President Joe Biden launched a new messaging push on inflation and the U.S. economy yesterday, 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.”
Asked about inflation after a White House event Wedneaday on the infant formula shortage, Biden acknowledged he has very limited options to achieve immediate results. "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," he said, adding, "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."
Biden also called for increasing tax rates on corporations and the wealthy, saying it would not be inflationary and would reduce the deficit.
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.”