Biden Fuming Over Handling of Inflation: Report

Biden Fuming Over Handling of Inflation: Report

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By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Biden Fuming About His Administration’s Handling of Inflation: Report

We told you yesterday that President Joe Biden launched a new messaging push on inflation and the U.S. economy, part of a planned month-long push to address Americans’ top concerns and try to reverse brutal poll numbers ahead of the midterm elections. The effort kicked off Tuesday with a Biden op-ed in The Wall Street Journal laying out a three-pronged plan to tackle inflation as well as an Oval Office meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and a flurry of media appearances by administration aides reinforcing the economic message.

The latest push “comes after Biden has privately grumbled to top White House officials over the administration’s handling of inflation, expressing frustration over the past several months that aides were not doing enough to confront the problem directly,” The Washington Post’s Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein report, citing two people familiar with the president’s comments. Pager and Stein add that “Biden had complained to aides that they were not doing a good job explaining the causes of inflation and what the administration is doing about it.”

Will it be enough? The Post notes that Biden aides are also stepping up their push for a bill reviving key elements of the failed Build Back Better plan, including measures to lower prescription drug and child care costs. But amid Democratic debates over other actions and political messaging the administration might embrace, Biden “has never been comfortable with a sharply anti-corporate stance,” the Post notes, and has mostly avoided populist and progressive rhetoric pinning the blame for inflation on corporate greed.

Where does that leave the White House? “It seems like they’ve given up doing anything and have settled into figuring out what the best thing to say is,” one unnamed person said to be in close communication with senior White House economists told the Post. “There’s almost more debate about the right narrative than the right policy stance.”

Quotes of the Day: Biden and Yellen on Inflation

"There's a lot going on right now but the idea we're going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term. Nor is it with regard to food. … We can't take immediate action that I'm aware of yet to figure out how we're going to bring down the price of gasoline back to $3 a gallon. And we can't do that immediately with regard to food prices either. But we can compensate by providing for other necessary costs for families, by bringing those down. That reduces the inflation for that family."

– President Biden, asked about inflation Wednesday after a White House event on the infant formula shortage. Biden also called for increasing tax rates on corporations and the wealthy, saying it would not be inflationary and would reduce the deficit.

“I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take. As I mentioned, there have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly that I didn’t — at the time didn’t fully understand. But we recognize that now. The Federal Reserve is taking the steps that it needs to take. It’s up to them to decide what to do. And, for our part, President Biden is focused on supplementing what the Fed does with actions we can take to lower the cost that Americans face for important expenditures they have in their budgets. Prescription drugs is one example, health care costs another example, utility bills. If Congress is willing to pass some of the proposals to boost the use of non-renewables, I think that can serve to bring down an important cost that households face. He realizes, we all realize what an important and huge burden inflation is placing on American households.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who in March 2021 said inflation posed only a “small risk,” conceding in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she underestimated the threat to the economy — and suggesting that she couldn’t have foreseen the shocks from additional waves of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. Yellen also tempered expectations for continued economic and job growth. “Now we’re in a period of transition,” she said. “We’re not expecting to see the same kinds of job gains, monthly job gains or growth figures going forward. We’re looking at steady and stable growth and bringing inflation down.”

Another $700 Million in Military Aid for Ukraine

The U.S. will send another batch of military equipment worth $700 million to Ukraine, including advanced rocket systems, the White House announced late Tuesday.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times, President Biden explained how he plans to support Ukraine as it struggles to defend itself against Russian aggression. “We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition,” he wrote. “We will also send billions more in financial assistance, as authorized by Congress.”

The rocket systems are particularly notable since they will allow Ukrainian forces to strike deeper into Russian-held territory — and, some critics worry, increase the risk of expanding the war into Russia itself. A senior White House official told The New York Times that the Ukrainians had agreed not to use the rocket systems — called the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, the most sophisticated weapon provided to Ukraine so far — to attack Russian territory. The White House also said that it was sending rockets that could travel 48 miles, but not the longer-range munitions that can travel nearly 200 miles.

Biden sought to reassure Russia that the U.S. did not want to see the conflict expand. “We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia,” he wrote. “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”

The bottom line: The U.S. has already sent Ukraine about $5 billion worth of military equipment, and military experts say more will likely be provided, with the war expected to grind on for months.

Number of the Day: 11.4 Million

Job openings remain near record highs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday, with employers posting 11.4 million open positions in April. There are nearly twice as many openings as there are job seekers, a sign that the labor market continues to be extraordinarily tight. While 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in April, many to move to a different one, layoffs totaled just 1.2 million people, a record low.

“The labor market remains strong even though things are cooling off a bit,” economist Nick Bunker at Indeed told The Washington Post. “We’re still very much in a worker’s and job seeker’s market.”


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