(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden said that the Federal Reserve has primary responsibility for fighting inflation, placing the burden for his party’s top political problem with the central bank after a report Wednesday showed continuing price spikes.
Biden called inflation “unacceptably high” and said that “bringing it down is my top economic priority” in a statement following a Labor Department report that showed the consumer price index climbed faster than economists had expected in April.
But he said that action to lower prices “starts with the Federal Reserve, which plays a primary role in fighting inflation in our country.” While the president has noted the Fed’s role for some time, the statement put more emphasis on the central bank.
Wednesday’s report showed that prices rose 0.3% in April from the month earlier and 8.3% compared with April 2021, exceeding forecasts.
The Fed hiked interest rates by half a percentage point last week as it seeks to tame inflation, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled that additional half-point increases are on the table for the next two months as the central bank embarks on the most aggressive tightening of US monetary policy in more than 20 years.
But inflation is the top headwind for Biden’s hopes of retaining Democratic Party control of Congress in November. Polls show that a majority of Americans disapprove of his performance as president and his handling of the economy in particular, putting Republicans in position for broad gains in the midterm elections.
“While I will never interfere with the Fed’s independence, I believe we have built a strong economy and a strong labor market, and I agree with what Chairman Powell said last week that the number one threat to that strength — is inflation,” Biden said in his statement. “I am confident the Fed will do its job with that in mind.”
The president didn’t take questions from reporters as he departed the White House Wednesday for a visit to a family farm in Illinois, where he’ll announce new measures to try to combat food inflation in particular.
Read More: Biden Takes Aim at Easing Farm Costs After Gloomy Inflation Data
He has sought to pin blame for the surge in the cost of living on pandemic disruptions to the economy and on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has particularly affected global food production. Republicans, though, have blamed Biden’s economic policies, including the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill he signed soon after taking office.
Biden, in turn, has recently escalated his criticism of the GOP, accusing his opponents of having no plans of their own to fight inflation. He says they’re pursuing an “ultra-MAGA” agenda — referring to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — that includes raising taxes on lower-income Americans.
“Their only plan is to raise taxes on working families, taking even more money out of their pocket,” Biden said in his statement. “If they are serious about inflation, they should send me the bipartisan innovation bill to bolster our supply chains and make more in America, along with legislation that cuts costs and the cuts the deficit, reducing families’ prescription drug and utility bills and restoring fairness to our tax code.”
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