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Biden blames inflation on pandemic and Russia, says costs are ‘hurting families’

President Joe Biden spoke about inflation in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

President Joe Biden blamed high inflation on pandemic disruptions to the economy and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, acknowledging that rising prices are “hurting” American families.

He also again criticized Republican tax and economic proposals, saying that his plans to fight inflation will lower costs while the GOP seeks to raise taxes on many Americans and “let companies off the hook.”

Biden said in remarks at the White House Tuesday that his economic policies had helped slash unemployment and raise wages.

But “for every worker I met who’s gained a little bit of breathing room to seek out a better-paying job, for every entrepreneur who has gained the confidence to pursue their small business dreams, I know that families all across America are hurting because of inflation,” he said.

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Solutions, he said, begin with the Federal Reserve, and he noted that he’s made several nominations for the central bank’s board of governors.

“While I’ll never interfere with the Fed’s judgments, decisions, or tell them what they have to do -- they’re independent... I believe that inflation is our top economic challenge right now,” Biden said. “I think they do, too.”

With inflation at a four-decade high ahead of midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress, Biden’s top aides have concluded that their best electoral strategy is to try to draw a sharp contrast with Republican policies.

They have targeted a proposal by a senior Republican senator, Rick Scott of Florida, that includes requiring all Americans to pay some federal income tax and requiring Congress to re-authorize all federal legislation every five years, which Democrats say would put entitlements like Social Security and Medicare at risk of repeal.

“They don’t want to solve inflation by lowering your costs --- they want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income,” Biden said. “I happen to think it’s a good thing when American families have a little more money in their pockets.”

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Republican leaders including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have distanced themselves from Scott’s proposal, and the Florida senator has excoriated Biden for focusing on him. On Tuesday, before Biden’s inflation remarks, he said in a statement that the president should begin fighting inflation by resigning from office.

Biden’s speech comes the day before the federal government releases its latest monthly data on inflation, which has has reached the highest level since December 1981.

Economists expect consumer prices to moderate to 6.9 percent on average this year before falling to 2.4 percent in 2024, according to a Bloomberg survey earlier this month.

The Federal Reserve last week hiked interest rates by the most since 2000 in its strongest move yet to tame rising prices.

National polling shows the rising cost of gas, rent, and food are a prime public concern, a worrying data point for Democrats six months ahead of the November elections.