In shift, White House starts to talk up economy

President Biden and his administration have shifted gears toward a month-long campaign to talk up the economy to show the White House is prioritizing inflation by pushing the positives about what it has delivered – but the plan may come with some risk.

Officials made the rounds on television on Tuesday to tout the administration’s vision a day after The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by the president who laid out his plan to tackle inflation, which has hit a 40-year high. 

The effort spanning the month of June will see Biden and his aides traveling the country to promote the White House’s economic strategy and Biden will deliver remarks on the May jobs report this Friday.

But the plan is not without risks for the president, who has seen his approval ratings mired in the low-40 percent range largely because of dissatisfaction with the direction of the economy. There have also been warnings by economists that another recession is possible in the near future.

The White House, however, is keeping a stringent focus on touting its economic progress, without acknowledging it was perhaps slow to respond to early indications of inflation, which it called “temporary” nearly one year ago.  Biden also wants to contrast his plans with those of Republicans, namely Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) who laid out an economic agenda most GOP lawmakers reject.

“I think what this president has tried to do in every stage… is to effectively communicate to the American people where we are, to give it to people straight, but also to lay out clearly his plans, his priorities in terms of what he wants to see done,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told reporters.

In the op-ed, Biden outlined his plan for addressing inflation, though it did not contain any new proposals. He met Monday with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in the Oval Office in a rare face-to-face that underscored the White House’s efforts to put a spotlight the economy.

In the meeting, which also included Deese and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Biden urged respect for the Fed and said his job as president was to nominate highly qualified people for the board and “give them the space they need to do their job, not interfere with their critically important work.”

Biden has repeatedly sought to contrast his push for tax credits for families, lowering the cost of child care and investments in clean energy with the plan released by Scott earlier this year that called for cutting social safety net benefits and ensuring all Americans paid taxes, regardless of income bracket.

The president in the op-ed also took a jab at former President Trump when he noted, without naming him, that his predecessor “demeaned the Fed.” 

Biden acknowledged that the Federal Reserve “has a primary responsibility to control inflation,” making goods like gas more affordable for families during what the White House is labeling a “transition period.” He also once again linked reducing the federal deficit to lowering price pressures, a relationship many economists believe has weakened in recent decades.

Another trouble spot may be Biden tying congressional Republicans to Scott’s tax plan because other GOP lawmakers have either distanced themselves from or declined to embrace it.

The historically right-leaning pro-business lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Biden’s renewed focus on inflation on Tuesday but suggested other tools to combat inflation such as cutting tariffs.

The chamber also called for a new five-year leasing plan and approval of pipelines and export facilities to reduce energy costs. It also wants to see the administration addressing the workforce shortage by increasing legal immigration, none of which Biden laid out as part of this plan. 

Biden and advisers have argued the U.S. is in a better position to combat inflation than other countries because of the strong labor market, marked by a decline in unemployment, and household balance sheets that have American families increasing their savings and decreasing their debt.

“Part of the reason why we have seen savings elevated and we have seen credit card payments and other debt service payments come down to historical levels is because of the strength of the labor market. So that positions us relatively well,” Deese told reporters on Tuesday.

But Deese also acknowledged there was “uncertainty” when it comes to how long historic inflation will remain, adding that making progress toward lowering costs will take time.

Polls have repeatedly shown Biden’s approval rating tank when it comes to his handling of the economy, despite the reported decreases in debt, increasing in savings and skyrocketing consumer spending.

An NBC News poll published earlier this month found just 33 percent of adults said they approved of Biden’s job handling the economy, while just 23 percent said they approved of his handling of the issue of cost of living specifically.

But the White House has repeatedly seized on pieces of good economic news, an approach similar to the Trump administration’s promotion of record stock market gains even as other economic indicators were not as strong.

Biden and multiple aides have in recent days highlighted a report that the U.S. economy may grow faster than China’s economy for the first time in nearly 50 years. They point to a strong labor market and higher savings among Americans as signs of a strong foundation.

But attempts to boast about aspects of the economy risk falling flat with voters ahead of the 2022 midterms, which is currently boding badly for Democrats, at a time when gas prices are at record highs with few signs of abating and supply chains continue to struggle in part because of war in Ukraine. 

“Under Biden, inflation and gas prices have only gone up and families are struggling to afford basic needs as a result,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Despite what Biden and the Democrats say, the economy is declining steadily on their watch as families can’t afford everything from gas to groceries.”

Biden in Japan last week disputed the idea that a recession is inevitable for the U.S. economy, but he acknowledged lowering prices would not happen overnight.

“This is going to be a haul. This is going to take some time,” he said.