Biden administration officials admitted Sunday that Americans are suffering from soaring inflation — but continued to blame COVID supply-chain problems, oil-company greed and the war in Ukraine.
“Inflation’s a problem. I will grant you that, and we will get it under control because we’re going to stick with it until we do,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg added on ABC News’ “This Week,” “Well, look, the first is to recognize that this is a real challenge that we’re all facing, that families are feeling that pain and that we’re acting on it.”
Their comments come just days after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admitted that the administration was “wrong” last year when it believed inflation would be a “transitory” problem that would soon clear up.
Both Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had repeated the “transitory” claim even though inflation was climbing to 40-year highs.
“I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” Yellen said Tuesday. “There have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted the energy and food prices, and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly that I didn’t, at the time, fully understand.”
Inflation, which hit 8.3% in April, is on the top of Americans’ minds and has become a hot issue for the upcoming midterm elections, where Democrats’ control of Congress is in jeopardy.
Eighty percent of Americans say inflation is an important factor in how they’ll vote in November, while 74% say gas prices, which are nearing $5 a gallon, is key, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll.
Both Raimondo and Buttigieg said the Biden administration is scrambling to control inflation.
“Here’s what I do know: President Biden gets up every day and goes to bed every night thinking about, ‘What can we do to get a lid on inflation?’ And anyone who brings him a good idea that he thinks will help American families, he’s open to doing it,” she said.
Earlier in the interview, Raimondo granted that Americans are “struggling,” but she also said, “I don’t think anyone predicted Putin’s war in Ukraine or various other things that have been unexpected.
“The reality is, the cause of this inflation is the supply-chain problems that were caused by COVID we’re still struggling with. Putin’s war is driving the price of food and gas up … We can’t deny that. We know Americans are struggling and demand changes,” she said.
Buttigieg also said inflation is the president’s top priority.
”But we also know that the price of gasoline is not set by a dial in the Oval Office,” he said. “And when an oil company is deciding, hour by hour, how much to charge you for a gallon of gas, they’re not calling the administration to ask what they should do; they’re doing it based on their goal of maximizing their profits,” Buttigieg said.
“It’s been very striking right now to see these oil companies, who have become almost ridiculously profitable, and you hear these oil executives on the record talking about how they’re not going to increase production. Why would they? They’re doing great right now,” the transportation secretary continued.
Raimondo also rejected the argument raised by some Republicans that the president’s American Rescue Plan that passed last year flooded the economy with cash and created higher prices.
”I shudder to think … what we’d be living through right now if we didn’t have the American Rescue Plan. Remember, that was the money for vaccinations, which actually allowed us to get everybody back to work. That was the money for emergency rental relief,” she said.