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White House releases month-long focus on economy as prices rise and poll numbers drop

By on May 31, 2022 0

This is not the first time that President Joe Biden and his aides have sought to renew the focus on the economy. But there is little left that Biden can do alone to lower prices in the immediate term.

Yet, in the face of near-record approval ratings five months before critical congressional contests, the president determined another focused attention on Americans’ results was needed to demonstrate his attention to the issue.

The push began Monday with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and continues Tuesday with an Oval Office meeting between Biden, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. At the end of the week, Biden is planning a speech on the new jobs report on Friday.

“I am meeting today with the President and Secretary Yellen to discuss my top priority, which is to fight inflation in order to move from a historic recovery to steady growth that works for American families,” Biden said. in the Oval Office. “And my plan is to fight inflation, starts with a simple proposition: respect the Fed, respect the independence of the Fed, which I have done and will continue to do.”

The administration is also covering the airwaves with top Biden economic officials in a concerted effort to use those aides more as mouthpieces to get the president’s message across on the economy. The White House said the administration’s top economics officials were booked for 20 television appearances on Tuesday.

“It’s ambitious. It reflects the fact that the president has made fighting inflation his top economic priority,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said in an appearance on CNN. “We can do this from a position of economic strength because of the historic recovery we’ve had, the strongest labor market rebound in modern history, most small businesses created in a recovery and improved household balance sheets.”

“Now,” Deese said, “the question is how do we move forward?”

The new push is another attempt by the White House to show voters that Biden is striving to meet higher price tags. He gave a speech earlier this month in which he went on the defensive about rising gas and food prices and criticized Republicans at length.

Recently, between meetings with world leaders on his first trip to Asia since taking office, Biden also spent a lot of time focusing on the economy at home, visiting a semiconductor factory to highlight the importance of fixing the supply chain and touting a massive new electric vehicle factory to be built by Hyundai near Savannah, Georgia.

Still, Biden’s efforts over the past year to highlight an improving economy have failed to convince voters that his plans are working. A majority of voters say the government is not doing enough to fight inflation, and a Gallup poll released on Tuesday showed 14% of American adults rate economic conditions as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, 46 % calling them “bad” and another 39% calling them “only fair”. That’s worse than a month ago, when 20% of Americans rated conditions as good or better and 42% said they were poor.

The administration’s early descriptions of inflation as “transitional” did not hold up and opened Biden to criticism that the spike in prices caught his team by surprise.

The President, meanwhile, sought to balance the merit of strong job growth and improving economic indicators while acknowledging the pain many families are feeling from rising gas prices, groceries, housing and more.

Recently, he also sought to blame the price hike on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling the shock sticker “Putin’s price hike”. And he accused Republicans of resisting his efforts to cut costs in favor of an “ultra-MAGA” program.

An official told CNN he expects this effort to focus on the economy to continue for the rest of the month, as officials want to let voters know that Biden is paying attention to their concerns, while preparing them to see less job creation. the economy stabilizes.

“For the month of June, we’re really communicating how in touch we are with what Americans are facing and how that’s our number one economic priority,” an official told CNN.

The effort comes as the White House faces growing questions about whether the economy is entering a recession.

Biden himself recently said he doesn’t believe a recession is inevitable. But he acknowledged that the economy was in a precarious state.

“What I was able to do to prevent it from getting worse – and that’s bad,” he told a news conference in Japan. “It’s going to be a loot. It’s going to take time.”

Biden sits down with Powell on Tuesday in what will be their first meeting since appointing him to lead the central bank. The President will speak briefly at the start of the meeting as he has made it clear that he is counting on Powell to bring inflation under control.

In the Wall Street Journal op-ed, Biden wrote that “the Federal Reserve has the primary responsibility for controlling inflation.” But Biden also added, “My predecessor debased the Fed, and past presidents sought to influence its decisions inappropriately during times of high inflation. I won’t do that.”

Biden will also discuss “the state of the U.S. and global economy and discuss the President’s top economic priority: fighting inflation to move from a historic economic recovery to stable, steady growth that works for families in workers,” a White House official told CNN.

The Powell-led Fed has been criticized for being slow to deal with high inflation by ending emergency support for the economy and starting to raise interest rates. However, the Fed has pledged to raise interest rates quickly and earlier this month raised them by half a percentage point for the first time since 2000. The US central bank signaled further aggressive rate hikes in the coming months.

Still, administration officials on Tuesday declined to predict when inflation might begin to subside.

“I’m not going to make predictions,” Wally Adeyemo, the deputy treasury secretary, told CNN. “But what I’m going to say is exactly what the president said. He understands that high prices are a challenge for people. High gas prices make it harder to pay for things because he has it. felt as a person growing up in a they faced high food and gas costs and what the president is saying is he’s going to do whatever he can to make sure we reduce the cost of goods by working with the Fed.

This story has been updated with additional reports.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.