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EDITORIAL: Biden fails to stem the bleeding on inflation

One day before the Labor Department will release the latest bad news about soaring prices, President Joe Biden sought to mitigate the increasing political damage by assuring Americans that he’s on the case. Right. Think Clouseau rather than Columbo.

“I know families across America are hurting because of inflation,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday. “I understand what it feels like. … I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously and it’s my top priority.”

Perhaps moderate voters might believe this if he had delivered such a proclamation a year ago. Instead, the White House back then was insisting that concerns about inflation were overblown and nothing to fret over. “Transitory” was the administration’s favorite description.

Yet several prominent economists — including some on the left, most notably former Clinton Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers — predicted that Mr. Biden’s insistence on pouring billions of dollars into an economy fast recovering from the coronavirus was a recipe for stoking higher prices. They’ve been proved correct. The fact this took Mr. Biden and his team by surprise does not inspire confidence.

Worse, Mr. Biden and his progressive supporters remain steadfast in their insistence that the White House is an innocent bystander, a victim of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, corporate greed and the lingering pandemic. Pay no attention to the administration’s reckless spending policies. “If you try to reduce the impact of the American Rescue Plan to one number — the inflation rate — you are not doing anywhere near a complete analysis,” Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told The New Yorker.

Indeed, this outlook dominated Mr. Biden’s Tuesday comments, during which he seemed more preoccupied with the electoral fallout of inflation than actually doing anything about it. The president asserted that his policies “help, not hurt” when it comes to soaring prices and he went right for the bottom of the deck, playing the Putin and pandemic cards to skirt responsibility.

Yet Americans aren’t dumb. Democrats control Congress and the White House. Inflation is running at 40-year highs, shortages of goods are common, interest rates are on the rise and markets have sputtered for most of the year. The administration’s own surveys reveal that voters have little confidence Mr. Biden can turn things around.

“The economy and inflation continue to dominate what is on the minds of voters — and their attitudes keep getting worse, which continues to impact the president’s job rating on the economy negatively,” read a recent White House polling memo on inflation, The New York Times reported last week.

There’s time for Mr. Biden to reverse course. But that won’t happen as long as he keeps pointing fingers in the wrong direction.

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