As Americans struggle to keep their heads above water amid inflation-fueled price hikes, a beach-strolling President Biden lashed out at a reporter Monday for daring to ask about the possibility of a US recession.
Asked on the sand near his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., about economic experts “saying a recession is more likely than ever,” Biden barked: “Not — the majority of them aren’t saying that. Come on, don’t make things up, OK?
“Now you sound like a Republican politician,” the president griped, before realizing how he came off and insisting, “I’m joking. That was a joke.”
The president, who emerged two days after falling off his bike nearby, proceeded to call for higher taxes on the wealthy while blaming oil companies for record-high prices at the pump.
“But all kidding aside, no, I don’t think it is [inevitable],” Biden said. “I was talking to [former Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers this morning and there’s nothing inevitable about a recession.”
Biden, whose poll numbers have hit new lows due to frustration about the highest inflation since 1981, said on the beach that he may make a decision this week on whether to ask Congress to waive the federal gas tax of 18.3 cents per gallon.
“Yes I’m considering it,” the president said. “I hope I have a decision based on the data I’m looking for by the end of the week.”
Biden has previously released millions of gallons of oil from the strategic reserve and allowed a higher proportion of ethanol in gasoline over the summer, but neither step has arrested rising gas prices caused in part by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As of Monday, the nationwide average price of a gallon of regular gas stood at $4.98, down slightly from the high of $5.016 recorded June 14, according to AAA.
During his Monday chat with reporters, Biden sought to blame inflation on his predecessor Donald Trump — after previously citing COVID-19 supply chain bottlenecks, Russian President Vladimir Putin, congressional Republicans, oil companies, meat producers and trans-oceanic shipping companies.
“We also can move in a direction that we can provide for tax — increasing taxes on those in the corporate area as well as individuals as it relates to [former President Donald] Trump’s tax cut, which is inflationary,” Biden said. “You know, going out and buying a yacht doesn’t help the economy a whole lot.”
Biden blamed the December 2017 tax law for inflation despite the fact that annual US inflation actually dropped from 2.1% in 2017 to 1.9% in 2018. It is currently at 8.6%.
The president went on to say that administration officials will meet with oil company CEOs this week, but that he would not attend.
“We have a chance here to make a fundamental turn toward renewable energy, electric vehicles, and not just luxury vehicles, but across the board. And that’s something we should be — my team is going to be sitting down with the CEOs of the major oil companies this week … starting an explanation of how they justify making $35 billion in the first quarter,” Biden said.
A reporter chimed in, “Are you planning to sit down with oil and gas CEOs?”
“No,” Biden said.
“Why is that, sir?” they said.
“Because my team is going to do that,” he said, despite the fact that he regularly meets with company CEOs to discuss product supply issues. Most recently, Biden met earlier this month with baby formula makers to discuss national shortages.
Republicans, federal bankers and Washington Post/Amazon owner Jeff Bezos accuse Biden of fueling inflation with spending, including last year’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.
A study released in late March by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said that in the final quarter of 2021, about 3 percentage points of inflation — or nearly half of it at the time — may have been caused by government stimulus spending.