Commerce secretary says inflation will get ‘under control’

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Sunday insisted that inflation will come down but avoided addressing the notion that she was wrong to have called it “temporary” nearly one year ago.

When asked by CNN “State of the Union” co-anchor Jake Tapper why the Biden administration appears to have been “flat footed” in addressing inflation earlier, Raimondo pointed to job growth and wage increases since President Biden took office.

“Why does it seem the Biden administration is consistently playing clean-up on these problems that are playing out exactly as many experts forecast they would, instead of heading them off before they become a crisis?” Tapper asked.

At first, Raimondo pointed to her time as Rhode Island governor and high unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic then pivoted to praising Biden’s leadership.

“Because of the president’s leadership, we are – America is back to work. Wages are increasing. The labor market is strong. People have not been thrown out of their homes,” Raimondo said, pointing to differences in the current economy compared to previous years of economic slowdown.

“Yes, inflation’s a problem. In no way do I want to minimize that. The Fed is independent,” she said. “But, fundamentally, what we have here is a robust, economic recovery. And I think that’s in large part due to the president’s leadership.”

Numerous Biden administration officials and the president himself insisted nearly one year ago that rising inflation was “temporary” and “transient” before it hit a 40-year high earlier this year with prices on consumer goods up 8.3 percent.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week acknowledged she was wrong in believing last year that inflation would be transitory and a “small risk.”

The U.S added 390,000 jobs and the unemployment rate held even at 3.6 percent in May, building on months of high job growth, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

But job openings remained at near record highs, decreasing slightly to 11.4 million on the last business day in April, according to a report released Wednesday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were roughly two open jobs for each unemployed American.

“We have a strong economy now,” Raimondo said. “People are working. Inflation is a problem, I will grant you that. And we will get it under control, because we’re going to stick with it until we do.”

While economists differ over how much of inflation is driven by the tight labor market, they are generally concerned with the imbalance between the number of open jobs and the apparent lack of workers filling them.

Biden has in recent days put his relationship with the independent central bank in the spotlight as the administration looks to lower inflation, an issue conveyed as one of voters’ top concerns in recent polling as the midterm elections approach . 

Biden met with Fed Chair Jerome Powell in the Oval Office on Tuesday and said he would not “interfere” with the bank’s work as the Fed continues to raise interest rates, which makes it more expensive for banks to lend money and bolsters the purchasing power of the dollar.

When pressed by Tapper if the administration would remove Trump-era tariffs imposed on Chinese imports, a move some Democrats think would lower costs for consumers, Raimondo said Biden has asked her and other administration officials to “analyze that.”

Raimondo added that the administration has decided to keep some of the tariffs, like those imposed on steel, as a matter of national security and to protect American workers. But she said the administration may remove tariffs on other Chinese imports, like household goods and bicycles to ease inflation.

“It may make sense, and I know the president is looking at that,” she said.