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Joe Biden's First Media Interview in Over 100 Days Proves He's Still Stuck on Same Inflation Talking Points

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Thursday, President Joe Biden gave his first media interview since the Super Bowl, 123 days prior. In speaking with the Associated Press, the president stuck to many of the same old talking points, especially about inflation and the economy, a signal that does not bode well for him nor his approval rating.

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Almost 17 months into his presidency, Biden is still sticking to the same talking points of blaming someone or something else. As a write-up from Josh Boak notes:

Speaking to The Associated Press in a 30-minute Oval Office interview, the president emphasized the battered economy that he inherited and the lingering psychological scars caused by a pandemic that disrupted people’s sense of identity. He bristled at claims by Republican lawmakers that last year’s COVID-19 aid plan was fully to blame for inflation reaching a 40-year high, calling that argument “bizarre.”

As for the overall American mindset, Biden said, “People are really, really down.”

“Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset,” Biden said. “Everything they’ve counted on upset. But most of it’s the consequence of what happened, what happened as a consequence of the, the COVID crisis.”

It's not just the blame game that Biden--and his administration as a whole--plays that's noteworthy here. It's the narrative about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that refuses to acknowledge the role passing it played in inflation.

Both the interviewer and Biden regard the argument as coming from Republicans, but Larry Summers, an economist who was the treasury secretary under former President Bill Clinton, is hardly a Republican. Summers was among the most vocal economists who warned about inflation that would arise from the bill. 

AP's own fact-check from March of this year, not long after the one-year anniversary of the ARPA being signed into law, acknowledged that the spending bill is at least one factor in inflation. "Biden sidesteps reality. Government spending has been a clear factor behind rising consumer prices, though it’s not the only one," the fact-check noted, later adding "Biden is wrong to say that government spending has had nothing to do with it."

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As the fact-check further explained, "the problem is that Biden pumped more money into the economy than it could handle. Administration officials said before the relief package was passed that the greater risk was do too little to help the economy than to do too much."

It also cited how "many economists say that caused inflation to run higher than it otherwise would," specifically naming not just Summers, but fellow Democrat Jason Furman and conservative Michael Strain.

Vox, FiveThirtyEight, and The New York Times--hardly Republican--also note the role the bill played. 

When it comes to the blame for inflation, even Boak in his write-up acknowledged that Biden got defensive, while stepping in when it comes to Biden's claims about inflation as it's occurring worldwide:

As for the causes of inflation, Biden flashed some defensiveness on that count. “If it’s my fault, why is it the case in every other major industrial country in the world that inflation is higher? You ask yourself that? I’m not being a wise guy,” he said.

The president’s statement appeared to be about inflation rising worldwide, not necessarily whether countries had higher rates than the U.S. Annual inflation in Japan, for example, has risen in recent months though it’s still at a yearly rate of 2.4%, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The president said he saw reason for optimism with the 3.6% unemployment rate and America’s relative strength in the world.

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The president has made this point before, while speaking at the AFL-CIO on Tuesday. As Houston Keene pointed out for Fox Business, though, inflation in the United States is at some of the world in the developed world, citing economic data for April 2022. 

Biden's claims were similar to the claims that White House Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese made during his disastrous appearance on "The Story with Martha MacCallum" on Wednesday. As MacCallum reminded Deese, though, that doesn't exactly bring comfort to the American people.  

Admissions from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who just in recent weeks admitted she was wrong that inflation would be "transitory," also found their way into the interview, as Boak once more references the so-called "relief" bill:

Consumer prices have jumped 8.6% over the past year, the steepest rise in more than 40 years. Republican lawmakers have said that Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package from last year kick-started a spiral of price increases.

The president said there was “zero evidence” for that claim, noting that other countries have endured higher prices as economies reopened and people became vaccinated. Still, Biden acknowledged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s contention that the spending had a limited inflationary effect.

“You could argue whether it had a marginal, a minor impact on inflation,” he said. “I don’t think it did. And most economists do not think it did. But the idea that it caused inflation is bizarre.”

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That's hardly an acknowledgment, though, especially as Biden claims that economists agree with him. 

For his headline, Boak went with Biden's comments that a recession is "not inevitable." As Boak wrote:

That pessimism has carried over into the economy as record prices at the pump and persistent inflation have jeopardized Democrats’ ability to hold on to the House and Senate in the midterm elections. Biden addressed the warnings by economists that fighting inflation could tip United States into recession.

“First of all, it’s not inevitable,” he said. “Secondly, we’re in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation.”

Economists, including Summers, do expect a recession, though. Even NPR mentioned "warnings from economists" in their headline about Biden's view. 

Further, the polls show that the American people do not believe the president when it comes to how he himself is "confident." Multiple polls point to inflation being the top concern for many Americans, and his approval rating, especially on the economy, has been close to if not at the lowest levels of his presidency. 

Boak also referenced the comparison to one-term President Jimmy Carter in his write-up:

Yet Biden’s remedy is not that different from the diagnosis made by former President Jimmy Carter in 1979, when the U.S. economy was crippled by stagflation. Carter said then the U.S. was suffering from a “crisis of confidence” and “the erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”

The president said he wants to endow the U.S. with more verve, fortitude and courage.

“Be confident,” Biden said. “Because I am confident. We’re better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century.”

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When it comes to the Carter comparison, though, CNN's Harry Enten was quite vocal in how Biden is actually doing even worse than the former president. 

In addition to a write-up by Josh Boak, AP also provided a transcript of the interview and a list of takeaways.

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