Acknowledging the pain for Americans of rapidly rising consumer prices, the White House’s top economic adviser said on Sunday that President Joe Biden would take a US strategy to reduce the petrol prices being paid by motorists at service stations. The petroleum reserve is open to the possibility of exploitation.
“There’s no doubt that inflation is very high right now,” Brian Deez, director of the National Economic Council, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show. “It’s affecting Americans’ pocketbooks. It’s affecting their outlook.”
US consumer prices jumped an annualized 6.2% in October, the biggest increase since 1990, the government’s Labor Department reported last week.
High energy and food prices have hit consumers the most, with consumer spending accounting for 70% of the US economy, the world’s largest economy.
Fuel costs for motorists have risen sharply over the past year, with motorists now paying $3.30 per gallon (3.8 liters), $1.08 more than a year ago, the highest average price since 2014. The cost of grocery bills has increased by 5.3% compared to the previous. This year, with a significant increase in beef prices, the household budget has further shrunk.
Deez didn’t offer an immediate solution to the higher consumer prices, but said economic forecasters expect the rate of inflation to drop in 2022.
He said “all options are on the table” to curb rising prices, including exploiting the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, where the US currently has 612 million barrels of oil stored in four salt caves along the Gulf of Mexico coast. .
Some of the reserve oil’s release can then be refined into gasoline for sale to motorists, which can drive down gas prices at service station pumps in the short term. But US presidents have only reluctantly tapped the reserve, instead putting it to use in the event of a potentially genuine national emergency, such as cuts to Middle East and North Atlantic oil production.
The current oil reserves are enough to replace more than half a year’s worth of US crude imports.
Dees said three things must happen to improve US economic growth and curb inflation.
“One, we have to finish work on COVID,” he said, with more vaccinations to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease. “We need to return to economic normalcy by making more workplaces COVID-free; Getting more kids vaccinated makes more parents feel comfortable going to work.”
But Biden’s mandate that 84 million American workers be vaccinated in workplaces with 100 or more employees has been temporarily blocked by at least one US appellate court pending a court hearing.
Secondly, Deez said, “we have to address the issue of the supply chain”, with consumer goods coming into the Americas from Asia, with 83 container ships currently anchored off the Pacific coast awaiting docking and unloading.
Biden is signing a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law on Monday that will help ease transportation barriers in the US, but that construction doesn’t happen overnight, he said.
In the end, he called for Congress to pass Biden’s nearly $2 trillion Social Security law to provide more financial, educational and health care support to everyone except the wealthiest American families. The House of Representatives plans to vote on the measure this week, but its fate in the Senate remains uncertain.
Despite immediate inflationary pressures on American consumers and rapidly declining voter acceptance of Biden, Deez said the economy has recovered rapidly since Biden took office last January.
“When the president took office, we were facing a complete economic crisis,” Deez said. “Eighteen million people were collecting unemployment benefits. Three thousand people were dying of COVID in a day. And because of the actions taken by the President, we are now seeing an economic recovery that most people did not think was possible. ,
“Economic growth in the US is surpassing that of any other developed country,” Deez said. “And the unemployment rate has come down to 4.6%; That estimate is about two years faster than experts expected.”
But with higher consumer prices, Republican political foes of the Democratic president are focusing on the American pocketbook as the congressional election is halfway through the looms of Biden’s four-year presidency in November next year.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a Republican critic, told ABC’s “This Week” show, he would never have believed Biden would preside over the biggest increase in consumer prices in three decades.
But Barrasso blamed what he characterized as “almost irreparably poor” federal government spending choices for Biden, both for infrastructure and pending Social Security legislation.
The infrastructure law was approved with both Republican and Democratic support, but no Republican has expressed support for the Social Security measure, forcing Democrats to attempt to pass it by their votes.