Friday 11 February 2022

'You're being a wise guy': Biden bristles as Lester Holt asks him to define 'temporary' on the day inflation hits 7.5 percent - but still insists prices will 'taper off' this year

 President Joe Biden called Lester Holt a 'wise guy' during a TV interview on Thursday after the NBC News anchor asked him for his definition of 'temporary' on the day inflation showed no sign of slowing and instead hit a 40-year high.

The White House has insisted that spiralling prices are 'transitory' and will begin coming down as pandemic supply chain pressures ease.

But on Thursday, the Labor Department reported that year-on-year inflation hit 7.5 percent in January - its highest level since 1982. 

'I think it was back in July, you said inflation was going to be temporary,' said Holt. 

'I think a lot of Americans are wondering what your definition of temporary is.'

Biden smiled as he pushed back: 'Well, you're being a wise guy with me a little bit.

'I understand, that's your job.'

The issue has sent Biden's approval ratings plunging and previous efforts to dismiss increases as temporary led critics to accuse him of being out of touch. 

During the interview, which will be broadcast in full before Sunday's Super Bowl, Biden tried to explain what was happening. 

'The reason for inflation is the supply chains were cut off, meaning that the products - for example, automobiles, the lack of computer chips to be able to build those automobiles so they could function ... they need those computer chips that were not available,' he said.

'So what happens with the number of cars were reduced the new cars reduced it but made up at one third the cost of inflation because the price of automobiles are up.

Biden calls Lester Holt a 'wise guy' for question over inflation
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NBC NEWS anchor Lester Holt
President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden called Lester Holt a 'wise guy' after the NBC News anchor asked him to define 'temporary' and quizzed him about why inflation wasn't going away as promised

Inflation hit a 40-year high of 7.5 percent, the Labor Department announced Thursday, a figure not seen since the Carter administration

He added that he had worked with Intel so that more chips were made in the U.S.

Holt pushed him to explain when Americans could expect some relief. 

'According to Nobel laureates - 14 of them that contacted me - and a number of corporate leaders it ought to be able to start to taper off as we go through this year,' he said.

Even so, the numbers will add to gloom among Democrats ahead of this year's midterms.  

Even members of his own party are distancing themselves from the economic disaster, with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin taking a veiled swipe at the White House for seeming to 'think that spending trillions more of taxpayers’ money will cure our problems.'

Earlier in the day Biden released a statement acknowledging the 'elevated' numbers .

'While today’s report is elevated, forecasters continue to project inflation easing substantially by the end of 2022,' he said

'And fortunately we saw positive real wage growth last month, and moderation in auto prices, which have made up about a quarter of headline inflation over the last year. We separately saw good news with new unemployment claims continuing to decline. 

'That’s a sign of the real progress we’ve made in getting Americans back to work over the last year.

'My administration will continue to be all hands on deck to win this fight. We will continue to rebuild our infrastructure and manufacturing, so we can make more in America and strengthen our supply chains here at home. 

'We will continue to fight for costs in areas that have held back families and working people for decades, from prescription drugs to child care and elder care to their energy costs. And we will continue to promote more competition to make our markets more competitive and give consumers more choices,' the president added. 

The rate of inflation rose by 0.6 percentage points from December, going up for the sixth consecutive time and signaling the months-long surge that's been hitting Americans in the pocketbooks is not slowing down.

The average U.S. household spent an extra $250 per month as prices have leapt, according to a new analysis published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.   

Americans paid more for virtually every facet of life last month, from food to cars, and even housing and their monthly bills.

Energy costs rose by a staggering average of 27 percent, amid right-wing criticism of Biden's efforts to revamp the sector and move away from a dependence on fossil fuels.

The latest data show drivers are still hurting at the pump, with gas prices up 40 percent from last year. Used cars and trucks are up by 40.5 percent.  

Costs at the dinner table are also up. Grocery prices are up by an average 7.4 percent since January 2021. People can also expect to pay more for meat, eggs, poultry and fish after their costs rose by 12.2 percent last month. 

