U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about efforts to strengthen United States supply chains that effect economic and national security, during the first meeting of the new White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience, in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House complex in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2023.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
President Joe Biden took aim at corporations Monday for charging prices he said were artificially high even though the rate of inflation has slowed and some shipping costs have fallen.
“Any corporation that has not brought their prices back down, even as inflation has come down, even as the supply chains have been rebuilt, it’s time to stop the price-gouging,” Biden said at the launch of a new White House supply chain initiative. “Give the American consumer a break.”
While it’s true that the annual rate of inflation has cooled from its high last summer, this doesn’t translate directly into falling consumer prices. It only means that prices are rising at a lower rate.
Prices for some everyday goods have fallen over the past year, a reality reflected in lower Thanksgiving costs this year, for example. And lower costs have in turn left some consumers with more money in their budgets for things like Black Friday shopping, which rose 7.5% this past weekend over a year ago.
As Biden runs for reelection, the White House has sought to claim these broad spending and pricing trends as victories for the president and his economic agenda, dubbed Bidenomics.
But the argument that Biden deserves the credit for a strong economic recovery has proven to be a tough sell to voters, who consistently give the president low marks on the economy.
“We understand that people are still not feeling it, we get that,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday, ahead of the president’s supply chain event.
Faced with a skeptical audience, targeting so called junk fees, which Biden said “companies sneak into your bill,” offers the White House with a chance to directly show voters what Biden is doing on their behalf.
It also provides the president with an easy target in the inflation blame game.
“Junk fees take real money out of the pockets of average Americans,” Biden said Monday. “They can add up to hundreds of dollars, weighing down family budgets and making it harder for families to pay their bills.”
Consumers, said Biden, “feel like they’re being played for suckers. Which they are.”
As America emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, prices soared. In the two years starting in April 2021, the average price of all goods rose 13%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average price of food in that same period rose a whopping 20%.
The price hikes were driven by a combination of pent-up consumer demand, pandemic-era ecomonic stimulus and ongoing supply chain snarls.
As a result, inflation hit record highs and consumers felt their budgets under pressure.
Biden’s new Supply Chain Resilience Council, launched Monday, will aim to help keep the momentum of that recovery going.
As part of the council’s creation, Biden also announced 30 different initiatives to help ease supply chain pressures and and prevent future shortages for products like drugs and semiconductors.