Biden talks inflation fight as May jobs numbers are released

President again points to Putin's role in driving inflation

President Joe Biden leaves after speaking about the May 2022 Jobs Report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden leaves after speaking about the May 2022 Jobs Report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Posted June 3, 2022 at 12:13pm

President Joe Biden said Friday that he understands that most Americans don’t really care what is causing inflation at the gas station and the grocery store, then said Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine was partly to blame.

“Fighting inflation is my top economic priority,” Biden said.

Speaking from Rehoboth Beach, Del., the president again referred to “Putin’s price hike” in speaking about the 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain for export that has been stuck in storage.

“And look, I understand that families who are struggling probably don’t care why the prices are up, they just want them to go down: ‘Joe, what can you do to bring them down?’” the president said. “But it’s important that we understand the root of the problem, so we can take steps to solve it.”

He called for congressional action to help reduce costs for consumers in other ways that could help offset the increases on things like groceries and gasoline. For example, he pushed existing proposals for clean energy tax credits and for lowering prescription drug costs, many of which have been part of stalled budget reconciliation legislation.

“The fact is this: There’s more than one way to solve this problem. If food and gas prices are going to be elevated by Putin’s price hike, one way we can make things a little better for families is by helping them save on other basic items their family needs on a monthly basis,” Biden told reporters, citing internet access and housing costs.

As Biden worked to blame the Russian invasion for domestic economic woes, Republicans and their aligned groups continued to lay the blame on spending bills enacted by the president and congressional Democrats.

The latest example was in a $5.2 million ad buy in Arizona from One Nation, a nonprofit aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The ad pins the blame for inflation one of the most embattled Democrats on the ballot his year.

“Sen. Mark Kelly was a deciding vote for President Biden’s spending spree,” it says.

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, was critical of the jobs report itself. Employers added 390,000 workers to nonfarm payrolls in May, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. The report showed more jobs added in May than economists expected, but fewer than the 428,000 added in April. 

“While real wages are down, gas prices are at record highs, inflation is skyrocketing, and parents can’t feed their kids,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Biden has failed to offer any assurances to the families and small businesses his economic agenda is crushing, and he doesn’t seem to care.”

Biden and other Democrats argue that the smaller boost in the number of jobs is a sign of a more sustainable recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The latest jobs data showing continued growth underscore the strength of our economic rebound. We’re on the path to a sustainable recovery and broadly shared growth for the long term,” Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. said in a statement.

“Under President Biden, the U.S. economy has added 8.7 million jobs, regaining more than 96% of jobs lost during the pandemic and recovering faster than the last four recessions,” said Beyer, the chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “Overall unemployment remains the lowest since before the pandemic, and although disparities across racial groups persist, we’ve seen unemployment continue to drop across Asian workers and American Indian and Alaska Native workers.”