President Biden on Tuesday blamed Russia’s war in Ukraine, corporate greed, the pandemic and the policies of “ultra-MAGA Republicans” for causing record-high inflation, and insisted that Democrats’ big spending didn’t spur the highest price increases in 40 years.
“It’s not because of spending,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “I think our policies help, not hurt.”
In a speech aimed at voters’ frustration in the midterm election year, Mr. Biden said his administration is tackling inflation on several fronts without cooperation from the GOP. The president said he needs to do a better job communicating with voters who are “not focused” on the reasons for high gas prices and consumer goods.
“What I have to do is explain in simple, straightforward language what’s going on,” the president said. “But right now it’s confusing. There’s a war in Ukraine… I’m not suggesting the American people can’t understand it. They’re working 8-10 hours a day just to put food on the table.”
Inflation hit 8.5% in March, and the nationwide average gas price reached a new record on Tuesday of $4.37 per gallon. The president outlined numerous steps he is taking to lower prices, including releasing oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve.
But Mr. Biden conceded that the two biggest causes of inflation — at least in his view — are the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, which are out of his control. The president also indirectly acknowledge that inflation will remain a problem in the U.S. indefinitely.
“This will not be my only speech on inflation, I’m sure,” Mr. Biden said.
The president launched into a sustained attack on “ultra-MAGA Republicans,” the wing of the party loyal to former President Donald Trump, for resisting his efforts to reduce prices through various legislation. He also repeatedly criticized a sidelined proposal by Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, that would require all Americans to pay at least some income tax, including about half of all lower earners who currently don’t pay any federal income tax.
“Their plan is to raise taxes on 75 million American families,” Mr. Biden said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said in March that the proposal isn’t part of the Republicans’ agenda.
Mr. Scott said Tuesday the only way for the administration to solve the inflation problem is for Mr. Biden to resign. Told of the lawmaker’s comments, the president said, “I think the man has a problem.”
Mr. McConnell said Tuesday that Democrats’ policies “have unleashed the worst inflation in more than 40 years.”
“Gas prices are now the highest they have ever been in American history,” Mr. McConnell said. “Americans are now paying roughly $4.40 per gallon. That’s up about two whole dollars from when President Biden put his hand on the Bible.”