WASHINGTON — At least once a week, a team of President Biden’s top advisers meet on Zoom to address the nation’s supply chain crisis. They discuss ways to relieve backlogs at America’s ports, ramp up semiconductor production for struggling automakers and swell the ranks of America’s truck drivers.
The conversations are aimed at one goal: taming accelerating price increases that are hurting the economic recovery, unsettling American consumers and denting Mr. Biden’s popularity.
An inflation surge is presenting a fresh challenge for Mr. Biden, who for months insisted that rising prices were a temporary hangover from the pandemic recession and would quickly recede. Instead, the president and his aides are now bracing for high inflation to persist into next year, with Americans continuing to see faster — and sustained — increases in prices for food, gasoline and other consumer goods than at any point this century.
That reality has complicated Mr. Biden’s push for sweeping legislation to boost workers, expand access to education and fight poverty and climate change. And it is dragging on the president’s approval ratings, which could threaten Democrats’ already tenuous hold on Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
Recent polls shows Americans’ concerns over inflation are eroding their economic confidence and dimming their view of Mr. Biden’s performance. National surveys by CNBC and Fox News show a sharp decline in voter ratings of Mr. Biden’s overall performance and his handling of the economy, even though unemployment has fallen quickly on his watch and economic output has strengthened to its fastest rate since Ronald Reagan was president. Voter worry over price increases has jumped in the last month.
Administration officials have responded by framing Mr. Biden’s push for what would be his signature spending bill as an effort to reduce costs that American families face, citing provisions to cap child care costs and expand subsidies for higher education, among other plans. And they have mobilized staff to scour options for unclogging supply chains, bringing more people back into the work force, and reducing food and gasoline costs by promoting more competition in the economy via executive actions.
“There are distinct challenges from turning the economy back on after the pandemic that we are bringing together state and local officials, the private sector and labor to address — so that prices decrease,” Kate Berner, the White House deputy communications director, said in an interview.
Mr. Biden’s top officials stress that the administration’s policies have helped accelerate America’s economic rebound. Workers are commanding their largest wage gains in two decades. Growth roared back in the first half of the year, fueled by the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill the president signed in March. America’s expansion continues to outpace other wealthy nations around the world.
Inflation and shortages are the downside of that equation. Car prices are elevated as a result of strong demand and a lack of semiconductors. Gasoline has hit its highest cost per gallon in seven years. A shift in consumer preferences and a…
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