- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Festering discontent with President Biden among America’s business titans has burst into the open, with CEOs ridiculing the White House for turning them into boogeymen instead of accepting responsibility for inflation and an economy that might be headed for recession.

Mr. Biden has called on companies like Amazon to pay a higher tax rate and promoted unionization efforts at the online retailer, prompting Jeff Bezos to ridicule the president for trying to pass still more huge spending plans despite signs that his $1.9 trillion stimulus spending in 2021 overheated the economy.

“Inflation is a regressive tax that most hurts the least affluent. Misdirection doesn’t help the country,” Mr. Bezos tweeted.

But it didn’t stop there.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told the “All-In” podcast that the current administration had not accomplished much in its 18 months in power, except to pass big spending bills that helped contribute to inflation. He said the U.S. could wind up like Venezuela if it stays on the path it is on.

“The obvious reason for inflation is that the government printed a zillion amount of more money than it had, obviously,” said Mr. Musk, who is planning to buy the Twitter platform. “If the federal government writes checks, they never bounce … if there are more dollars created, then the increase in the goods and services across the economy, then you have inflation.”

SEE ALSO: Elon Musk slams Biden for causing inflation, says government ‘can’t just issue checks’

CEOs fired their salvos as Mr. Biden reaches for ways to stabilize the economy and reduce high prices that are putting the pinch on everyday Americans.

Former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said the economy faces a “high risk” of recession as the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates to combat inflation.

“I think the Fed has very powerful tools. It’s hard to finely tune them, and it’s hard to see the effects of them quickly enough to alter it, but I think they’re responding well. It’s definitely a risk,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that inflation had jumped 8.3% over the past 12 months — marking a 40-year high. White House officials have tried to downplay the significance of rising costs, blaming both Republicans and Russia for inflation.

The president has blamed Vladimir Putin for higher gas prices, in particular, as western powers cut the flow of Russian energy over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Biden has accused retailers of price gouging and likes to needle companies like Amazon, saying corporations and their wealthy owners don’t pay a fair share in taxes. ProPublica, in a report about how moguls avoid taxes because their net worth is in stock holdings, said Mr. Bezos paid nothing in federal taxes in 2007 and 2011.

Mr. Biden tweeted Friday that raising tax on the wealthy could combat inflation, prompting Mr. Bezos to say the administration’s Disinformation Board should review the posting.

“Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection,” Mr. Bezos tweeted.

Lawrence Summers, an economic adviser to President Obama, said he disagrees with Mr. Bezos despite his well-documented warnings about inflation early in Mr. Biden‘s term.

“I think Jeff Bezos is mostly wrong in his recent attack on the Joe Biden Admin. It is perfectly reasonable to believe, as I do and POTUS asserts, that we should raise taxes to reduce demand to contain inflation and that the increases should be as progressive as possible,” he tweeted.

Congressional Democrats also rallied to Mr. Biden’s aid amid the spat.

“Funny to hear Jeff Bezos and the billionaire class excuses for not providing living wages or paying their taxes. Monopolies like Amazon are inflating prices and making billions off working people while Bezos billionaires’ profits soar and Americans suffer,” tweeted Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to questions about Mr. Biden connecting inflation and taxation by speaking generally about middle-class relief.

Ms. Jean-Pierre said it is “not a huge mystery why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth — right — opposes an economic agenda that is for the middle class, that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul,” she said. “And that’s what we’re talking about.”

Mr. Bezos volleyed back at White House officials Monday, arguing Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, “saved them from themselves” when he single-handedly derailed Mr. Biden‘s $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill.

“They understandably want to muddy the topic. They know inflation hurts the neediest the most. But unions aren’t causing inflation and neither are wealthy people,” Mr. Bezos tweeted. “Remember the Administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending. They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40-year high.”

Likewise, Mr. Musk argued that the “government can’t just issue checks,” as Congress did at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, without eventually leading to inflation and other dire economic problems.

“If the government could just issue massive amounts of money and deficits didn’t matter, then why don’t we just make the deficit 100 times bigger,” he said. “Various countries have tried this experiment multiple times. Have you seen Venezuela?”

Mr. Musk also accused Mr. Biden of being overly controlled by special interests tied to the Democratic Party.

“In the case of Biden, he is simply too much captured by the unions, which was not the case with Obama,” said Mr. Musk.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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