Rising prices and empty store shelves pose serious political danger to Biden and his Democrats

An admission by Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg on CNN on Sunday that supply chain safeguards, which have a corrosive impact on the wider economy, will persist into the next year, further underscored a difficult electoral environment in the midst of mandate for the Democrats. Biden can only take limited steps to stack containers at ports across the country, which means the situation is causing a real headache for the White House.
When Americans go to stores and see the price of bacon has doubled, or when they can’t afford the gifts they want before the holiday season, Biden and Democrats are likely to be blamed during the holidays. elections next month and into 2022. The cost of living – – with gasoline now costing an average of $3.32 per gallon nationwide, according to the American Automobile Association – offers an opening for Republicans to argue that the Biden presidency is a failure. The growing discontent also fits perfectly into the tale of decadence and national humiliation that Donald Trump paints as he sets the stage for a likely presidential campaign in 2024. On Sunday, for example, the ex-president sent a fundraising email mentioning “prices soaring.”

Early-term presidents almost always face reprimands in Congressional elections, as their actions often energize opposing party supporters against them, and any struggle they lead can result in the disengagement of their own voters. This time around, with Democrats having only the narrowest majority in the House and Senate, they badly need the economy to move forward and the pandemic curse to be far behind the country a year from now. But a catalog of problems, including a short labor market, rising energy prices, rising inflation, political polarization over vaccines, and an immigration crisis on the southern border, create a national mood dissatisfied with the pre-election year.

Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations are expected to continue to decline over the next few weeks, but the Delta variant and Biden’s own premature declaration of partial victory over the pandemic on July 4 have also meant that any assumptions back to normal by the end of this year have already been broken.

The president sought to provide some light at the end of the tunnel last week, but was careful to point out that Covid-19 was far from going away. He cited “significant progress” but added: “Now is not the time to give up. We have a lot more to do. We are in a very critical time as we work to turn the corner on Covid- 19. “

His assurances are important because a CNN / SSRS poll released last month found that 69% of Americans believe things in the country are bad. Polls have also found satisfaction with Biden, as he struggles to bridge Democratic divisions on Capitol Hill and push through his platform, has declined, despite his approval rating reaching 50. % in a CNN poll last week.

Biden’s election was in many ways a reaction to the chaos of Trump’s failure to properly handle the pandemic. In fact, the president himself said it at a press conference in March of this year.

“When I took office I decided that – this was a pretty basic and straightforward proposition – and that is that I was elected to solve problems,” Biden said. “And the most pressing problem facing the American people, I said from the start, was Covid-19 and economic dislocation for millions upon millions of Americans.”

By his own reference then, and in part due to factors beyond his control, Biden failed. And his reduced approval ratings seem to reflect his own judgment that beating the pandemic was how he would be judged by voters. If the president can’t make the case to Americans next year that he did what he was hired to do, then the party’s traditional gains from the out-of-power White House could translate into major Democratic losses in Congress. .

Buttigieg: challenges for the next year

During the 2020 campaign, Biden’s performance was notable for his mastery of the scale of the Covid-19 crisis, relentless public appearances on message, and an almost Fireside Chat style in which he appeared to take on Americans. in his confidence and strengthening their confidence. As president, and since the pandemic lasted longer than Biden and everyone expected, he was less sure of himself and his message didn’t resonate with the same. The chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and Biden’s laconic public response, meanwhile, supported the views of critics who concluded his presidency was overtaken by events.

There are some promising signs about the pandemic. Daily new cases of Covid are about half the level of the summer outbreak and tend to decline in almost all states. Deaths are also starting to decline. It is likely that economic activity and job creation could increase once the virus ebbs across the country.

But the feeling of disturbed normalcy persists. Many parents of young children are desperate for regulators to allow vaccines for children under 12. Another Thanksgiving is likely to be disrupted for many families, as it is unlikely, even if injections are allowed soon, that millions of children will receive them and be fully immunized by the end of next month. It is also becoming clear that many of the serious global consequences of the pandemic, which will weigh on American life, will not simply go away in the months to come.

On that note, Buttigieg’s comment on CNN’s “State of the Union” is the latest sign that a post-pandemic economic surge that could help mask other issues and persuade voters to stick with it. to Biden’s path is far from certain.

“It is certain that many of the challenges that we have faced this year will continue into the next year, but we can take short and long term steps to address them,” Buttigieg told Jake Tapper.

Buttigieg spoke after Moody’s Analytics warned last week that supply chain disruptions “will get worse before they get better.”

The supply chain crisis has many causes, is deeply complex, and influenced by many factors the President cannot control – including the Covid outbreaks in exporting countries and the fact that most port industries, US transportation and retailing are run by private companies Biden just can’t do better.

The stacks of containers receding in U.S. ports and idling ships awaiting unloading are exacerbated by a post-pandemic shortage of truckers, meaning this is a problem that is not easily addressed. resolve quickly. And the tightening of the supply chain increases demand, which in turn increases inflation, making the cost of living more expensive and increasing pressure on voters’ wallets.

Rising demand fuels inflation

Buttigieg, a rising Democratic political star who might have expected the Transport Department to provide a relatively safe political landing point, now finds himself in the midst of a risky political crisis.

He actually described the crisis – at least the issue of strong consumer demand – as a sign of success for the president.

“Each of these ships is full of record amounts of goods that Americans are buying, because demand is up, because revenues are up, because the president has managed to pull this economy out of a terrifying recession. “Buttigieg said on” State of the Union. “

The transport secretary’s appearances on several Sunday talk shows – and the president’s decision last week to summon port bosses and unions that led to the introduction of 24/7 operations in the Port of Los Angeles – prove that the White House is very much aware of the damaging political impact of the supply chain problem and its consequences for ordinary Americans after a grueling year.

Buttigieg also argued that adopting Biden’s blocked bipartisan infrastructure package, which is being held up by progressives as leverage in their fight for Biden’s social spending plan, would help alleviate the situation.

“There is $ 17 billion in the president’s infrastructure plan for ports alone,” Buttigieg told Tapper. He presented the other strand of Biden’s program as an essential element in restarting the economy slowed by Covid.

“If you care about inflation, you don’t just have to worry about supply chain issues, not just the infrastructure I’m working on,” he said, highlighting the features of the program. “Biden’s Build Back Better” like paid family leave, like easing childcare costs, like community colleges which will give us a stronger workforce and help us face this major constraint on economic growth. ”

While many of the issues hampering Biden’s presidency appear intractable, Democrats can at least hope things improve by next year. If the United States is finally in the final stages of the pandemic, global energy prices fall and supply chain tightening eases as the rest of the world draws closer to victory over Covid , voters may feel in a better state of mind as the midterm elections approach.

But for now, the economic situation is difficult.

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