May 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden targets GOP on inflation as prices skyrocket

President Biden is seen talking about inflation last week during a visit to Hamilton, Ohio.

President Biden speaks last week about bolstering domestic manufacturing to reduce inflation during a visit to Hamilton, Ohio. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

President Biden is preparing a major speech Tuesday to address inflation, and will contrast his plans to lower costs for American families with those offered by congressional Republicans, an administration official told Axios.

Why it matters: For a president who once insisted inflation was "transitory," Biden is now talking about rising prices at nearly every opportunity. The focus comes as Americans buckle under gas exceeding $6 per gallon in some states, and grocery price increases each visit to the store.

  • At the White House on Tuesday, Biden will focus on GOP plans, like those from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), which Democrats say will raise taxes on some 75 million Americans, and could sunset entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Despite an economy that created 428,000 new jobs last month, officials know inflation is diluting Americans' purchasing power — and can crush Democrats at the polls in the midterm elections.
  • Biden administration officials have been debating whether to lower some of former President Trump’s tariffs against China as one step toward slowing inflation, Axios has reported.
  • Throughout April, Biden hit rising prices in a speech nearly every week. He did so again last week during a visit to Ohio, a key Rust Belt electoral state.

Driving the news: The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release April’s Consumer Price Index at 8:30am Wednesday.

It's become one of the most eagerly awaited statistics in Washington.

  • Economists estimate the monthly headline rate will come in 0.2%, meaning annual inflation will be 8.1%, according to FactSet.
  • That would mark a decline from March’s 8.5% annual rate, which was the highest annual reading since 1981, and signal inflation may be receding.
  • Last week, the Federal Reserve enacted its steepest interest-rate increase in more than 20 years as its step to help bring inflation down.

Flashback: At the end of 2021, with annual CPI at 6.8%, Biden claimed inflation was at its “peak.”

  • Then the war in Ukraine helped drive up energy prices.

The big picture: Biden is now trying to convince the American public he has a plan to lower costs, even as some of his top economic advisers say the Federal Reserve has the most powerful tools to drive down inflation.

  • In late March, the president made raising prices a centerpiece of his FY23 budget and used his spending outline to tout deficit reduction and plans to lower costs for consumers.
  • On March 31, he tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for an unprecedented release to help lower gas prices.
  • In Iowa last month, he announced expanded summertime access to E15, a cheaper gasoline with 15% ethanol, for the same reasons.
  • On Earth Day in Auburn, Washington, he highlighted his plans to lower prescription drug costs.

The other side: Republicans continue to hammer Biden on inflation and are convinced voters are on their side.

Public polling indicates they're right.

  • A May 1 ABC News survey showed 50% of respondents trust Republicans to bring it under control, with only 31% supporting Democratic efforts.
  • Scott, who also serves as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says he has no plans to raise taxes on working Americans or retirees, and that entitlement programs aren't at risk of being cut.
  • "American families are struggling to get by with skyrocketing inflation and higher prices, while @JoeBiden does NOTHING to help," he tweeted last week.

Go deeper: Last fall, Biden worked with private companies and unions to keep the Port of Los Angeles running 24/7.

  • The goal was to reduce the backlog of cargo ships to keep holiday presents from being delayed.
  • When those delays didn't materialize, White House press secretary Jen Psaki joked Biden "saved Christmas."
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