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White House uses the term 'Bidenomics' to help sell the president's economic agenda

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Bidenomics (ph) - that is a word President Biden and his team have been using a whole lot in recent weeks. Polls consistently show a majority of Americans disapprove of how Biden is handling the economy. And the White House knows it needs to rectify that, especially ahead of a reelection campaign. So it's embracing this label in an effort to sell the president's economic agenda. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid reports on this strategy and its risks.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: The president's central economic vision is to grow the economy from, as he says, the middle out and the bottom up. He's traveling to Maine on Friday to spread this message, and there's a certain term he uses constantly to describe his agenda.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Under my plan - under Bidenomics, we've created...

That's Bidenomics.

It's Bidenomics.

That's Bidenomics in action.

Bidenomics is just another way of saying restoring the American dream.

KHALID: It might seem like a lot, but the White House says there's a good reason for that.

BEN LABOLT: In marketing, there's a rule called the rule of seven. You have to hear something seven times in order to remember it.

KHALID: That's the White House communications director, Ben LaBolt.

LABOLT: In communications, we need a repeated theme, a repeated frame for people to remember it. And so Bidenomics became the wraparound for a few things - the core pillars of the president's economic agenda, investing in America, empowering workers and lowering costs.

KHALID: Republicans mock it and are using it to describe things people don't like about the economy, like inflation. Lori Cox Han teaches political science at Chapman University in California.

LORI COX HAN: I'm not sure anybody really knows what Bidenomics is supposed to mean. And the risk there is then other people will continue to define it in a negative way, and the White House can lose that narrative.

KHALID: The White House insists it has a clear message. This is an agenda to reverse decades of tax cuts for the rich and cuts to government spending championed by Republicans. The Biden team recognizes there's a gap between the president's popularity and the popularity of his policies - say, building new bridges or lowering the cost of insulin - and this new messaging strategy is an effort to close that gap.

But some experts say this strategy also means the president is owning the economy - all of it. He's literally putting his name on it. Karen Petrou is a financial analyst who's worried that this strategy could actually help former President Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner.

KAREN PETROU: I don't mind the term Bidenomics. What I mind is that the president is putting his name on economic success, which most Americans aren't experiencing. And I fear that that will be very damaging to his electoral prospects.

KHALID: But the White House points out many economic indicators are improving - easing inflation, low unemployment, wage gains.

JARED BERNSTEIN: We've had one of the best labor markets in generations.

KHALID: That's Jared Bernstein. He's one of the president's top economic advisers.

BERNSTEIN: We just got a report showing that consumer confidence came up in July, well above expectations.

KHALID: Economists generally seem to agree with the White House. Jay Zagorksy is with Boston University. He told me that, in the short term, the economy is looking great. But there's a caveat.

JAY ZAGORKSY: Times can be good, but we're not worried just about today. We're also thinking about tomorrow. There's a huge amount of uncertainty.

KHALID: Ultimately, experts say it's less about the label and more about how Americans feel about the economy. Signs suggest they're beginning to feel better, but they're not totally convinced yet that happy times are here to stay.

Asma Khalid, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF KILLER MIKE SONG, "RUN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.