U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed President Biden’s recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he denies responsibility for his failed policies that helped create record-high inflation and out-of-control fuel costs. Thune noted that the president’s so-called “plan” to fight inflation means little to South Dakotans who continue to pay the price for his radical agenda.
Thune also questioned U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a Senate Finance Committee hearing today on how President Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget would impact inflation rates.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the White House has apparently decided to spend June focusing on the economy.
“President Biden kicked things off with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled ‘My Plan for Fighting Inflation.’
“Before he gets to the actual – quote-unquote – ‘plan,’ though, the president spends the first half of the op-ed touting his supposed economic successes.
“As usual, he takes credit for the economy’s recovery from COVID-related woes – even though the recovery was well underway before he became president and was a natural result of the economy reopening after COVID shutdowns.
“He touts job creation figures – without mentioning the fact that businesses are struggling to find workers to fill jobs.
“He touts the number of new small business applications in 2021 – without mentioning that small business optimism is at its lowest level since April 2020, at the height of pandemic shutdowns.
“And he mentions ‘millions of Americans getting jobs with better pay’ – while leaving out the fact that inflation continues to outstrip wage growth, meaning that on average Americans are experiencing a de facto pay cut.
“In all, he spends multiple paragraphs attempting to convince Americans that the economy is thriving – which I have to think feels pretty meaningless to the millions of Americans struggling with massive increases in the cost of gas, groceries, and other everyday goods.
“In fact, a poll released yesterday found that just 27 percent of Americans believe they have a good chance of improving their standard of living.
“And it’s no wonder.
“The president can talk about his supposed economic achievements all he wants – that means little to Americans who have seen their disposable income eaten up by price hikes or whose raise failed to even keep pace with the increase in the cost of living.
“And of course the president completely omits the fact that it was his economic plans that helped create our current inflation crisis.
“When President Biden took office inflation was at 1.4 percent – well within the Federal Reserve’s target inflation rate of 2 percent.
“Today it is at 8.3 percent – near a 40-year high.
“And how did we get from there to here?
“In substantial part via the president’s so-called American Rescue Plan.
“Democrats’ massive, partisan spending spree flooded the economy with unnecessary government money.
“And the economy overheated as a result.
“But that’s not something the president mentions when he talks about fighting inflation.
“So what is the president’s so-called plan to fight inflation?
“Well, after spending half the op-ed touting his supposed economic successes, the president finally gets to the plan part.
“And the first part of his three-part plan involves … having somebody else address inflation.
“Controlling inflation, the president says, is primarily the job of the Federal Reserve.
“And he’s going to leave them alone to do that job.
“The next part of the president’s ‘plan’ involves things like ‘fixing broken supply chains’ and ‘boost[ing] the productive capacity of our economy over time.’
“Now, I’m a big supporter of improving our supply chains – it’s why I introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which will hopefully pass the House of Representatives and head to the president’s desk soon.
“But given that the president has so far demonstrated little progress in addressing supply chain challenges, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the White House to take action.
“I’m also a big fan of boosting the productive capacity of our economy.
“My concern is that the president fails to give any examples of how he might actually do that.
“He mentions high gas prices.
“But instead of talking about ways to address high energy prices by unleashing American energy production, he pivots to touting his release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – a highly temporary Band-Aid that did next to nothing to address the cause of high gas prices, except for briefly pausing their rise to record highs.
“He also claims Congress could help by passing his clean-energy tax credits and investments – which he says would result in a $500 decrease in utility bills for American families.
“First, nothing about the president’s clean-energy tax credits is likely to drive down energy prices, especially in the near term – and Americans can’t afford to wait.
“In fact, for Americans to take advantage of some of these credits, they would need to spend more money – on an electric car, for example, which is how the administration suggests Americans deal with these historic gas prices.
“And the president’s claim that his energy tax credits and investments would decrease utility bills for American families by $500 is 100 percent false.
“And you don’t have to take my word for it.
“The Washington Post Fact Checker column gave the president’s claim four Pinocchios – a rating that the Post reserves for, quote, ‘whoppers.’
“And if the president has the idea that his tax credits can somehow magically move the United States to a place where we can abandon gas and oil overnight, well, he has another think coming.
“No matter how much Democrats might wish it were otherwise, the fact of the matter is that clean energy technology has simply not advanced to the point where we can replace all traditional energy sources with renewables.
“And pretending that we don’t need gas and oil – or discouraging American oil and gas production – will only result in higher energy prices for American consumers.
“If the president really wanted to reduce gas prices and ‘boost the productive capacity of our economy over time,’ he would embrace American energy production – including conventional energy production.
“Instead, he’s doing the opposite.
“He continues to discourage domestic production of the conventional energy sources that Americans rely on.
“And the result is likely to be continued high energy prices well into the future.
“Finally, Mr. President, the president turns to the third part of his plan to fight inflation – reducing the deficit.
“Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to take the president seriously on this issue.
“The president touts a Congressional Budget Office prediction that the deficit will fall by $1.7 trillion this year.
“What the president doesn’t mention is that the reason this year’s projected deficit drop looks so substantial is because Democrats inflated the deficit last year with their American Rescue Plan spending spree.
“Of course the deficit will look lower this year without a massive, $1.9 trillion piece of legislation financed entirely with deficit spending.
“And I’m not getting my hopes up about future deficit drops, since many Democrats still want to use reconciliation rules to force through another big Democrat spending bill.
“If they come up with a proposal that’s anything like their original Build Back Better proposal, we will undoubtedly be looking at more deficit spending.
“Mr. President, one news outlet had this to say about President Biden’s op-ed and his plan to reduce the deficit, and I quote: ‘Is it really a ‘plan’ when the president points fingers? While the president’s op-ed purports to lay out a plan for addressing inflation, a close read shows that he actually seems to be pushing the burden off on others …’
“That’s a fair assessment, Mr. President.
“And unfortunately it’s pretty par for the course for President Biden.
“He’s happy to take credit for positive economic numbers – even when he had nothing to do with them.
“But when it comes to taking responsibility for a situation, he’s frequently nowhere to be found.
“He won’t acknowledge that his own economic proposal, the American Rescue Plan, helped create our inflation crisis.
“Indeed, he largely ignored the inflation crisis until it started to become absolutely necessary for him to address it if he wanted to survive politically.
“And he’s displayed a similar lack of ownership of other crises on his watch.
“The actions he’s taken to weaken border security and immigration enforcement have helped create an unprecedented immigration crisis at our southern border.
“But from the president’s attitude you’d barely even know that there’s a problem – much less one that he has a particular responsibility to address.
“His hostile attitude toward American energy production has helped drive up gas prices and left families struggling to fill their cars.
“Yet the president is ready to push off responsibility for conventional energy production to other nations – leaving our nation less secure and more vulnerable to price spikes.
“Mr. President, the president closes his op-ed by noting that, quote, ‘The economic policy choices we make today will determine whether a sustained recovery that benefits all Americans is possible.’
“The president is right about that.
“Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the economic policy choices he is making are the wrong ones.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”