Analysis: Biden struggles to refocus Americans’ attention on his efforts to help family budgets as inflation soars

Instead, even before boarding the plane, the president was once again faced with an avalanche of alarming news that summed up how deeply his failure to address the country’s most pressing issues deeply worries Democrats at seven months old. midterm elections.

A day after promising that his administration’s new ‘ghost gun’ rules would ‘save lives, cut crime and take out more criminals’, Americans concerned about rising crime have again witnessed a terrifying mass shooting – this time in New York. City subway system. With gun violence now a daily occurrence, this event has reinforced the limitation of the tools at Biden’s disposal as his efforts to advance key gun safety measures come up against a blockade in a deeply polarized Congress.

And while the trip to Iowa, in theory, offered the president a chance to celebrate the positives of economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the dramatic drop in unemployment, he was hit hard by a report crushing on inflation released on Tuesday. .

The report showed that the consumer price index rose 8.5% for the year ending March, a level not seen since December 1981, indicating that wages are not keeping up not inflation.
At a time when Americans are outraged by soaring costs for everything from meat to fuel, this news — along with persistent warnings that the economy could slide into recession — has largely overshadowed the additional measures Biden has taken. announced Tuesday to address wallet concerns, which included an emergency waiver of a summer ethanol ban aimed at saving consumers 10 cents per gallon at the pump.

The GOP is already using inflation as a hammer to weaken Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, as it argues that Biden and congressional Democrats have made the problem worse with the huge injection of stimulus money tied to the pandemic in the economy in 2021.

And it wasn’t just Republicans who blamed Biden on Tuesday. Senator Joe Manchin, who had refused to go along with Biden’s plans for more social safety net spending due to concerns about inflation, said the new inflation data told a ‘scary story’ on how “hard-earned wages and financial savings are disappearing faster every month as prices continue to climb.”

“The Federal Reserve and the administration did not act fast enough,” the West Virginia Democrat said in a statement Tuesday. “Instead of acting boldly, our elected leaders and the Federal Reserve continue to respond with half measures and rhetorical failures seeking where to lay blame.” Part of the solution, he argued, was for Biden and members of Congress to adopt an “all of the above” energy policy to lower the price of gasoline and energy to make energy American independent of Russia and “other terrorists”. sponsoring countries.”

Biden seeks to blame Putin for rising gas prices

Biden tried to counter criticism in Iowa on Tuesday by saying he was ‘doing everything in my power through executive orders’ to lower prices and ‘deal with ‘Putin’s price hike”. — his administration’s catchphrase for the way Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gasoline prices.
He insisted the nation had already made progress since collecting inflation data in March: “Your family budget, your ability to fuel up, none of that should depend on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide on the other side of the world,” Biden said, referring to atrocities committed by Putin’s army in Ukraine. It was the first time the president had called the atrocities in Ukraine of genocide, a term he had previously avoided using.
Biden pointed to strong job growth as the pandemic receded, as well as steps taken by his administration to bring prices down, including the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. for the next six months and a new rule lifting daylight saving time. ban on E15 gasoline, a blend of regular gasoline and ethanol, a plant-based fuel.

“It won’t solve all of our problems, but it will help some people,” Biden said, acknowledging that E15 is currently only available at a few thousand pumps. “I pledge to (do) whatever I can to help, even if it’s an extra buck or two in the pockets when they fill up.”

With a focus on rural America — even standing on a hay-covered stage to illustrate his message — Biden also touted the improvements made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will shore up structurally flawed bridges, widen the high-speed Internet access and “help connect entire cities and regions to new opportunities.”

He ended with a call for optimism, noting that America is the only nation on Earth to “emerge from every major crisis stronger than when we entered it”, and asked his audience to come out and to help “spread the faith”.

A struggle to deliver on other campaign promises that affect the daily lives of Americans

But polls have consistently shown that many Americans do not share the president’s optimism at this time and are likely to be in a punitive mood when they go to the polls in November.

While inflation and crime are their top concerns this election season, Biden continues to face frustrating challenges in other areas he pledged to address, from the escalating US crisis with drug overdose deaths to the unpredictable trajectory of the pandemic.

The president campaigned on a plan to end the opioid crisis, but the countless crises over the past year have often overshadowed that issue. On Tuesday, a sobering new study in the medical journal JAMA shows that the number of overdose deaths among adolescents doubled between 2010 and 2021. Fentanyl, a drug that is stronger and faster than natural opiates, has been implicated in over 75% of these adolescent overdose deaths. in 2021.
Annual drug overdose deaths also hit a record high in the 12 months to October, with two-thirds of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to preliminary data released last month by the National Center of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. for health statistics. Shortly after, Biden called for a $3.2 billion increase in funding for National Drug Control Program agencies — which included more money to reduce the supply of illicitly used drugs like fentanyl.

The White House had also hoped the Covid-19 pandemic would be in the rearview mirror long before this point. But Biden faces a mixed picture on that front as cases rise again in 25 states, while falling in 16 and remaining stable in nine others.

Although hospitalizations are far lower than they were at the height of the crisis, the administration has had to deal with the resurgence of the virus as it spread among dozens of attendees at the recent Gridiron Club dinner, including to several members of Biden’s cabinet and the key White House. aids.
There was a glimmer of good news for the president in a new Axios-Ipsos poll that found less than one in 10 Americans now describe Covid-19 as a crisis. About 3 in 4 people called the coronavirus condition a “manageable problem”.

But those views have raised fears that more Americans may let their guard down even if the virus remains a threat. And Biden’s experience last July 4 – when he said he hoped the nation could soon celebrate independence from the pandemic – brought home the hard lesson that even amid a strong desire to turn the page, the president can always be a new variant far from being dragged into an insoluble crisis again. It remains to be seen whether voters will give Biden the credit he seeks for progress in fighting the pandemic — or how much that issue will even matter by the time the election rolls around.

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