It’s difficult for presidents to directly control inflation in the short term. But the White House has addressed a few specific costs that matter for families, by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to contain surging oil prices in late 2022, for example. The Inflation Reduction Act reduced prescription drug prices under Medicare and capped the cost of insulin for people with diabetes. The administration is also going after what it calls “junk fees,” which inflate the prices of things like concert tickets, airline tickets and even birthday parties.
The more the administration talks about its concrete efforts to lower prices, the more Mr. Biden will benefit, Mr. Doss said. At the same time, Mr. Biden can lessen the blowback from persistent inflation by deflecting blame — an out-of-control pandemic was the original cause, he could plausibly argue, and most other wealthy countries are worse off.
That’s how it seems to Kendra McDowell, 44, an accountant and single mother of four in Harrisburg, Pa. She feels the sting of inflation every time she goes to the grocery store — she spent $1,000 on groceries this past month and didn’t even fill her deep freezer — and in the health of her clients’ balance sheets. Despite her judgment that the economy is poor, however, she still has enough confidence to start a business in home-based care, a field in greater demand since Covid-19 ripped through nursing homes.
“When I talk about the economy, it’s just inflation, and to me inflation is systemic and coming from the Trump administration,” Ms. McDowell said. If the pandemic had been contained quickly, she reasoned, supply chains and labor disruptions wouldn’t have sent prices soaring in the first place.
Moreover, she sees the situation healing itself, and thinks Mr. Biden is doing the best he can given the challenges of the wars in Ukraine and now Gaza. “People are shopping — you know why? Because they’ve got jobs,” Ms. McDowell said. “God forbid, today or tomorrow, if I had to go find a job, it’s easier than it was before.”