Biden administration plays defense over soaring inflation

By Casey Harper | The Center Square

Critics lambasted the Biden administration Thursday after yet another month of inflation data showed record-high price increases, making a range of goods and services more expensive for regular Americans.

Republicans hammered Democrats on the data, saying runaway federal spending has left Americans feeling the pinch.

The White House

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington.

“The government numbers that came out today confirmed what everyone already knows,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said. “That inflation is out of control. … If you have a small business, you have to raise prices. That means you are losing customers. It threatens to wipe you out. That’s what’s happening in the real world, and remember Joe Biden said we didn’t have inflation. Then they said this was transitory and was going to pass. Now it continues to linger, continues to hurt people, and they don’t do anything about it.”

Others called the rising prices a hidden “tax,” since inflation is tied in part to the federal printing of money, which allows the federal government to spend more.

“Biden’s [inflation] just taxed every American,” U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said.

The pushback came after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Consumer Price Index (CPI) data, a key marker of inflation. That data showed prices increased 0.6% in the month of January and 7.5% since last year, contributing to one of the biggest inflation spikes in decades.

“The all items index rose 7.5 percent for the 12 months ending January, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending February 1982,” BLS said. “The all items less food and energy index rose 6.0 percent, the largest 12-month change since the period ending August 1982. The energy index rose 27.0 percent over the last year, and the food index increased 7.0 percent.”

The White House has defended its work on the economy, pointing to the improved unemployment rate. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that “inflation is expected to decrease and moderate over the course of this year.”

So far, economists have been split on that, some agreeing with the White House’s prediction and others saying inflation could continue into 2023.

The White House has also pointed to recent wage increases. Those higher wages, though, have been outpaced by inflation.

“Yet another month in the Biden economy when the number on paychecks went up while the value of those checks went down,” said Andy Puzder, senior fellow at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.

Food and energy price hikes have been a major factor in the overall data and have left Americans paying more at the pump and the grocery store. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s leading business schools, released a report in December that estimated that the average family spent an additional $3,500 last year because of inflation.

“Increases in the indexes for food, electricity, and shelter were the largest contributors to the seasonally adjusted all items increase,” BLS said. “The food index rose 0.9 percent in January following a 0.5 percent increase in December. The energy index also increased 0.9 percent over the month, with an increase in the electricity index being partially offset by declines in the gasoline index and the natural gas index.”

Gas prices have soared in the last year. According to AAA, the average nationwide gas price is $3.47 per gallon, exactly one dollar more than the same time last year.

“With inflation soaring ever higher, the time is now to increase energy supply, and not from foreign adversaries who wish us harm, but from all the domestic sources that helped America achieve energy independence,” said Daniel Turner, founder and executive director for Power The Future, an energy workers advocacy group. “Sadly, the policies of the Biden Administration have served as a proverbial boot on the throat of our energy industry. It’s no coincidence that while oil and gas reserves are at their lowest, inflation is at its highest.”

Turner predicted gas prices will increase even more.

“Five dollar a gallon for gas is on our horizon, and many middle-class families are stretching to pay drastically higher heating bills,” Turner said. “The clueless response from President Biden aren’t working: begging OPEC to increase foreign output while doing everything in his power to shackle proud American producers who could offer much-needed relief.”

The inflation numbers have political ramifications that could hurt Democrats in the November elections this year. Republicans have hammered the Biden administration for inflation, pointing to the trillions in federal spending during his first year in office. That message will likely continue through November, as long as prices remain elevated.

Image courtesy of The White House