President Joe Biden is remaining insistent on his economic agenda as Republicans across both chambers of Congress, only one of which the party controls, contemplate methods of undercutting it.
After a report on inflation from the Commerce Department showed the rate of price increases slightly rising in January, Biden said he’d be standing against a series of specific efforts by Republicans that could upend the progress already made. There are even concerns about Republicans dragging out negotiations over raising what’s known as the debt limit, which covers past spending obligations.
“As I’ve long said, there may be setbacks along the way, but we face global economic challenges from a position of strength,” Biden commented Friday. “And I will not allow my Republican friends in Congress to undermine that strength. Some of them have supported raising costs through a repeal of the Inflation Reduction Act, cutting taxes for the wealthy and large corporations, cutting critical programs that American seniors and families count on, or taking the full faith and credit of the United States hostage.” The Inflation Reduction Act, which is the budget reconciliation deal passed by Congressional Dems and signed by the president last year, contains provisions designed, among other things, to drive down prescription costs for those on Medicare — something Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) incredulously tried to describe as somehow amounting to cutting back Medicare benefits in the way that’s normally meant, which would entail shrinking the program.
If costs are going down without effect on the tangible benefits available, that’s different. “When I travel the country, I see optimism for this year and the years ahead,” Biden added earlier this week. “The optimism of families with just a little bit more breathing room thanks to our work to get workers back into jobs. The optimism of a record numbers of Americans applying to start a small business. The optimism of a young construction worker at the groundbreaking of a billion-dollar factory for clean energy or microchips.” It’s true. There have been consistently positive signs in the job market, like drops — even just last month — in the numbers of new claims for unemployment benefits and a persistently low unemployment rate.
The same set of metrics from the Commerce Department indicating prices went up at a slightly higher rate in January also seemed to indicate that an increase in disposable incomes of Americans surpassed that change on a month-to-month basis! A category identified as personal income in current dollars went up by 0.6 percent in January from December, the same as the inflation rate, but a category ID’ed as disposable personal income grew by two percent in current dollars and 1.4 percent in 2012 dollars, another way of looking at growth that’s at least somewhat distanced from inflation.