Will it be enough?
“Good morning!” chirped White House Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this morning on Twitter. “Gas prices are going down.”
Mr. Buttigieg wasn’t the only one this week to notice and remark on this very positive sign.
“We’re talking about what has happened in the past 34 days to prices at the pump,” Council of Economic Adviser Jared Bernstein reminded reporters during Monday’s White House press briefing. “They’ve fallen fifty-cents, and you heard me go through some of the numbers in terms of relief for American drivers.”
“At the same time, we’re not stopping there, ok?” Bernstein added hastily. “This is nothing close to a victory lap because we have much more to do to achieve the President’s agenda of helping families get some breathing room in this tough environment, which is characterized by, of course, such highly elevated prices.”
On Monday, the White House also promised to do more to address the high cost of prescription drugs, as one method of easing the monthly financial burden on American families.
“Now, if you can help people with prescription drugs, drugs that cost 2 to 3 times less in other countries for the same pill, if you can help a 60-year old couple with a $45,000 income not have to pay another $1,900 to get their insurance coverage, you are accomplishing the President’s goals,” Mr. Bernstein said.
“Now to do that, we need Congress to align and work with us,” Bernstein added hopefully. “And you know, Democrats, many Democrats are there when it comes to prescription drugs. This is something that President Trump wanted to achieve and, you know, he didn’t get there. This President is pushing hard to achieve that goal.”
“I’ve talked about mostly near-term relief because that’s so important for families who are seeking a little bit of breathing room right now, but there’s another piece of legislation on the docket and that of course is CHIPS. And this is something that has had real bipartisan support,” Bernstein said.
President Biden himself has offered the same consolation to American taxpayers concerned about inflation. Promising to address climate change urgently, Mr. Biden pointed to the economic benefits of such an action.
“My actions will create jobs, improve our energy security, bolster domestic manufacturing and supply chains, protect us from oil and gas price hikes in the future, and address climate change,” President Biden said July 15, 2022, in a statement. “I will not back down: the opportunity to create jobs and build a clean energy future is too important to relent.”
“Health care is also critical,” said President Biden’s statement. “After decades of fierce opposition from powerful special interests, Democrats have come together, beaten back the pharmaceutical industry and are prepared to give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices and to prevent an increase in health insurance premiums for millions of families with coverage under the Affordable Care Act.”
“Families all over the nation will sleep easier if Congress takes this action,” Mr. Biden pointed out. “The Senate should move forward, pass it before the August recess, and get it to my desk so I can sign it.”
“This will not only lower the cost of prescription drugs and health care for families, it will reduce the deficit and help fight inflation,” Mr. Biden promised.
While inflation is certainly top-of-mind for most Americans, the Biden Administration points to other economic indicators which are stronger, and paint a much brighter picture of the nation’s financial prospects, in the near and long term.
“What you need in the backdrop is a strong labor market, because that’s where most people get their incomes from,” Jared Bernstein reminded audiences during an appearance on FOX News Sunday, July 17. “We have the strongest labor market on record in history by many conventional metrics. Nine million jobs since this president got here.”
“There’s a lot of talk about all these economic headwinds. If you look at this tailwind of job growth, 375,000 jobs per month in the past three months,” Bernstein said.
“Wage growth is actually pretty strong in nominal terms, but inflation is so high,” Bernstein continued. “And that’s what the president’s agenda is all about; helping families afford prescription drugs, lowering their health insurance premium, something that Congress- I’m looking at the Capitol of the window here- something that Congress needs to act on before the August recess, and I’m talking bipartisan.”
All this is should be welcome news for struggling Americans and families living paycheck-to-paycheck.
From June 2021 to June 2022, inflation has been taking a big bite out of monthly incomes, consumer confidence and financial outlooks. Gasoline is up 59.9%; air fares are up 34.1%. Cereal is up 15.1%, meat and poultry 10.4%, fruits and vegetables 8.1%.
Used cars, on average, are up 7.1% from last year. In many places, the cost of a used car is up 25% or more. Rent is another crushing metric in the inflationary picture. There have been hikes of 30% or more which many renters have found, “impossible to prepare for.”
With more and more Americans lining up at food banks, and some experts predicting the worst may be yet to come for inflation- which rose a whopping 9.1% in June- they are looking for answers from leaders in Washington.
“We know that the American people are feeling the high costs,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reassured reporters on July 8. “We understand what they are feeling because when you look at inflation, when you look at where we are economically- and we are stronger economically than we have been in history- when you look at the unemployment numbers at 3.6%, when you look at the jobs numbers, more than 8.7 million new jobs created, that is important.”
“The historic strength of our job market is one reason our economy is uniquely well positioned to tackle a range of global economic challenges- from global inflation to the economic fallout from Putin’s war,” said President Joe Biden in a similar statement. “No country is better positioned than America to bring down inflation, without giving up all the economic gains we have made over the last 18 months.”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)