White House officials are continuing to paint a rosy picture of the national economy, even as American workers face 40-year high inflation, skyrocketing gas prices and a baby formula shortage.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told CNN’s “State of the Union” that while inflation and other problems are serious, the overall state of the economy was stronger than at any point since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“America is back to work. Wages are increasing, the labor market is strong [and] people have not been thrown out of their homes,” she said. “We are not seeing the anemic and very painful economic recovery that we experienced in 2009 … after the last economic slowdown.”
White House officials claim that without Mr. Biden’s leadership and his push for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief in March 2021, the country would be in much worse shape.
“Look at where this administration began, where there was a very real risk of recession, if not depression,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “The fact that unemployment is as low as it is right now would not have happened, I believe, if it were not for the actions that the president took.”
The positive rhetoric from Mr. Biden’s staff is the polar opposite of what economists and the nation’s leading financial institutions are saying.
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase CEO, urged last week for Americans to brace themselves as it appeared that an economic “hurricane” was heading for the country. Mr. Dimon cited the national rate of inflation, which at 8.3% is the highest in nearly 40 years, and the Federal Reserver’s interest rate hikes — which economists fear will send the country tumbling into a recession.
“That hurricane is right out there down the road, coming our way,” he said. “We just don’t know if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy … or something like that, and you better brace yourself.”
Adding to the deluge of bad economic news, the federal government’s job reports last week found that employment and wage growth has slowed.
Still, White House officials contend the economy is healthy and should rebound quickly in the coming months.
“People’s general financial positions [are] relatively strong. That should give us a lot of confidence that we can make this transition,”
Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden, told “Fox News Sunday” during an interview. “Those are the type of things that lead to more stable, balanced growth.”
Apart from inflation, the White House is also burdened by rising gas prices and a baby formula shortage that has left American families concerned about how they will feed their children.
Administration officials say that neither of those issues can be blamed on Mr. Biden. In particular, they claim that rising gas prices are the result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine earlier this year.
“I don’t think anyone predicted Putin’s war in Ukraine or various other things that have happened that have been unexpected,” said Mrs. Raimondo. “I think it’s worth noting that gas prices are up [a] $1.40 per gallon since Putin moved troops into Ukraine.”
White House aides similarly shrug off responsibility for the baby formula shortage even though Mr. Biden’s Food and Drug Administration shuttered a key production site earlier his year after fears it had been contaminated by bacteria.
“It is a real challenge that we have such a concentrated industry where we’re one company and one plan could mean so much,” said Mr. Sperling. “But when that went down, one had to balance getting it up as fast as possible with protecting the safety of American families and what you’ve seen is the president do that.”
Republicans say that Mr. Biden should take clear responsibility, instead of trying to shirk the blame. They note that gas prices were rising well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that baby formula shortage was obvious to families as early as February of this year.
“President Biden needs to take responsibility for the pain Americans are feeling,” said former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
• Haris Alic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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