Friday February 3rd, 2023 1:37AM

Biden's midterm self-edit: Less talk about inflation woes

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has stopped talking so much about inflation worries.

His remarks in Columbus, Ohio, in suburban Washington at a Democratic fundraiser, at a Cabinet meeting and in Labor Day speeches in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh were all missing a once-common refrain about families at the kitchen table straining under the rising costs of food and gasoline.

It's a self-edit ahead of the midterm elections in November, prompted in part by the easing of inflationary pressures. But Biden is also attempting to shift the spotlight to his legislative wins, the loss of abortion protections and the threats he says are posed to democracy by the many Republican leaders still under the sway of former President Donald Trump.

When Biden did address inflation in a Monday speech at Boston's airport, he stressed progress, rather than financial pain on what he says is his top economic priority. Biden has largely put the blame for inflation on global forces such as Russian President Vladimir Putin's February invasion of Ukraine, even as he says his own policies are reducing the burdens of higher prices.

“We're on the right track,” the president said Monday, noting the lower gas costs but adding the caveat: "There’s more to do, a lot more to do.”

Prices at the pump are averaging $3.72 a gallon, after having crested above $5 a gallon in mid-June, and the president's approval ratings have recovered somewhat. Yet inflation still remains a challenge.

The government on Tuesday will release its consumer prices report for August, with economists surveyed by FactSet expecting annual inflation to be at 8.1%. That's down from the 40-year peak of 9.1% in June, but it's well above the Federal Reserve's target of 2%.

“The most public price — gasoline — has been falling significantly,” said Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist and former Obama White House aide. “In that kind of environment, other concerns tend to move up on people’s lists. That could certainly change if the inflation numbers start getting worse.”

A senior White House official, insisting on anonymity on a Thursday call with reporters, said recent trends in inflation have given the administration some guarded optimism. The White House is banking on the possibility that interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will lead inflation down to pre-pandemic levels without sacrificing the job gains of the past 18 months.

“The Fed is going to need great skill and also some good luck to achieve what we sometimes call a soft landing," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday on CNN. “I believe there is a path to accomplishing that.”

Still, many leading economists, including researchers who presented this week at the Brookings Institution, warn that bringing down inflation will likely mean layoffs and a drastic rise in the unemployment rate despite Biden's hopes.

There is a risk for Biden in pivoting away from discussing inflation, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist who has advised Republican campaigns and is now president of the center-right American Action Forum. Holtz-Eakin noted that oil prices have largely fallen as demand from China has waned, something that could reverse in October if that country lifts it coronavirus lockdowns.

He said that Democratic fortunes could ultimately rest on the movements of global energy markets with their mix of geopolitics, corporate profits and financial speculation.

“They do this at their peril,” Holtz-Eakin said about the change in messaging. “When you look at the numbers, there really has not been great progress on inflation. Everything they’ve gotten on inflation has been driven by international conditions and global oil prices.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are trying to keep voters focused on the GOP version. They say Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and resistance to oil drilling leases has led to inflation, although prices are rising worldwide because of the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and troubled supply chains.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell noted the financial pain being felt by manufacturers, farmers and construction firms in his home state of Kentucky.

“Washington Democrats have spent nearly two years borrowing, printing, and spending our economy into turmoil,” McConnell said in a Wednesday speech to the Senate. “Since President Biden took office, prices in (Kentucky) have spiked by 13%.”

That figure cited by McConnell comes from Republicans on Congress' Joint Economic Committee. It's higher than the inflation numbers seen by most Americans because it’s over the span of Biden’s presidency, rather than the annual rate that commonly gets cited.

White House officials still describe inflation as Biden's top economic priority. The administration released a 58-page economic blueprint last Friday that details its work on infrastructure, climate change, computer chip production and other policies.The blueprint said that going forward, “The president’s near-term priority when it comes to the labor market is bringing down inflation without giving up the substantial progress we’ve made for American workers.”

But the president has also gone on the political offensive regarding inflation, noting that the GOP opposed the law he signed last month that limits prescription drug prices, funds climate-related investments, raises corporate taxes and reduces the federal budget deficit.

Biden says the measure, which Democrats call the “Inflation Reduction Act,” will help to lower prices, although outside analyses suggest the impact could be negligible.

