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Inflation ‘still too high,’ White House economic adviser says

Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss June inflation data, lower energy prices, and what the White House is doing to address higher prices.

Video Transcript


JULIE HYMAN: Consumer prices rising at the fastest pace since 1981 last month, a headline increase of 9.1%. If you back out food and energy, still an increase of 5.9%. Any way you slice it, people paying a lot more for a lot more stuff.

We're joined now by Brian Deese, White House director of the National Economic Council. Brian, thank you so much for being here. I want to start on those energy prices because I know that's something that you, at the White House, have pointed to as now a source of some relief. That's something we've been talking about as well, that prices at the pump have come down. But energy prices are volatile, so there's no guarantee they're going to stay down. So how do you address that issue?

BRIAN DEESE: Well, thanks for having me. I think, first, you are right that these numbers that came out today are outdated in the sense that they don't reflect the significant decline in oil prices and gas prices that we've seen, gas prices at the pump down 30 days straight, down about $0.40. So this number that came out today, about half of it is driven by energy. That is outdated.

But that's also why economists tend to look at what is referred to as core, which strips out energy and food. That number, as you say, 5.9%, now down below 6%, but still too high. So I think the most important takeaway from this is that we need to keep acting urgently to bring prices down. It's why here, at the White House, we're so focused on trying to urge Congress to act on legislation that would bring down costs for consumers on things like prescription drugs, on things like semiconductors that go into almost every durable good produced here in the country, but also reduce the federal deficit, which would help to provide a complement to what the Fed is doing on monetary policy.

All those things are within our sights, within our reach. We could get those things done. I think this report underscores the urgency of moving on those measures this month.

JULIE HYMAN: Brian, let's come back to energy for a moment because, yes, all of those things are obviously important input costs. Yes, economists look at core. Consumers look at the pump, right? They look at what they are putting into their vehicles, and that definitely informs consumer confidence and informs things like polls, of course, as well. Of course, the president is going to be heading to Saudi Arabia to try to get some relief on production from there. But talk to me more about the White House's plan on the energy front.

BRIAN DEESE: Absolutely. And you're right that consumers feel it when they drive up at the pump. That's why this decline for the past 30 days is so important. Prices are coming down. They're down $0.40 nationwide. There's about 10,000 gas stations around the country where gas is now under $4 a gallon. And, importantly, if you look at where oil prices are now, while gas prices have come down about 8% from their peak, oil prices are down about 20%. So that means that there is more room for gas prices to come down. They should come down as quickly as possible, and markets at least are signaling that they will continue to come down. That's important good news for consumers that, as you say, are filling up their gas tanks every day.

From our perspective, we're focused on doing what we can to keep that dynamic going. That's about increasing global supply. That's what the president was focused on with the G7 in trying to work toward what we refer to as a price cap on Russian oil. That would maintain stability in the global supply of oil while really focusing the economic pain on Vladimir Putin.

That's why we're focused on releasing a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which we have seen has had an impact on helping blunt the run up in oil prices, and why the president has called for Congress to move beyond that act to provide a short-term elimination of the gas tax holiday. These are all things we're focused on. We're moving on. But the goal is to try to keep that momentum going because, as you say, a lot of things are important, but the fact that gas prices have now come down 30 days in a row, that is important for a lot of people across this country.

BRIAN SOZZI: Brian, indeed, it is. And I hear your point, and it's a point well taken on gas prices. But when I dig into the CPI here, I see the index for butter and margarine up 26.3%. That's huge. Dental costs, highest since 1995. Is the only thing that is going to bring down prices like this is a recession in this country?

BRIAN DEESE: Look, I think if you look under the hood, you see a lot, right? Meat prices down this month. The price of eggs down this month. Overall, food at home, the food that you buy in a grocery store, some moderation from the increase from last month.

And if you look in commodity markets, again, to the fact that this is backward-looking data, since June, you've seen, for example, a 30% decline in the global price of wheat. But, look, none of that matters at the end of the day for typical families who come into a grocery store and the bottom line is prices are too high when they're buying groceries or they're buying gas. And that's why I will come back.

We need to take action. This president is focused on taking action wherever we can to lower prices for consumers. Congress has on its plate right now ways to do so. We talk about legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs, lower the cost of utility bills that families pay. Why that matters? A typical family at the end of the month, if they're paying less on prescription drugs, if their utility bills have come down because we provided long-term incentives for cleaner but also cheaper American energy, that's going to provide some relief to those families that are having to pay too much.

So, look, there's different pictures. We are seeing some food goods come down. Others too high. But at the end of the day, what we should be doing is acting to bring down costs for consumers.