Former WH Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Biden is too narrowly focused on infrastructure and not focused enough on inflation

 April 11, 2024

One of President Joe Biden's biggest problems is inflation, most notably the stubbornly high prices for gas and groceries, and the negative impact it has had on American families as well as Biden's job approval and chances of re-election.

Recently leaked audio revealed that Biden's former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is concerned that his old boss hasn't focused enough on taming inflation and instead has devoted too much attention to large infrastructure projects like new bridges, Fox News reported.

Klain, who generally approves of the job Biden has done thus far, nonetheless suggested that the inordinate focus on intangibles like infrastructure rather than more impactful rising costs for consumers and families was a "fool's errand" for the unpopular president seeking a second term in office.

Too much focus on "bridges" and not enough on costs of "eggs and milk"

Politico reported Tuesday that it obtained an audio recording of former White House Chief of Staff Klain, who left the administration in February 2023, speaking at an event this week hosted by the publication "Democracy: A Journal of Ideas."

"I think the president is out there too much talking about bridges," Klain said. "He does two or three events a week where he’s cutting a ribbon on a bridge. And here’s a bridge. Like I tell you, if you go into the grocery store, you go to the grocery store and, you know, eggs and milk are expensive, the fact that there’s a fucking bridge is not [inaudible]."

"He’s not a congressman. He’s not running for Congress," he added of the narrow focus on infrastructure projects. "I think it’s kind of a fool’s errand. I think that [it] also doesn’t get covered that much because, look, it’s a f--king bridge. Like, it’s a bridge, and how interesting is the bridge? It’s a little interesting but it’s not a lot interesting."

Biden needs to tweak his economic message to voters

Politico contacted Klain to ask about his commentary, and though the former top aide to President Biden did not walk back his critique, he did generally praise the president's accomplishments while suggesting that the campaign needed to be more forward-looking about addressing the problems faced daily by American families.

He explained, "The president’s most effective economic message is contrast around whose side are you on, and compassion for the [pinch] of family budgets, and his agenda to bring down costs and raise incomes -- and that lauding achievements -- especially ones with abstract benefits -- is less persuasive with voters."

The outlet noted that Klain offered a similar take during a recent appearance on MSNBC, during which he said, "Although inflation has moderated, prices are still high, the price of gasoline is still high, other prices are still high, and people feel that pinch. And though wages have gone up, and the statistics say wages have gone up faster than prices, people still feel pinched in their pocketbooks. And so, I think the president needs to make more progress on that."

Inflation rising again after falling from 2022 peak

Though year-over-year price inflation is down substantially from a peak of around 9.1% in 2022, the inflation rate never fell to the Federal Reserve's 2% target and instead has remained stubbornly above 3%, and has even ticked back upwards over the past few months, according to CBS News.

Much of that increase was driven by rising costs for gas, utilities, and car insurance, and while grocery prices have seemingly leveled off in recent months, the cost of food and household goods remain elevated over what they were when President Biden took office in 2021.

Unfortunately for Biden, the still-rising price inflation will likely prevent the Federal Reserve from following through on its plan of lowering interest rates this year -- something that the Biden campaign was likely counting on to help juice the economy in an election year and increase his chances of being re-elected.

Voters blame Biden, believe Trump would do a better job

Last month, the Brookings Institute looked at several recent polls and determined that, as has been the case since prices first surged in 2021, inflation and higher costs continue to be the biggest concern for voters and the biggest obstacle to President Biden's goal of winning a second term in the White House.

Poll after poll shows that most voters view the economy as poor and blame Biden for it, they feel the president has done a lackluster job in combating higher prices, and believe that former President Donald Trump would do better in improving the nation's economic outlook while reducing price inflation and spurring the creation of more new jobs.

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