November 29, 2021

The Inflation Miscalculation Complicating Biden’s Agenda

“Because of the strength of our economic recovery, American families have been able to buy more products,” Mr. Biden said this month at the Port of Baltimore. “And — but guess what? They’re not going out to dinner and lunch and going to the local bars because of Covid. So what are they doing? They’re staying home, they’re ordering online, and they’re buying product.”

That view is the closest thing the administration has offered to an explanation for why the White House was surprised by the size and durability of a price surge that has hurt Mr. Biden’s poll numbers and imperiled part of his economic agenda in Congress. From the administration’s perspective, the problem is not that there is too much money sloshing around, as Republicans and some economists insist, but that consumers are throwing an unexpectedly large amount of that money at a narrow set of things to buy.

Put another way: If Mr. Biden had sent people travel vouchers or DoorDash gift cards for services — instead of sending Americans direct payments as part of his $1.9 trillion rescue plan in March — the inflation picture might look different right now.

Inflation has risen across wealthy nations over the past year, but it has risen faster in the United States, where prices rose 6.2 percent in October from the year before. America’s inflation has been exacerbated, in part, by Mr. Biden and his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, pouring more fiscal support into the U.S. economy than their counterparts did elsewhere, at a time when consumption patterns shifted and did not rapidly snap back to normal.

Republicans, and even some left-leaning economists such as the former Obama administration officials Lawrence H. Summers and Jason Furman, have blamed the rapid price increases across the economy on the aid package that Mr. Biden signed in the spring. They say the package’s direct assistance to Americans, including $1,400 checks to individuals and enhanced benefits for the unemployed, fueled more consumer demand than the economy could bear, driving prices skyward.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/24/us/politics/biden-inflation-prices.html

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