- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2023

President Biden is shaking up his economic team as inflation continues to hammer consumers, forcing them to shell out higher prices on a variety of everyday goods.

Mr. Biden announced on Tuesday that Lael Brainard, vice chair of the Federal Reserve System, is joining the White House as director of the National Economic Council. Ms. Brainard will replace Brian Deese, who has held the post for the past two years and is stepping down.

At the same time, Jared Bernstein, a top adviser to Mr. Biden, will chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Mr. Bernstein, a noted critic of free-trade agreements, has helped devise the White House’s “Buy America” policy over the past two years.

Mr. Biden’s elevation of the duo signals they will play a leading role in formulating his economic agenda ahead of an expected reelection campaign in 2024. Topping the list will be inflation, which remains stubbornly high.

“There is still more work to do as we make this transition to more steady, stable growth, and there could be setbacks along the way,” said Mr. Biden. “That is why my unwavering focus is on continuing to lower costs for families, rebuild our supply chains, and invest in America.”

The Labor Department released data on Tuesday showing that inflation increased by 6.4% over the past 12 months. The figure was up 0.5% from the previous month and higher than economic analysts estimated.

The annual rate of inflation fell slightly from 6.5% in the previous month. The rate is more than triple the level sought by the Federal Reserve, which has raised interest rates eight times since March 2022 to bring inflation under control.

Inflation is hitting consumers hardest at grocery stores, with the cost of food up 10.1% in the past year. Eggs alone saw an 8.5% jump over the past month.

Consumers are also paying more for energy and shelter costs. Electricity prices are up 11.9% over the past year, while the cost of natural gas has jumped 26.7%. The cost of rent, meanwhile, is up 8.9% over the past 12 months.

Republicans blame Mr. Biden for the bad economic numbers.  

“As a direct result of Biden’s failed policies, paychecks are worth less and the cost of feeding a family continues to skyrocket,” said Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. “Inflation is up, wages are down, and it’s no wonder a record number of Americans say they are worse off under Joe Biden.”

Overall inflation is down from its peak of more than 9% last summer, however. Mr. Biden was quick to seize on the fact in responding to the new data.

“Inflation in America is continuing to come down, which is good news for families and businesses across the country,” he said. “Today’s data confirm that annual inflation has fallen for seven straight months.”

Wall Street didn’t seem to buy the argument, though. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 327 points as of noon, or nearly 1%.

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

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