High prices raise the temperature at the White House  

There had been some whispering lately that the worst of the inflationary pressure might be behind us. “Inflation is poised to ease,” read a Bloomberg headline a few days ago. But this morning brought with it the bad news that price rises are still accelerating. The consumer price index rose by 8.6 percent year on year, the Labor Department reported. The grim report set another post-pandemic record and means that prices are rising faster than they have for 40 years. Meanwhile, gasoline prices have hit another high.

Also stubbornly high: the number of bad excuses and muddled thinking from the Biden administration on the issue. On Wednesday, Joe Biden called the inflation “the bane of our existence” in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel and reverted to blaming corporate greed for the problem on Thursday. Once again, the president and his treasury secretary are at odds with one another on the biggest economic problem in the country. Asked whether avaricious big business was the problem at an event on Thursday Janet Yellen replied that “demand and supply is largely driving inflation.”

Earlier this week, Yellen said in a Senate hearing that the US faces “unacceptable levels of inflation” and argued that “to dampen inflationary pressures without undermining the strength of the labor market an appropriate budgetary stance is needed to compliment monetary policy actions by the Federal Reserve.” Allow me to translate Secretary Yellen’s characteristically staid language: now isn’t the time to be spending more money.

Biden is fond of boasting about his administration’s record-breaking deficit reduction. It is a silly claim, given that the savings were really just a consequence of one-off pandemic spending coming to an end. This, by the way, is from the man who told us his huge Build Back Better bill (that mercifully never became law) wouldn’t cost anything. But let’s try a more constructive tone: if cutting the deficit is so great, why don’t we try and do more of it?

There’s no sign they plan to. Instead, the administration is mulling student debt cancellation and wondering what sort of spending bill it can get past Joe Manchin. And when White House staffers aren’t wondering how to spend more money, they’re complaining about unfair press treatment that isn’t spotlighting the rude health of the US economy. Fortunately, there’s only so much a president can do to help control inflation. Unfortunately, this president seems determined to be about as unhelpful as he can.

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What have we learned from the January 6 committee?

What did we learn during last night’s televised House January 6 Committee hearing? It has been obvious for some time that, after the November 2020 election, Trump went rogue, clinging to the absurd idea he won the presidential vote, doing anything he could to stay in power and whipping his most loyal supporters into a frenzy along the way. But in the familiar story of the attack on the Capitol retold last night was some fresh, noteworthy, evidence.

Liz Cheney claimed that, according to those who were by the president’s side that day, Trump, “aware of the rioters’ chants, the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.’” Cheney also said that, according to evidence collected by the committee, Rep. Scott Perry and several other Republican lawmakers contacted the White House after January 6 looking for presidential pardons for their role in Trump’s post-election efforts to block the result.

In video footage of his testimony, Bill Barr was blunt: “I repeatedly told the president in no uncertain terms that I did not see evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election. And, frankly, a year and a half later, I haven’t seen anything to change my mind on that.” The former president’s daughter, Ivanka, said she “accepted” Barr’s suggestion that the 2020 election was not stolen.

It remains to be seen what the committee’s work will amount to. Politically speaking, the answer will almost certainly be “not much.” Most of the country has made up its mind on those ugly scenes in Washington last January. But as these hearings go on, sworn testimony from key players will shed more light on a period of gross presidential misconduct. The hearings will, at times, be melodramatic, overblown, hyper-partisan. You name it. But the disgraceful behavior of a former president who may run for the White House again in two years ultimately matters more than a few Congressmen and women grandstanding on MSNBC and CNN.

A testing triumph

America took a belated step closer to full post-pandemic normalcy this morning when the Biden administration announced an end to the testing requirement for arrivals into the United States. The Spectator is a transatlantic endeavor and so, with one foot on either side of the Atlantic, we say: “At last!”

What you should be reading today

Matt Purple: Joe Biden’s greatest hits tour
Cockburn: Kimmel gives Biden the grilling of his presidency
Stephen L. Miller: Things at the Washington Post are great!
Vivek Ramaswamy and Riley Moore, Wall Street Journal: The market can curtail woke fund managers
Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, Politico: Conservatives lay off Senate gun negotiations
Salena Zito, Washington Examiner: Democrats’ Pennsylvania floodwall

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 39.5 percent
Disapprove: 54.8 percent
Net approval: -15.3 (RCP Average)

Attitudes to inflation
Making more of an effort to find the cheapest price: 87 percent
Expect it to get worse in the next year: 66 percent
Driving less: 59 percent
Putting off planned purchases: 74 percent (Washington Post/George Mason)

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