Republicans are increasingly taking aim at President Biden and Democrats in Congress over rising prices, which public opinion polling indicates is increasingly becoming a pressing issue for many Americans.
And with Democrats defending their razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, the GOP sees inflation as an effective issue in next year’s electoral contests.
“President Biden and his party’s political future hangs on the health of the economy, for better or worse,” veteran Republican strategist Colin Reed highlighted.
Consumer prices rose 5.4% in June compared to a year ago, the biggest jump since 2008, according to the Labor Department.
“Americans are now paying more for things they and their families need than they have in the past 13 years,” House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California wrote in a letter sent to GOP representatives Sunday night. “Here’s the bottom line: prices on everything from gas to groceries are skyrocketing. And we know inflation is hitting hard-working middle class families the hardest.”
Taking aim at the $3.5 trillion spending plan the president and congressional Democrats are hoping to pass through Congress after hammering out a $1 trillion bipartisan spending deal, McCarthy argued that “a key driver of these price increases and increased costs of living is crystal clear: massive increases in government spending by the Democrats.”
Most voters worry about inflation, as sizable majorities call gas and grocery prices a financial hardship, according to a Fox News national poll conducted last month. Seven in 10 voters questioned in the survey called recent increases in grocery prices a financial hardship for their family, with 68% saying rising gas prices were also a hardship.
The survey indicated 62% thought the federal government’s additional unemployment benefits were a necessary lifeline during the pandemic, but 53% said they’re damaging the economy now.
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chair of the Senate GOP’s reelection committee, claimed last month that Americans “are scared to death over what’s happening to inflation” and charged that “the Biden agenda and the Democrats’ agenda is not popular.”
And over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House GOP’s reelection arm), went up with a modest digital ad blitz – targeting 11 House Democrats whom it considers vulnerable in next year’s elections – over inflation.
“Burgers, buns, propane, gas. This year your Fourth of July is more expensive because Democrats’ harmful economic policies are making everyday goods cost more,” charged the narrator in the spot.
The president is pushing back, emphasizing in a White House speech on the economy that his spending plans will ease inflation concerns.
“My ‘Build Back Better’ plan will be a force for achieving lower prices for Americans looking ahead,” Biden emphasized on Monday. “If your primary concern right now is inflation, you should be even more enthusiastic about this plan.”
Many economists peg the collapse in fuel prices last year to a lack of demand amid the worldwide economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic to afflict the globe in a century. And they point to increased demand as the COVID crisis recedes for fueling the current rise in prices across the country.
“The reality is, you can’t flip the global economic light back on and not expect this to happen,” the president said. “As demand returns, there’s going to be global supply chain challenges.”
And challenging predictions from some economists that Americans may be coping with rising prices at least through next year’s elections – if not longer – Biden argued, “Some folks have raised worries that this could be a sign of persistent inflation. But that’s not our view. Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we’ve seen are – were expected and expected to be temporary.”
Longtime Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor later in the day to fire back at the president over what he called Biden’s “reckless taxing and spending spree.”
“Instead of deflecting attention from the fact that his administration’s springtime approach was flat wrong, the president actually doubled down,” he charged. “He suggested that the right way to shake this inflation was, listen to this, another $3.5 trillion in spending.”
But as long as prices keep rising, expect the GOP to spotlight the issue of inflation.
“When you cut through all the noise and chatter, next year’s midterms will in all likelihood hinge on the state of the economy. Right now the warning signs are flashing red for President Bien and the party in change. When you control the government, you own the results,” Reed noted.