Inflation is President Biden’s ‘top economic priority’: Pete Buttigieg

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden’s administration is working to fortify the economy amid steep inflation with efforts to shore up the supply chain and “invest in the capacity, both physical and human, of our economy to keep up with demand,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday.

“The president has made clear inflation is his top economic priority, and he’s laid out a very clear strategy for doing that,” Buttigieg told “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Buttigieg said the administration will “continue to take the steps that are both on the price side and on the growth side to keep our economy strong.”

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll shows the economy and inflation are top of mind for voters ahead of the 2022 midterms. Only 37% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the economic recovery, according to the poll.

The current inflation rate is at 8.3%, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An updated number will be released on Friday.

Buttigieg said on “This Week” that the president has proposed “a number of things” to help improve the economy that could be passed by Congress, including lowering the costs of insulin, child care and housing.

These measures “would make a difference no matter what’s happening macroeconomically,” Buttigieg argued. “We would make life easier for Americans who are facing these economic question marks.”

Gas prices — at a record-high after increasing for months — are also a concern. Heading into the summer travel season, the current nationwide average is about $4.84 per gallon.

About two months ago, Biden announced plans to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve, saying at the time that he expected this to bring down gas prices.

But Stephanopoulos on Sunday pressed Buttigieg, saying the move “hasn’t made any difference at all.” He asked: “Was that a failure?”

“I don’t think it’s correct to say it hasn’t made any difference at all,” Buttigieg responded. “This is an action that helped to stabilize global oil prices.”

“The action the president took around ethanol, introducing additional flexibility there, that’s having an effect on prices in the Midwest,” he continued. “But we also know that the price of gasoline is not set by a dial in the Oval Office. And when an oil company is deciding, hour by hour, how much to charge you for a gallon of gas, they’re not calling the administration to ask what they should do. They’re doing it based on their goal of maximizing their profits.”

In early April, oil executives testified before Congress, disputing the argument that they are price gouging consumers. They claimed the situation is complex and that in the near term, increasing the supply of oil and natural gas could help.

Amid an increase in gun violence and several recent mass shootings, the president has also renewed his call for new gun control legislation, which has long been resisted by congressional Republicans who say it would violate gun rights. In remarks delivered Thursday night, Biden urged raising the age to buy assault weapons to 21, strengthening background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and other measures.

Stephanopoulos asked Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, “If you were still mayor of South Bend right now, what would you be doing?”

“We have a horrific scourge of gun violence in this country,” Buttigieg said.

As mayor, he explained, he would do what he could on the local level. “But you’re also looking at Washington to say, ‘Will anything be different this time?'”

“Will we actually acknowledge the reasons why we are the only country, the only developed country where this happens on a routine basis?” Buttigieg said. “And the idea that us being the only developed country where this happens routinely — especially in terms of the mass shootings — is somehow a result of the design of the doorways on our school buildings is the definition of insanity, if not the definition of denial.”

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