Apartment rental costs rose 0.5% in January, the fastest pace in 20 years
Electricity prices were up 4.2% last month, the sharpest rise in 15 years and a 10% increase from last year

Apartment rental costs rose 0.5% in January, the fastest pace in 20 years and electricity prices were up 4.2% last month, the sharpest rise in 15 years and a 10% increase from last year

Clothing prices were also up - 1.1%
Household furniture and supplies rose 1.6%, the largest one-month increase on records dating to 1967.

Clothing prices were also up - 1.1% and household furniture and supplies rose 1.6%, the largest one-month increase on records dating to 1967.

Household furnishings and supplies saw their largest price increase on record as costs jumped by 2 percent from December to January, an increase of 9.3 percent from a year ago. 

Renters shelled out 3.8 percent more on their housing bills in January 2022 than the year prior. The 0.5 percent increase from December is the most significant leap in 20 years. 

Receiving medical care came with steeper costs as well, as hospital bills rose 3.6 percent.  

Issues that economists say have fueled the record surge in inflation also don't appear to be slowing down. 

Wages are still rising at a record pace, partially driving higher costs, but fail to keep up with the pace of inflation. The average American worker got a 5.7 percent raise in January, nearly two percentage points lower than the spike in consumer goods. 

Supply chain problems  brought on by the pandemic also still persist -- leading to bare shelves and higher prices -- despite appearing to temporarily subside for the brief holiday period late last year.

The White House has long claimed the six-month surge in prices would slow as the COVID pandemic eases and businesses return to normal. 

Prices rose for a sixth consecutive month, meaning Americans have consistently had to shell out more for everyday life since August 2021

Prices rose for a sixth consecutive month, meaning Americans have consistently had to shell out more for everyday life since August 2021

However, the recent Omicron variant-driven infection wave plunged the economy into further uncertainty. The new strain exacerbated supply chain backlogs and labor shortages, despite leading to far less hospitalizations and deaths than previous mutations. 

The poor economic news comes at a critical time for the Biden administration, as it's been working to prove he can get the country out of the pandemic and the economy under control before the November midterms later this year.  

Manchin, a moderate Democrat, released a statement addressing the dire inflation numbers while also appearing to take a shot at members of his own party.

'As inflation and our $30 trillion in national debt continue a historic climb, only in Washington, DC do people seem to think that spending trillions more of taxpayers’ money will cure our problems, let alone inflation,' Manchin said.

The key centrist had expressed concerns about rising consumer costs when explaining his decision to oppose Biden's progressive-backed $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan, effectively killing the spending package.

He appeared to reference the debacle when he declared in his Thursday statement: 'Congress and the Administration must proceed with caution before adding more fuel to an economy already on fire.' 

Responding to the painful inflation data, Republicans were quick to criticize the Biden administration's short but shaky stewardship of the economy.

'Americans pay more and earn less because of Joe Biden’s failed agenda,' said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

'Biden lied – his inflation is not ‘transitory’ – and hardworking Americans are facing the consequences as skyrocketing prices for nearly everything are here to stay. Yet Biden doesn’t care,' added McDaniel.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted Democrats' 'out-of-touch policies.'

'Under Democrats' one-party control, your paycheck is worth 7.5% less today than a year ago. Their out-of-touch policies have spiked the worst inflation in 40 years,' the top House Republican wrote on Twitter. 'You feel it at the gas pump, the grocery store, and everywhere else you shop. Time for a change in Washington!' 

Florida Senator Rick Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thursday's data marked a 'sad anniversary for American families.'

'One year of Joe Biden's failed policies and reckless spending causing historic inflation and skyrocketing prices. President Biden has taken our economy and flushed it down the drain,' he said, referring to the six-month consecutive rise in prices.

Worse, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by that at all. While Biden is in Delaware every weekend enjoying his ice cream, families are struggling to make ends meet. Our poorest families, like mine growing up, are having to make the tough choice between buying gas and groceries.'

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall said Biden's 'failed socialist policies' are to blame.

'As our economy struggles to recover from the lasting effects of the nationwide shutdown, President Biden and the Democrats continue to hinder economic growth with their reckless taxing, reckless borrowing, and reckless spending agenda. Make no mistake, this economic crisis rests squarely on the shoulders of President Biden’s failed socialist policies,' Marshall said in a statement sent to 

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