By Jarrett Renshaw
WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. President Joe Biden’s hopes that his party would head into the midterm elections with inflation receding were dashed on Thursday when the final report ahead of the November vote showed prices rising more than expected.
The report could hurt Biden and his Democrats, who are hoping to retain control of Congress and must convince voters deeply concerned about high prices that they are the ones who can help drive inflation down, even as it occurred under their watch.
The White House was slow to recognize the stubbornness of inflation, with top officials including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen calling high prices “transitory” through 2021, even as some economists warned they could linger.
Biden and other officials on Thursday sought to balance demonstrating empathy with American families struggling to pay bills and boasting about other elements of the U.S. economy, such as a strong job market.
“Americans are squeezed by the cost of living: that’s been true for years, and they didn’t need today’s report to tell them that,” Biden said in a statement.
The consumer price index rose 0.4% last month after gaining 0.1% in August, the Labor Department said in its report, on hikes in rent and food. In the 12 months through September, the CPI increased 8.2% after rising 8.3% in August.
Biden said the consumer price index shows some progress in the fight against higher prices but there is more work to do.
The White House noted that inflation over the last three months has averaged 2% at an annualized rate, down from 11% in the prior quarter. The rise was driven by soaring rents and food costs and reinforces the expectation that the Federal Reserve will deliver a fourth 75-basis-point interest rate hike next month.
“But even with this progress, prices are still too high. Fighting the global inflation that is affecting countries around the world and working families here at home is my top priority,” Biden said.
Biden and Democrats have tried, with modest success, to curtail an inflation surge caused by a U.S. economy emerging from COVID lockdowns and oil-rich Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The administration worked around the clock to help unclog the nation’s ports to allow more consumer goods into the country and opened the spigots of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to allow more oil into the market and blunt record U.S. gasoline prices.
It also passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which does not provide immediate relief to American consumers but will eventually help them save money on medical and energy costs, among other things.
“We have policies that are going to make a difference. We have policies that have already made a difference. We just have to stay the course,” Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, told CNN in an interview on Thursday.
“Nearly a year after President Biden promised Americans inflation had peaked, core inflation is now the highest on record in his presidency,” Kevin Brady, the Republican leader of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw and Paul Grant; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)
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Biden Says Prices ‘Too High’ as Inflation Rises Before Midterms – Washington Free Beacon