By Josh Bok, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden said Thursday that the American people are “really, really down” after two years of criticism of the family budget over the coronavirus epidemic, instability in the economy and now rising petrol prices. But he emphasized that the recession was “not inevitable” and hoped that it would give the country greater confidence.
Speaking to the Associated Press in a 30-minute Oval Office interview, the president emphasized the psychological trauma caused by the epidemic, which he had inherited from a shattered economy and disrupted people’s sense of identity. He slammed Republican lawmakers’ claims that last year’s COVID-19 aid plan was entirely to blame for pushing inflation to a 40-year high, calling that argument “bizarre.”
For the overall American mindset, Biden said, “people are really, really down.”
“The need for mental health in the United States has skyrocketed, because people have seen everything go awry,” Biden said. “Everything they counted on in despair. But most of what happened is the result of what happened as a result of the Covid crisis.”
That pessimism has brought the economy to a standstill as record prices at pumps and persistent inflation threaten the ability of Democrats to hold on to the House and Senate in the midterm elections. Biden responded to warnings from economists that fighting inflation could push the United States into recession.
“First of all, it’s not inevitable,” he said. “Second, we are in a stronger position than any other nation in the world to overcome this inflation.”
For reasons of inflation, Biden showed some protection in that calculation. “If this is my fault, why is inflation so high in all the other major industrialized countries of the world? You ask yourself, ‘I am not a wise man,'” he said.
The president said he saw a 3.6% unemployment rate and a reason to be optimistic about the relative strength of the United States in the world.
But a restoration of confidence has so far sidelined Biden, whose acceptance rating has been steadily declining as he has lost support among Democrats and there is little evidence that he can restore a sense of bilateral normalcy in Washington.
His Oval Office is full of portraits of presidents who have put the country in crisis, and Biden admits there were similarities with his own situation. A picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt hangs in his fireplace, a prominent place because historian John Mecham told Biden that no president had ever come to office with the economy in such a dire situation. There is also a picture of Abraham Lincoln, who became president on the brink of a brutally divided nation and civil war.
However, Biden’s treatment is not different from the diagnosis made by former President Jimmy Carter in 1979, when the US economy was crippled by stagflation. Carter said at the time that the United States was suffering from a “crisis of confidence” and that “the loss of our confidence in the future threatens to destroy the social and political fabric of the United States.”
The president said he wanted to give the United States more energy, courage and bravery.
“Believe me, because I’m convinced we’re in a better position to own the second quarter of the 21st century than any other country in the world,” Biden said. “It’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact.”
The dark assessment of Biden’s national mentality comes as voters end up in the performance of his work and in the direction of the country. Drowning a negative rating a month ago, only 39% of American adults approve of Biden’s performance as president, according to a May poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research.
Overall, only 2 out of 10 adults said the U.S. is moving in the right direction or the economy is doing well, both down from 3 out of 10 in April. Those dropouts focused on Democrats, with only 33% within the presidential party leading the country in the right direction, down from 49% in April.
The president outlined some of the difficult options he faces, saying that even if the United States needed to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin in invading Ukraine in February, tough sanctions imposed as a result of the war have pushed up gas prices. Risks for Biden in Election Year He urged the oil companies to increase production keeping in view the short term needs of the world.
Asked why he ordered economic sanctions against Moscow for disrupting global food and energy markets, Biden said he considered himself commander-in-chief rather than a politician who thinks about elections.
“I am the president of the United States,” he said. “It’s the best in the country. Not joking. Not joking. So what happens? What happens if the strongest force in NATO, the organizational structure we hold together, moves away from Russian aggression?”
Biden ruled out the possibility of anarchy in Europe if an unstoppable Russia sank into the continent, China moved to occupy Taiwan, and North Korea became more aggressive with its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Biden renewed his argument that the big oil companies were taking advantage of the high prices by not increasing production. He said companies need to think about the world in the short term, not just their investors.
“Don’t reward yourself,” he said.
Consumer prices rose 8.6% last year, the biggest increase in more than 40 years. Republican lawmakers say Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package began a spiral of inflation last year.
The president said there was “zero evidence” for that claim, adding that other countries had tolerated higher prices because economies had reopened and people had been vaccinated. Nevertheless, Biden acknowledged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s argument that spending has had a limited effect on inflation.
“You could argue that this has had a small effect on inflation and margins,” he said. “I don’t think it happened. And not many economists do. But the idea that it caused inflation is bizarre.
Still, high inflation has created a problem for Biden. He prioritized bringing back millions of jobs and saw the unemployment rate return to near pre-epidemic levels. The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday, hoping to slow the economy and push inflation to its target rate of 2%.
The tightening of Fed policy has weighed on financial markets and warned many economists of a possible recession next year. The president encouraged Americans to be patient.
“They should not heed the warning,” he said. “All they have to do is say, ‘Let’s see what’s right.’
The president is still trying to run his domestic agenda through Congress, after failing to vacate the 50-50 Senate the previous year. Biden said he “believes” in reducing the cost of prescription drugs, reducing household utility bills with tax incentives and imposing minimum taxes on corporations. He said his plan would reduce costs for many Americans, although the measure would return to its former purpose for extended child tax credits, universal pre-kindergarten and other programs.
“I will be able to get, God willing, the ability to pay for prescription drugs,” Biden said. “There are more than one way to reduce costs for working people. Gasoline can be up to $ 5 per gallon, but a child with type 2 diabetes pays up to 1,000 1,000 a month. We can reduce that to डलर 35 a month and get it done.”
And then, in recognition of the political obstacles he faced, Biden added, “I can’t do it all.”
Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.