President Joe Biden claimed on Wednesday that there is nothing he can do to lower food or gas prices in the short term.
“There’s a lot going on right now, but the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term. Nor is it with regard to food,” Biden said at the White House during an event on the infant formula shortage.
“We can’t take immediate action that I’m aware of yet to figure out how we’re bringing down the prices of gasoline back to $3 a gallon. And we can’t do that immediately with regard to food prices either,” he said.
Biden cited the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s effect on energy and grain prices as the culprit.
“We’re in a situation where because of a war in Ukraine, gas prices and food prices are extremely high,” he said.
“For example, we got millions of tons of wheat that is not able to get out and get to market. It’s causing everything from a loaf of bread to cost so much money, to food shortages all across the world,” he continued. “And so we’re trying to work through a war, we’re trying to work through how we can get that harbor opened. And get the, you know, tens of thousands of tons of grain that are there.”
“The same with gasoline,” President Biden went on. “We have the issue that is occurring now, you have Europe deciding they’re going to further curtail the purchase of Russian oil, and there’s a whole lot of consideration going on about what can be done to maybe even purchase the oil even at a limited price so that it has to be sold, overwhelming need for the Russians to sell it, and it would be sold at a significantly lower price than the market is generating now.”
The president indicated that instead of undertaking direct action to bring down gas or food prices, he would aim to ease the financial burden of families in other areas.
“There’s more than one way to maintain the standard of living for people,” he said, referring to federal funding for prescription drug costs and child care, as well as his plan to reduce the deficit by taxing the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.
“At the same time, by increasing the tax rate that should go up on some corporations that are paying no taxes at all […] pay a minimum tax — and the very wealthy,” he added. “It’d reduce the deficit even further, and it would provide relief for families.”
Inflation has almost surpassed a 40-year record this spring, with the consumer price index climbing 8.3% in April compared with the same period last year.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan contributed to the high inflation. She said the spending campaign, which aimed to prevent a sharp economic downturn and facilitate employment, “did feed demand,” resulting in the rising prices.
On Tuesday, Secretary Yellen told CNN that she was “wrong” when she said last year that inflation posed only a “small risk.”
“There have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly,” she said.
U.S. Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) wrote in a June 2 op-ed in the New York Times that there is more Biden could do to lower food and gas prices.
“Biden should convene an emergency task force empowered to lower prices and address shortages,” wrote Rep. Khanna. “We need an all-out mobilization, not just a few ad hoc initiatives reacting to headlines.”
Lowering prices for consumers has become essential for the Biden Administration ahead of November midterms. On Wednesday, the President touted his administration’s efforts to keep gas prices from running even higher.
The issue of inflation may prove to be costly in midterms. According to a poll conducted from May 13 to May 16 by Morning Consult and Politico, 40 percent of Americans said the president’s policies were “very responsible” for high inflation.