September 30, 2022

Inflation Report Dampens Biden’s Claims of Economic Progress

But the country’s economic reality remains more muddled than Mr. Biden’s rosy message, as the inflation report underscored. Food prices are continuing to spike, straining lower-income families in particular. The global economy is slowing sharply, and threats remain to the American recovery if European sanctions force millions of barrels of Russian oil off the global market in the months to come.

A possible railroad strike could disrupt domestic supply chains. The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters on Tuesday that the president had called union and company leaders on Monday in an attempt to broker an agreement to avert the strike.

Most important — and perhaps most damaging for Mr. Biden and Democrats — Americans’ wages have struggled to keep pace with fast-rising prices, an uncomfortable truth for a president who promised to make real wage gains a centerpiece of his economic program. Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings ticked up across the economy in August, the Labor Department said on Tuesday, but they remain down nearly 3 percent from a year ago.

Republicans were quick to criticize Mr. Biden after the report on Tuesday. “Every day, Americans endure Biden’s economic crisis,” said Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, the top Republican on the Small Business Committee. “The Democrats’ inflation continues to drive up costs and leads more and more small businesses and families questioning their future.”

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Mr. Biden and his aides have celebrated falling gasoline prices on a daily basis throughout the summer. Those decreasing prices have helped inflation moderate from its high point this year, though not enough to offset rising rent, food and other costs last month.

Even as he acknowledges the pain of rapid price increases across the economy, Mr. Biden has claimed progress in the fight against inflation, including with the signing last month of the energy, health care and tax bill that Democrats called the Inflation Reduction Act. On Tuesday morning, he sought to put a positive shine on the August data, saying in a statement issued by the White House that it was a sign of “more progress” in bringing down inflation.

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