WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden told The Associated Press on Thursday that the American people are “really, really down” after two years of the coronavirus pandemic, instability in the economy and now rising gasoline prices that are affecting the family budget. reducing the.
He said a recession is not inevitable and rebutted claims from Republican lawmakers that last year’s COVID-19 aid plan was solely responsible for inflation hitting a 40-year high, calling that argument “bizarre”. Told.
As for the overall American mentality, Biden said, “people are really, really down.”
“They’re really down,” he said. “The need for mental health in America is skyrocketing, because people have seen everything disturbing. All they have counted is disturbing. But much of it is the result of what happened as a result of the COVID crisis.”
Speaking to the Associated Press in a 30-minute Oval Office interview, Biden addressed economists’ warnings that the United States could be headed for a recession.
Read more: What is the yield curve and how can it warn of the next recession?
“First of all, it’s not inevitable,” he said. “Second, we are in a stronger position than any other country in the world to address this inflation.”
For inflationary reasons, Biden has shown some defensiveness on that count. “If it is my fault, why is it that inflation is higher in every other large industrialized country in the world? You ask yourself this? I am not a wise person,” he said.
The president said he saw cause for optimism with the 3.6 percent unemployment rate and the relative strength of the US in the world.
“Have faith, because I believe we are in a better position than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century,” Biden said. “It’s not an exaggeration, it’s a fact.”
Biden’s bleak assessment of the national psyche comes as voters have soured on the performance of his work and the direction of the country. According to a May poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research, only 39 percent of American adults approve of Biden’s performance as president, a dip from negative ratings just a month earlier.
Overall, only 2 in 10 adults said the US was headed in the right direction or the economy was good, both down from about 3 in 10 in April. Those drops were concentrated among Democrats, with just 33 percent within the president’s party saying the country was headed in the right direction, down from 49 percent in April.
The president outlined some tough choices, saying the US needed to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin in attacking Ukraine in February, even though tough sanctions imposed as a result of that war raised gas prices. which has led to a political formation. Threats to Biden in an election year He called on oil companies to think about the world’s short-term needs and ramp up production.
Asked why he ordered a financial penalty against Moscow, which has disrupted food and energy markets globally, Biden said he chose to take his position as commander-in-chief rather than a politician thinking about the election. calculated.
“I am the President of the United States of America,” he said. “This is what the country is best at. No joke. No joke. So what happens? What if the strongest NATO power, the organizational structure we put together, walks away from the Russian offensive?”
Biden ruled out the possibility of chaos in Europe if an unarmed Russia continued to move deeper into the continent, China was excited to capture Taiwan and North Korea went even more aggressive with its nuclear weapon ambitions.
Biden reiterated his argument that major oil companies benefited from higher prices without increasing production as much as they should have. He said companies need to think not only of their investors but of the world in the short term.
“Don’t just reward yourself,” he said.
Consumer prices increased by 8.6 percent over the previous year, the fastest increase in more than 40 years. Republican lawmakers have said Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last year started a spiral of price increases.
watch: As the US economy slows, fears of a possible recession grow
The president said there was “zero evidence” for that claim, noting that other countries have endured higher prices as economies reopened and people vaccinated. Still, Biden accepted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s argument that spending had a limited inflationary effect.
“You could argue whether it had a marginal effect on inflation,” he said. “I don’t think it did. And most economists don’t. But the idea that it caused inflation is bizarre.”
Still, high inflation poses an enigma to Biden. He prioritized bringing back millions of jobs and saw the unemployment rate close to pre-pandemic levels. The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday, in hopes of slowing the economy and pulling inflation to a target rate of 2 percent.
The tightening of Fed policy has plunged financial markets and many economists have warned of a possible recession next year. The president encouraged Americans to be patient.
“They should not believe a warning,” he said. “They should just say, ‘Let’s say see which one is right.'”