump administration,” Mr. Biden said.Michael A. McCoy for The New York TimesThe Democratic governors of both Wisconsin and Minnesota showed up. “This would not have happened without Biden,” Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin told attendees.Several other Democrats, including Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, accompanied the president as he observed the bridge and, later, met with people at a taproom next to the brewery. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sipped a glass of beer as she mingled next to Mr. Biden.Even without no-show Republicans, who are quickly closing ranks around Mr. Trump, there are other headwinds to overcome.Mr. Biden has faced low approval ratings on the economy. And he has been criticized by other Democrats over whether it was smart of him to adopt Bidenomics as a namesake effort to take credit for an economy that Americans have repeatedly signaled they don’t feel excited about.On Thursday, Mr. Biden did not seem to be feeling any qualms. In the brewery, he stood in front of a pole that had letters spelling “Bidenomics,” and assailed Mr. Trump for “hollowed-out communities, closing down factories, leaving Americans behind.”For his part, Mr. Trump has attacked Mr. Biden on just about everything, but has also falsely claimed that low employment numbers under the Biden administration are not real.Elsewhere in the Midwest, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took rare aim at Mr. Trump during a speech in Chicago.“Our country’s infrastructure has been deteriorating for decades,” Ms. Yellen said on Thursday. “In the Trump administration, the idea of doing anything to fix it was a punchline.”There was truth to her comment. During Mr. Trump’s presidency, he would often veer away from infrastructure-related speeches to attack his enemies. In his first Infrastructure Week-themed event in 2017, he accused James B. Comey, whom he had fired as F.B.I. director, of committing perjury and of leaking to the news media. He later proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package without specifics on how he’d get the money. The phrase “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke in Washington.In November 2021, Mr. Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law.“Instead of infrastructure week, America is having an infrastructure decade,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday, referring to the work his administration has done.In a show of how significant Wisconsin will be ahead of the election in November, Mr. Biden traveled there just three days after Vice President Kamala Harris began a nationwide tour for reproductive rights in an event outside Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a battleground state where his campaign is focusing on courting Black voters, young voters and any voters who might help him wrest the state’s 10 electoral votes from Mr. Trump.Though Mr. Trump was in court, the Republican National Committee released a statement criticizing Mr. Biden for making the trip and blaming Bidenomics for economic problems.“With staggering inflation and negative economic growth, Wisconsinites are feeling the brunt of Joe Biden’s failures,” the group’s chairman, Ronna McDaniel, said in a statement. “Try as he might, it’s too little, too late to impress workers and families who are living paycheck to paycheck thanks to Bidenomics.”Alan Rappeport More
The increase in gross domestic product, while slower than in the previous period, showed the resilience of the recovery from the pandemic’s upheaval.The U.S. economy continued to grow at a healthy pace at the end of 2023, capping a year in which unemployment remained low, inflation cooled and a widely predicted recession never materialized.Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was down from the 4.9 percent rate in the third quarter but easily topped forecasters’ expectations and showed the resilience of the recovery from the pandemic’s economic upheaval.The latest reading is preliminary and may be revised in the months ahead.Forecasters entered 2023 expecting the Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign of interest-rate increases to push the economy into reverse. Instead, growth accelerated: For the full year, measured from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, G.D.P. grew 3.1 percent, up from less than 1 percent the year before and faster than the average for the five years preceding the pandemic. (A different measure, based on average output over the full year, showed annual growth of 2.5 percent in 2023.)“Stunning and spectacular,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG, said of the latest data. “We’ll take the win.” More
The White House is embracing a nascent uptick in economic sentiment. It is likely good news — but how it will map to votes is complicated.Low approval ratings and rock-bottom consumer confidence figures have dogged President Biden for months now, a worrying sign for the White House as the country enters a presidential election year. But recent data suggests the tide is beginning to turn.Americans are feeling more confident about the economy than they have in years, by some measures. They increasingly expect inflation to continue its descent, preliminary data indicates, and they think interest rates will soon moderate.Returning optimism, if it persists, could bolster Mr. Biden’s chances as he pushes for re-election — and spell trouble for former President Donald J. Trump, who is the front-runner for the Republican nomination and has been blasting the Democratic incumbent’s economic record.But political scientists, consumer sentiment experts and economists alike said it was too early for Democrats to take a victory lap around the latest economic data and confidence figures. Plenty of economic risks remain that could derail the apparent progress. In fact, models that try to predict election outcomes based on economic data currently point to a tossup come November.“We’re still very early in the election cycle, from the perspective of economic factors,” said Joanne Hsu, who heads one of the most frequently cited sentiment indexes as director of consumer surveys at the University of Michigan. “A lot can happen.”The University of Michigan’s preliminary survey for January showed an unexpected surge in consumer sentiment: The index climbed to its highest level since July 2021, before inflation surged. While the confidence measure could be revised — and is still slightly below its long-run trend — it has been recovering quickly across age, income, education and geographic groups over the past two months.Confidence Is Still Down, but It’s ImprovingPreliminary January data from the University of Michigan survey suggested that consumer confidence is back at summer 2021 levels.