Joe Biden’s claims on inflation, jobs and pandemic in ’60 Minutes’ interview draw scrutiny

President Biden was criticized Monday for downplaying decades-high inflation and other problems during a “60 Minutes” interview, with critics accusing the president of being out of touch with economic reality.

Inflation

During the formal interview, Biden insisted that the monthly inflation rate had “barely” increased.

“We’re in a position where, over the last couple of months, it hasn’t skyrocketed, it’s just, it’s been basically even. And in the meantime, we create all these jobs,” Biden said.

A Labor Department report last week showed annual inflation was 8.3% in August, an increase of 0.1% from July. However, many economists had forecast inflation to ease in August, and the rise triggered a sell-off in equities, with all three major US markets posting their worst day in two years.

While the increase from July to August was smaller, it is not true that inflation “barely” spiked in 2022. For example, in June, prices increased by 9.1%, making it the largest year-on-year jump since 1981.


SEE ALSO: McConnell Unleashes Biden for Saying He’s Going to Get Inflation ‘Under Control’


In January, consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 7.5%, but have since exceeded 8% every month.

“Prices across the board are up 8.3% and that’s inflation by a mile,” said Joel Griffith, an economics fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “I think American families who hear you talk about inflation slowing down are struggling because wages aren’t keeping up with inflation rates.

A survey released last week by Bankrate, a consumer finance company, found that 55% of workers say their income has not kept pace with the rise in the cost of goods. Among those surveyed, 39% of workers said they have not received a raise in the past 12 months and find it more difficult to keep up with inflation.

Mr. Biden told “60 Minutes” that energy prices are lower and costs will start to drop because his huge tax, spending and health care bill will drive down drug prices.

“I am telling the American people that we are going to control inflation. And the prices of your medicines are going to be much lower. Your health care costs will be much lower. Your basic costs for all, your energy prices will be lower. They’re going to be in a situation where they start to take back control again,” he said.

Biden later said that the price of gasoline and other energy costs have come down.

While gas prices have dropped since reaching a record high of $5 a gallon in June, they are still significantly higher than this time last year. As of Monday afternoon, a gallon of gasoline cost $3.67, 15% more than $3.19 on the same date last year, according to AAA data.

Griffith said the decline is artificial, driven by lower demand due to record prices and the looming recession. Data from the Energy Information Administration revealed last week that gas demand fell to 8.5 million barrels a day from 9.3 million the previous week. That’s the lowest demand since July 2020, when COVID restrictions put fewer drivers on the road.

For prices to really come down, Griffith said, the US needs to increase supply to meet long-term demand, not just while demand is falling.

“Gasoline prices are not going down because we’re increasing supply, but because we’re in a recession and demand is plummeting,” he said. “We want prices to come down because we are increasing production.”

But even as gas prices fall, the cost of other household items has risen. The price of eggs is up nearly 40% from its position in August 2021, while the price of margarine is close behind with a 38% jump over the same period, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS).

Transportation costs have also skyrocketed, with public transportation costs up more than 20% since August 2021 and tire prices rising 14% over the same period, the BLS said.

Jobs


SEE ALSO: GOP lawmakers question Biden’s demand for $22 billion in COVID relief after declaring pandemic ‘over’


Mr. Biden also bragged on “60 Minutes” about his job-creating prowess, saying his administration has created 10 million jobs, including 685,000 in manufacturing. Last month, Biden attributed those jobs to his American Bailout spending bill, which was intended to stimulate the American economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that between April 2021 and August 2022, the US economy saw a net gain of about 8 million jobs, less than the 10 million jobs of work that Biden promoted.

But there is also no evidence that job earnings are related to Biden’s policies. A Congressional Budget Office study released in February 2021 found that even without the American Rescue Plan, employment would increase by 6.25 million jobs in 2021 and 1.74 million in 2022. That’s because of that jobs were coming back because businesses were reopening after COVID-19 closures.

“We saw millions and millions of jobs lost to government-imposed closures, and now these jobs are coming back because the government is allowing businesses to reopen,” Griffith said. “President Biden gets no credit because people are being told they can run their businesses now.”

BLS data shows there is a lower percentage of people employed now than before the pandemic, meaning several million workers have yet to return to the workplace.

Republicans seized on Biden’s comments and called them deaf.

Jonathan Turcotte, a spokesman for the Senate Republican National Committee, called on all Senate Democrats, including this year’s re-election candidates, to address Biden’s claims about inflation.

“Do you agree that record inflation should be put into perspective? Hard-working Americans who can’t afford gas and groceries surely disagree. These types of blatantly false and ignorant statements by Joe Biden are only possible because he knows that no vulnerable Senate Democrat has the guts to stand up to him,” Turcotte said in a statement.

Pandemic

Mr. Biden also drew attention during the interview when he declared that the COVID-19 pandemic was over.

“The pandemic is over,” he said during the interview. “We still have a problem with COVID. We are still working a lot on it. It is, but the pandemic is over.”

But research shows that Biden’s comments could be premature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that hundreds of deaths from COVID-19 occur each day and that approximately 14,000 Americans died from the virus last month.

According to the CDC, an additional 60,000 Americans test positive every day. While not as high as the 129,000 Americans who, on average, tested positive per day during the summer, it is higher than the 25,000 average recorded in the spring.

Even Mr. Biden’s own COVID response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, earlier this month disputed claims that the pandemic was over.

“The pandemic is not over,” Dr. Jha said during a White House briefing on September 6. “And we will remain vigilant and of course continue to look for and prepare for unforeseen twists and turns.”

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