President Joe Biden on Tuesday acknowledged the pain felt by Americans from the highest inflation in four decades but said it is his “top domestic priority” and being addressed by the Federal Reserve.
“The Fed should do its job and it will do its job,” Biden said in a speech at the White House. “I believe that inflation is our top economic challenge right now and I think they do too.”
Price rises are at their steepest rate since the start of the 1980s, dampening economic optimism as the United States emerges from the Covid pandemic shutdown and badly denting Biden’s approval ratings.
Biden said the price surge is primarily caused by gaps in the global supply chain for manufacturing goods as different countries restart their economies at different speeds.
He said that President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, spiking energy markets prices and severely disrupting Ukraine’s ability to export agricultural products, is also rippling through the US economy.
“I know you’ve got to be frustrated… believe me I understand the frustration,” the Democrat said, addressing Americans directly.
Republicans have blamed Biden, saying that his policies of injecting billions of dollars into the US economy at the height of the pandemic shutdown spurred the inflationary cycle.
The White House says those packages effectively saved the country from a disastrous recession.
Calling out Republicans’ “extreme agenda,” Biden said “they’ve done everything to slow down” his attempts to manage economic stresses.
Addressing another politically sensitive aspect of the inflation puzzle, Biden said he was considering lifting trade tariffs imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump on China.
“We’re discussing that right now,” he told reporters, adding that “no decision has been made on it.”
Biden is under pressure from some quarters to remove the tariffs in a bid to cut roaring US inflation by making imports cheaper.
Trump imposed the tariffs to punish allegedly unfair trade practices by Beijing. Lifting the measures would likely bring a political risk for the White House, which does not want to be branded weak on China.