President Biden admitted Wednesday that inflation was stuck at “unacceptably high” levels after the annual rate fell slightly in April to 8.3% — but then blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for the price increases rather than runaway government spending.
“While it is heartening to see that annual inflation moderated in April, the fact remains that inflation is unacceptably high,” Biden said in a statement.
Inflation hit a 40-year annual high of 8.5% in March. Although the annual inflation rate ticked lower in April, prices actually increased 0.3% on a month-to-month basis.
Biden had attempted to preempt the latest inflation data with a Tuesday speech in which he sought to shift the blame for the politically dicey issue.
In his Wednesday statement, Biden hailed a new federal initiative funded by his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to provide free Internet service to about 40% of homes — and claimed Republicans would increase costs if they regain control of Congress.
“Congressional Republicans talk about inflation, but their only plan is to raise taxes on working families, taking even more money out of their pockets,” Biden said, referring to a plan proposed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) that would require all Americans to pay at least some taxes, though the proposal is not widely embraced by other Republicans.
“If they are serious about inflation, they should send me the bipartisan innovation bill to bolster our supply chains and make more in America, along with legislation that cuts costs and the cuts the deficit, reducing families’ prescription drug and utility bills and restoring fairness to our tax code,” the president added.
A study released in late March by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said that in the final quarter of 2021, about 3 percentage points of inflation — or nearly half the total increases — may have been caused by government pandemic spending.
Biden is traveling Wednesday to Illinois to focus on boosting domestic production of grains to offset diminished exports from Russia and Ukraine amid the ongoing war in Eastern Europe.
“Today, I am traveling to Illinois to speak with farmers about more we can do to lower their costs and help them produce more, lowering the price of food for Americans and around the world,” Biden said. “All of this is progress, but the fight against global supply chain issues related to the pandemic and Putin’s price hike will continue every day.”
Biden also touted a declining federal deficit, despite the fact that Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill last year without revenue offsets or Republican support. Months later, Congress approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, of which about $256 billion wasn’t paid for, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
A poll released last month by CBS found that 69% of US adults disapprove of Biden’s handling of inflation. Even among Democrats, 41% disapprove of Biden’s response.