“You think if they really cared about inflation — reducing it — they would have voted for the Inflation Reduction Act,” Biden said in his Thursday speech at a Democratic fundraiser. “Every Republican in the House, every Republican in the Senate, they voted against it. Everyone.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2023
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
EU regulator clears Pfizer-BioNTech's tweaked COVID booster
The European Medicines Agency has recommended the authorization of a tweaked booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine that includes protection against two of the latest versions of omicron, as countries look to bolster their immunization programs ahead of winter
11:52AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Biden's midterm self-edit: Less talk about inflation woes
In recent speeches, President Joe Biden has stopped talking so much about inflation worries
11:50AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Prosecutor: R. Kelly predator who used fame to abuse minors
A prosecutor has described R. Kelly as a sexual predator who parlayed his fame to abuse minors
11:48AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Live updates: Queen's coffin arrives at Edinburgh cathedral
Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin has arrived at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh for a memorial service
10:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
Loss of unifying queen could fray the bonds of fractious UK
Queen Elizabeth II has been likened to the invisible glue holding the United Kingdom together
10:24AM ( 1 hour ago )
Charles III and the 'weight of history' of Westminster Hall
In his first visit to Britain’s Parliament as monarch, King Charles III spoke of feeling the “weight of history which surrounds us” and referenced his “medieval predecessors” as he pledged to follow in his late mother Queen Elizabeth II’s footsteps and uphold the principles of constitutional monarchy
10:10AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Charles pledges to follow queen's example of selfless duty
King Charles III has pledged to follow his late mother's example of “selfless duty" in an address to lawmakers in Parliament
7:21AM ( 4 hours ago )
Live updates: Britain to observe national minute of silence
Britain is to observe a nationwide minute of silence Sunday, on the eve of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral
7:14AM ( 4 hours ago )
Live updates: King Charles addresses Britain's Parliament
King Charles III has addressed lawmakers in Britain’s parliament
6:05AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Broadway theater to be renamed in honor of James Earl Jones
The newly restored Cort Theatre on Broadway will be renamed after James Earl Jones on Monday, becoming the second theater on the Great White Way named after a Black artist
10:57AM ( 1 hour ago )
Stocks rise on Wall Street, building on gains from last week
Stocks rose on Wall Street as the market builds on a rally last week that broke a three-week losing streak
10:26AM ( 1 hour ago )
Germany: No option but to permit Russian uranium shipment
Germany says that it can’t stop a shipment of Russian uranium destined for French nuclear plants from being processed at a site in Germany because atomic fuel isn’t covered by European Union sanctions on Russia
10:08AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Lebanon: Central Bank lifts all expensive fuel subsidies
The Lebanese Central Bank has lifted its remaining subsidies on fuel
7:18AM ( 4 hours ago )
World shares advance after Wall Street's end of week rally
Shares have climbed in Europe and Asia after last week's strong close on Wall Street, the first weekly gain in four weeks
4:21AM ( 7 hours ago )
Asian shares rise on back of Wall Street rally
Shares have climbed in Asia after last week's strong close on Wall Street, the first weekly gain in four weeks
2:23AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Ukraine keeps initiative, claims it reached Russian border
Ukraine has kept the counteroffensive momentum in its war against Russia going
5:26AM ( 6 hours ago )
Dubai court rejects Danish extradition request for financier
An Emirati court has ruled that a British man suspected of masterminding a $1.7 billion tax scheme cannot be extradited to Denmark to face charges
3:49AM ( 8 hours ago )
EXPLAINER: Ukraine's nuclear power plant shutdown cuts risks
The shutdown of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant cuts the risk of a radiation disaster that has haunted the world
3:28AM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Russia announces troop pullback from Ukraine's Kharkiv area
Russia’s Defense Ministry says it's pulling back forces from two areas in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region where a Ukrainian counteroffensive has made significant advances in the past week
5:22PM ( 1 day ago )
Small nuke reactors emerge as energy option, but risks loom
A global search for alternative sources to Russian energy during the war in Ukraine has refocused attention on smaller, easier-to-build nuclear power stations
3:17PM ( 1 day ago )
Oregon adopts Calif fire tactic, shuts power amid high winds
Oregon utilities shut down power to tens of thousands of customers on Friday as dry easterly winds swept into the region, raising the risk of wildfire danger
12:00AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Prosecutor: R. Kelly predator who used fame to abuse minors
A prosecutor has described R. Kelly as a sexual predator who parlayed his fame to abuse minors
11:48AM ( 12 minutes ago )
Bezos rocket fails during liftoff, only experiments aboard
Jeff Bezos' rocket company has suffered its first launch failure
11:46AM ( 14 minutes ago )
King Charles III and his siblings escort queen's coffin
King Charles III and his three siblings marched behind their mother’s coffin in a solemn procession along the Royal Mile in the historic heart of the Scottish capital of Edinburgh
11:44AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Teacher shortages are real, but not for the reason you heard
Everywhere, it seems, the return to school has been shadowed by worries of a teacher shortage
11:24AM ( 36 minutes ago )
The queen, as imagined — from punk rock to mystery novels
She was everywhere and yet not really known
11:22AM ( 37 minutes ago )