The Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, July 13, 2022
Less than two years into his presidency, Joe Biden’s signature accomplishment has been to destroy the finances of millions of American families.
The Labor Department on Wednesday released the latest inflation figures, and they were worse than most economists expected. Consumer prices soared 9.1 percent in June on a year-to-year basis, the highest level in more than four decades dating to when Ronald Reagan was cleaning up Jimmy Carter’s mess.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told CNN that the average U.S. household must spend $493 a month more — nearly $6,000 a year — to buy the same goods and services as it did last year at this time.
Wage gains have also faltered, lagging well behind inflation.
As usual, Mr. Biden and his economic team tried to put a “nothing-to-see-here” spin on the bad news. The president called the June figure “out of date” because gasoline prices in the past few weeks — while still more than $5 a gallon in Southern Nevada — have trended downward.
“Those savings,” Mr. Biden said in a statement, “are providing important breathing room” for beleaguered consumers. Yes, as long as they don’t eat or have rent to pay. While lower gasoline prices are welcome, pump costs remain at historic highs, and inflation runs rampant in most economic categories.
Labor Department figures show that the food index is up 10.4 percent over the past year, with few family staples — chicken (19 percent), eggs (33.1 percent), milk (16.4 percent), butter (21.3 percent) — immune to rising costs. Shelter costs have increased 5.6 percent and are moving higher.
“At this point, we’re talking about food, gasoline and housing,” Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, told The Washington Post. “That does not make for a happy household.”
Mr. Biden said Wednesday inflation is a “top priority.” Yet he has brought nothing to the fight, preferring to let the Fed — which for months downplayed rising prices as “transitory” — raise interest rates while hoping to avoid shocking the economy into recession.
Indeed, the administration seems insistent on repeating past mistakes by tossing even more fuel on the fire. Politico reported last month that the president hopes to pass a smaller version this fall of the $2 trillion Build Back Better legislation that died in the Senate last year. It shouldn’t take former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to realize what pouring billions more into the economy will do for inflation.
It’s hard to take Mr. Biden’s “I feel your pain” rhetoric seriously when he keeps doing everything he can to inflict more of it.