President Joe Biden is trying to convey that the economy is doing great, though its greatness still isn’t all that good; that his massive infrastructure bill is historic, but far more spending is needed and soon; and that even though America has bounced back from the pandemic better than other countries, its recovery is nowhere near complete.
Presidents rarely find themselves trapped in such obvious and politically perilous limbo as Biden now finds himself. He’s been tasked with convincing the country that things are on the right track when the vast majority of voters have made clear they still view the nation as altogether adrift. Though White House officials cheer the more than 5 million jobs added since February, the surging stock market and the rising number of vaccinations, it’s been tempered by the jump in wholesale prices, spiraling costs at the gas pump, worker shortages and supply chain bottlenecks that have dominated headlines and voter concerns.
Biden’s task was made all the more difficult Wednesday when his Labor Department revealed the latest consumer price index, showing a higher-than-anticipated increase of 0.9 percent in October from September, to an annual rate of just over 6 percent, the highest since 1990.
As they try to strike a balance between sobriety and self-praise, administration officials point to the concrete steps they have taken to help uncork the supply chain. They’ve noted time and again the more than dozen Nobel laureates who contend that Democrats’ sweeping spending plan on Capitol Hill will ease, rather than accelerate, inflationary pressures. Biden himself argued in remarks on Tuesday that for Americans focused on the cost of living, it’s even more important to pass his so-called Build Back Better agenda that’s been the subject of months of party infighting.
But in the same address to Democratic Party activists, he conceded that too few are feeling the progress he’s stewarded so far; and that even as wages have risen so too have costs. On Wednesday, Biden returned to the motif during a planned stop at the Port of Baltimore, referring to rising prices as among the most pressing economic concerns of Americans.