Surging inflation could hurt Biden in lead up to U.S. midterm elections

2022-02-21 15:53:53Xinhua Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Dan Wilson, 35, a mid-level company employee in the Washington D.C. area, said U.S. prices have skyrocketed in recent months.

A restaurant enthusiast, he and his wife are eating at home a lot more these days, with prices at their favorite eateries "way up," Wilson told Xinhua.

Indeed, many Americans have felt the sting of inflation in recent months, with consumer prices spiking by 7.5 percent in January from a year earlier, the fastest annual pace in 40 years.

With many Americans having difficulty making ends meet when food, housing and gasoline have risen substantially, the incumbent U.S. president could feel the pain in this year's congressional midterm elections.

"Inflation is a big challenge for the administration because it elevates the living costs of people across the country," Brookings Institution senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

Today's inflation considerably exceeds the Federal Reserve's 2 percent inflation target, noted Desmond Lachman, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former official at the International Monetary Fund.

Inflation is expected to force the Fed to slam on the monetary policy brakes soon, with a series of interest rate hikes beginning in March. However, that could happen at the cost of a hard economic landing and another recession, Lachman told Xinhua.

"This is especially the case given the risk that higher interest rates could be the trigger that bursts the equity and housing market bubbles," Lachman said.

Recessions are always bad news for any party that controls the White House, and if one occurs before November, Democrats could feel Americans' displeasure in the ballot box.

"High inflation is politically very unpopular since it affects all of the electorate, and it tends to reduce wages in inflation-adjusted terms," Lachman said, adding polls show that inflation is already causing American voters to give poor grades to U.S. President Joe Biden's handling of the U.S. economy.

"This is casting a dark cloud over Mr. Biden's chances in the upcoming November midterm elections, which could be further damaged if the U.S. indeed does have a hard economic landing," he said.

According to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, about 54 percent of Americans believe the economy is worsening, and a mere 15 percent say it's improving. Thirty percent say the economy is the same, the poll found.

Joanna Wheeler, a woman in her 20s who works for a coffee shop in the D.C. area, told Xinhua she's noticed that grocery store prices are higher for some items, adding that inflation will influence how she votes in November.

Costs are up for food, used cars, trucks, and housing. Economists said that energy prices have also spiked and could rise further amid the Ukraine crisis.

Republicans have also slammed the Biden White House for its green energy policies that they say are further pushing up gas prices.

The White House has blamed pandemic disruptions such as supply chain bottlenecks for inflation.

However, Democrats contend that their stalled Build Back Better bill, the roughly 2-trillion-U.S. dollar spending package, would help cut inflation by slashing childcare, health care and housing costs.

Republicans call the claim nonsense, as the bill would require even more government spending, which Republican lawmakers blame for inflation in the first place.

"Moody's Analytics estimates the average U.S. household is spending an additional 276 dollars a month due to inflation," Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said recently at a news conference.

"Congress should be working to address the harmful effects of inflation and taking steps to address our ballooning debt crisis and unsustainable mandatory spending," Crapo said.

According to local media, Biden plans to address the impact of inflation on the country during his State of the Union address on March 1.

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