President Joe Biden on Tuesday called inflation “the number one challenge facing families today” and said that addressing rising prices is at the top of his domestic agenda.
“I know that families all across America are hurting because of inflation. I understand what it feels like,” Biden said. “I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously and it’s my top domestic priority.”
Inflation has climbed to a four-decade high — and analysts expect a monthly government report on consumer prices for April to show prices rising 8.2% year over year, only a modest decrease from March.
The president has a limited ability to fight inflation, and Biden acknowledged Tuesday that the Federal Reserve plays a primary role in combating rising prices. But he also outlined steps his administration is taking or planning to bring down the cost of fuel, prescription drugs and other items and he again touted the deficit reduction achieved during his time in office, calling it “one of the main ways we can ease inflationary pressures.”
Countering GOP attacks: Biden has faced months of attacks by Republicans who have sought to pin the blame for rising prices on him. On Tuesday, the president said that the Covid pandemic and Russian President Vladimir Putin were to blame — and with the midterm elections rapidly approaching, Biden sought to flip the script on Republicans, drawing a sharp contrast between his approach to the economy and what he called “the ultra-MAGA agenda” of the Republican Party.
“My plan is to lower everyday costs for hardworking families and lower the deficit by asking large corporations and the wealthiest Americans to not engage in price gouging and to pay their fair share in taxes,” he said. “The Republican plan is to increase taxes on the middle-class families and let billionaires and large companies off the hook as they raise prices and reap profits at record amounts. And it's really that simple.”
It’s not quite that simple: The Republican plan Biden hammered on Tuesday is an 11-point agenda released earlier this year by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). The plan, among other things, called for all Americans to pay some federal income tax and for all federal laws to sunset after five years, which would require Congress to renew programs including Social Security and Medicare.
Democrats have sought to score political points ahead of the elections by pointing to that plan, even though it has not been broadly embraced by Republicans, and some in the GOP have been critical of it. “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half of the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in early March. Scott himself later backed away from the idea that all Americans should have to pay federal income tax, writing that he really meant to target “able-bodied, working-age Americans” who “live off government handouts, even though they could be working” and “some very wealthy people who can hire an army of lobbyists, lawyers and accountants to avoid paying their fair share.”
What’s next: Many of the ideas Biden described to lower prices are stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, gas prices have hit fresh highs and Wednesday’s inflation report likely won’t deliver the president — or consumers — much relief. So while the inflation outlook remains uncertain, the campaign attack lines are clear.
Republicans will keep hitting Biden and Democrats on the economy. Scott, for his part, on Tuesday called the president “incoherent, incapacitated, and confused” and suggested that Biden should resign. "Democrats’ agenda is hurting American families and no amount of spin can change that," Scott said in a statement. "If Joe Biden wants to have a real debate on the issues, I’d welcome him to Florida anytime.”
Biden and Democrats, meanwhile, will be looking to frame the election as a choice between them and a Trumpian GOP. Biden said Tuesday: “The MAGA Republicans are counting on you to be so frustrated by the pace of progress they have done everything they can to slow down that you will hand power to them so they can enact their extreme agenda.”