For months, the White House downplayed concerns about inflation by describing the steep rise in prices as "transitory"—just a temporary blip related to the pandemic recovery. But as Kevin Liptak writes in a CNN analysis, President Biden didn't use the term Wednesday when discussing the news that inflation had surged to a 30-year high. Biden has no choice but to shift his message—"Did you ever think you'd be paying this much for a gallon of gas?" he asked—given that Americans are facing inflation every day at the gas pump and grocery store, and there's no end in sight. Coverage:
- Context: "The metaphor of frogs in a pot of water has never been a more apt analogy," writes Mark Cudmore in an assessment of rising inflation at Bloomberg. "A year ago, if you had told any investor the inflation ... they would be seeing today, there would have been disbelief and uproar." Since last year, inflation is up a whopping 6.2%.
- Biden's problem: By many traditional measures, the pandemic rebound is booming, notes CNBC. But inflation is so tangible that most Americans—57% in an NBC poll—disapprove of Biden's handling of the economy. In fact, fears about inflation and the economy appear to be outpacing those of COVID. Democrats will try to counter with legislative achievements on infrastructure spending and climate change, but the political "headwinds" related to prices will be fierce heading into the midterms, predicts policy analyst Ed Mills.
- Echoing that: The president is "in a particularly precarious position because there is little he can do to quickly alleviate the problem," notes an analysis in the Los Angeles Times. "And even as the job market rebounds and wages rise, inflation threatens to swallow those gains and provide a daily reminder of the problem whenever voters dig into their wallets or swipe their credit cards." In the meantime, Republicans are intensifying their attacks, blaming Biden for worsening the problem.
- Big voice: Republicans are also happy that Lawrence Summers, a former economic adviser to Barack Obama, has been criticizing the White House for months on inflation. He previously warned that the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in the spring would make things worse. "I think that the policymakers in Washington unfortunately have almost every month been behind the curve," Summers said on CNN Wednesday, per the Hill. "They said it was transitory; it doesn't look so transitory. They said it was due to a few specific factors; doesn't look to be a few specific factors. They said when September came and people went back to school, that the labor force would grow, and it didn't happen."
- Bigger picture: Reuters takes a point-by-point look at the inflation criticisms being lobbed at Biden and concludes they're frequently off base in terms of pure economics, and that many of the underlying problems preceded his administration. But given that inflation is expected to endure well into 2022, that may be of small comfort to Democrats on the campaign trail.
(Read more inflation