President Biden, on the defense for months over rising inflation, sought to convince Americans on Tuesday that he understood the pain they were feeling from rising prices and that his administration was taking steps to address higher costs for fuel, food and other goods.
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks a day before another economic report was expected to show uncomfortably high prices. While the Consumer Price Index, which will be released on Wednesday morning, could show inflation cooled somewhat from March, most economists still expect the report to show inflation running above 8 percent.
“I know families across America are hurting because of inflation. I understand what it feels like,” Mr. Biden said, adding that his administration was trying to bring down prices by easing supply chain congestion, cracking down on price gouging and releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Yet those efforts have done little to tame inflation, which is running at its fastest pace in 40 years, the result of snarled supply chains that have led to shortages of goods, the war in Ukraine, which is driving up energy prices and rampant consumer demand.
While the president’s ability to tackle inflation is limited — the primary tools for fighting rising prices rest with the Federal Reserve — the run-up in costs has become a talking point for Republicans and a political liability for Mr. Biden, whose approval ratings have slumped.
Understand Inflation and How It Impacts You
Republicans have spent months blaming Mr. Biden for rising prices, viewing it as a winning issue ahead of the midterm elections.
“Biden might be living in an alternate reality, but voters are not, which is why they solely blame Biden and Democrats for the rising prices they see for everyday goods, gas, and groceries,” said Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee. “The economy is on the ballot in November, and voters know Biden and Democrats are only making it worse.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden tried to flip the argument, castigating Republicans for complaining about rising prices while offering “extreme” policy ideas that he said would help the wealthiest Americans and big corporations rather than working families.
Seeking to turn the debate over the economy against his opponents six months before the midterm congressional elections, Mr. Biden targeted what he called “the ultra-MAGA agenda,” a phrase he has used increasingly in recent days referring to former President Donald J. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“Look, the bottom line is this. Americans have a choice right now between two paths. Reflecting two different sets of values,” Mr. Biden said in a speech at the White House. “My plan attacks inflation and grows the economy by lowering costs for working families, giving workers well-deserved raises, reducing the deficit by historic levels and making big corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
What is inflation? Inflation is a loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.
Is inflation bad? It depends on the circumstances. Fast price increases spell trouble, but moderate price gains can lead to higher wages and job growth.
Can inflation affect the stock market? Rapid inflation typically spells trouble for stocks. Financial assets in general have historically fared badly during inflation booms, while tangible assets like houses have held their value better.
“The other path is the ultra-MAGA plan put forward by congressional Republicans to raise taxes on working families, lower the income of American workers, threaten sacred programs Americans count on like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and give break after break to big corporations and billionaires.”
Mr. Biden cited a program called the “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” set forth by Senator Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But other Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party’s minority leader, have repudiated elements of this plan, which Mr. Scott has put forward as a platform for the midterm elections.
Mr. Biden blamed the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine for inflation. He claimed credit for bringing down the federal deficit and promoted raising taxes on corporations and the affluent, saying they have not paid their fair share. He also blamed energy companies for profiteering without increasing production, which he said as they could do.
“I know the families all across America are hurting because of inflation,” he said. “I understand what it feels like. I come from a family where, when the price of gas or food went up, we felt it.”
He added: “I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously and it’s my top priority.”