President Biden came under fire Monday for downplaying decades-high inflation and other problems during a “60 Minutes” interview, with critics accusing the president of being out of touch with economic reality.
During the sit-down interview, Mr. Biden insisted that the monthly inflation rate had “hardly” risen.
“We’re in a position where for the last several months, it hasn’t spiked, it is just barely, it’s been basically even. And in the meantime, we created all these jobs,” Mr. Biden said.
A Labor Department report last week showed that the annual inflation was 8.3% in August, a gain of 0.1% from July. However, many economists predicted inflation would decline in August, and the rise sparked a stock sell-off, with all three major U.S. markets posting their worst day in two years.
While the increase from July to August was minor, it’s untrue that inflation “just barely” spiked in 2022. For example, in June, prices had increased by 9.1%, making it the biggest year-over-year jump since 1981.
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In January, consumer prices were rising at an annual rate of 7.5%, but they have topped 8% every month since.
“Prices across-the-board rose 8.3% and that’s inflation by a mile,” said Joel Griffith, an economics research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “I think American families hearing him talk that inflation slowed are struggling because wages aren’t keeping up with inflation rates.
A survey released last week by Bankrate, a consumer finance company, found that 55% of workers say their income hasn’t kept pace with the rising cost of goods. Among those surveyed, 39% of workers said they haven’t received a raise in the past 12 months and are having a harder time keeping up with inflation.
Mr. Biden told “60 Minutes” that energy prices are lower and costs will start to decline because his massive tax, spending, and healthcare bill will lower medication prices.
“I’m telling the American people we’re going to get control of inflation. And their drug prices are gonna be a hell of a lot lower. Their health care costs are gonna be a lot lower. Their basic costs for everybody, their energy prices are gonna be lower. They’re going to be in a situation where they begin to gain control again,” he said.
Mr. Biden later said the price of gas and other energy costs have gone down.
While gas prices have dropped since hitting a record $5 per gallon in June, they remain significantly higher than they were this time last year. As of Monday afternoon, a gallon of gas cost $3.67, a 15% increase from $3.19 on the same date last year, according to data from AAA.
Mr. Griffith said the decrease is artificial, fueled by less demand because of record high prices and a looming recession. Data from the Energy Information Administration last week revealed that gas demand dropped to 8.5 million barrels per day from 9.3 million one week earlier. That is the lowest demand since July 2020, when COVID restrictions put fewer drivers on the road.
For prices to truly decline, Mr. Griffith said, the U.S. needs to increase supply to meet long-term demand, not just while the demand is dropping.
“Gas prices are not coming down because we are increasing supply but because we are in a recession and demand is plunging,” he said. “We want to see prices come down because we are increasing production.”
But even as gas prices drop, the cost of other household goods has risen. The price of eggs is up nearly 40% from where it stood in August 2021, while the price of margarine trails close behind with a 38% jump over the same time, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Transportation costs have also soared, with public transportation costs up more than 20% since August 2021 and the price of tires rising 14% over the same time, the BLS said.
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Mr. Biden also bragged to “60 Minutes” about his job-creating prowess, saying that his administration has created 10 million jobs, including 685,000 in the manufacturing sector. Last month, Mr. Biden attributed those jobs to his American Rescue Plan spending law, which aimed at stimulating the U.S. economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that between April 2021 and August 2022, the U.S. economy posted a net gain of roughly 8 million jobs, less than the 10 million jobs Mr. Biden touted.
But there is also no evidence that the job gains are related to Mr. Biden’s policies. A Congressional Budget Office study released in February 2021 concluded that even without the American Rescue Plan, employment would increase by 6.25 million jobs in 2021 and 1.74 million in 2022. That’s because jobs were coming back because businesses were reopening after the COVID-19 shutdowns.
“We saw millions and millions of jobs lost from government-imposed shutdowns, and now these jobs are coming back because the government is allowing businesses to reopen,” Mr. Griffith said. “President Biden doesn’t get credit because people are being told they can now run their business.”
BLS data shows there is a smaller percentage of people employed now than before the pandemic, meaning several million workers still haven’t returned to the workplace.
Republicans seized on Mr. Biden’s comments, calling them tone deaf.
Jonathan Turcotte, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senate Committee, called on every Senate Democrat, including those up for reelection this year, to address Mr. Biden’s inflation claims.
“Do they agree that record inflation needs to be put in perspective? Hard-working Americans who can’t afford gas and groceries surely don’t agree. These kinds of blatantly false and ignorant statements from Joe Biden are only possible because he knows that no vulnerable Senate Democrat has the guts to stand up to him,” Mr. Turcotte said in a statement.
“The pandemic is over,” he said during the interview. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s — but the pandemic is over.”
But research shows Mr. Biden’s comments might be premature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that hundreds of COVID-19 deaths are occurring each day and that roughly 14,000 Americans died from the virus last month.
An additional 60,000 Americans are testing positive every day, according to the CDC. While not as high as the 129,000 Americans who, on average, tested positive per day over the summer, it’s higher than the 25,000 average recorded in the spring.
Even Mr. Biden’s own COVID response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, earlier this month disputed claims that the pandemic was over.
“The pandemic isn’t over,” Dr. Jha said during a Sept. 6 White House briefing. “And we will remain vigilant, and of course, we continue to look for and prepare for unforeseen twists and turns.”