Biden throws an inflation party

Yesterday’s inflation report was a reality check for the US economy. After a summer of easing price rises, economists expected the August numbers to bring more good news. Instead, the data suggested there remains a long way to go in the fight against inflation. The consumer price index rose year-on-year by 8.3 percent, down from 8.5 percent in July. But core CPI, a measure which excludes volatile energy and food prices, was up 6.3 percent in August over the same time last year, a rise on 5.9 percent in both June and July.

As inflation clairvoyant Laurence Summers put in, the report “confirms that the US has a serious inflation problem. Core inflation is higher this month than for the quarter, higher this quarter than last quarter, higher this half of the year than the previous one, and higher last year than the previous one.”

One place this wake-up call was not heard? The White House. Hours after its own Labor Department reported that real average hourly earnings fell 2.8 percent between August 2021 and August 2022, Joe Biden pressed ahead with an event on the South Lawn to celebrate the administration’s inflation fighting achievements. The images on cable news, of a president touting his economic track record as a graphic delivered live updates from Wall Street, where the Dow had its worst day since June 2020, will not be forgotten.

Perhaps the only fitting part of the event was the inadvertently appropriate sad boomer serenade from James Taylor. He got the party started by singing “Fire and Rain,” a song about suicide and heroin addiction.

Biden’s speech at the celebration for the Inflation Reduction Act didn’t just strike an odd tone given the bad economic news. It also featured flagrant untruths about his handling of the economy. Among them: the idea that the president and his party are balancing the books. As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes, legislative and executive actions under Biden have added $4.8 trillion to ten-year deficits. Biden likes to boast that the Inflation Reduction Act is fully funded, but just weeks after its passage, Biden’s sweeping and very likely illegal student debt cancellation that is forecast to cost more than half a trillion dollars is entirely unfunded.

With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror and gas prices back under control after highs earlier this year, the inflationary culprit is clearer than ever, and this time he cannot blame the weirdness of the Covid economy or “Putin’s gas price hike.”

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The final primaries follow a familiar script

With voters in New Hampshire, Delaware and Rhode Island having cast their ballots, primary season is officially over. Delaware’s most powerful voter decided to take a twenty-minute trip in Air Force One to vote in person, rather than absentee.

The most important race in which voters had their say yesterday was the Republican Senate primary in New Hampshire. Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan faces a potentially tricky re-election fight in the famously independent-minded New England state. And the process to pick her challenger followed a very 2022 script: a milquetoast GOP was beaten by the Trump-approved candidate. Continuing another trend, Don Bolduc was helped by Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, whose closely affiliated Senate Majority PAC spent $3.2 million boosting the MAGA-aligned candidate. It was a MAGA clean sweep in House races in New Hampshire too. Twenty-five-year-old former Trump staffer Karoline Leavitt beat the Kevin McCarthy-approved candidate in NH-1, with the Cook Political Report moving that race from toss-up to lean Democrat after the result was announced.

Many on the populist right might question the assumption made by Democratic PACs and observers handicapping November’s races, that MAGA candidates are less electable than the GOP establishment-approved alternatives. “Electability” may be more complicated than some claim, but even if the old left-and-right rules no longer apply, there are campaigns that focus on the concerns of swing voters and ones that are preoccupied by the hang-ups of the former president and his band of supporters.

Keep Kamala away from swing states

Kamala Harris will kick off her midterm campaigning on Friday, and the location speaks for itself when it comes to the question of how much of an electoral asset Democrats see the vice president as being. Harris gets her midterm travel itinerary underway in a most crucial political crucible, that midwestern bellwether that alternates red and blue. Yes, the veep will make a pitch to swing voters in… Chicago.

What you should be reading today

Matt Purple: The tyranny of the specialists
Rupert Darwall: China, not America, has the real emissions problem
Jane Stannus: Canada’s new Conservative leader is no Donald Trump
Vivek Ramaswamy, Politico Magazine: The Grand Old Party of crybabies
Joseph Simonson, Washington Free Beacon: Republican Joe O’Dea thinks he has the formula to win in a blue state
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg: The pro-life movement needs to be more realistic

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 42.4 percent
Disapprove: 53.0 percent
Net approval: -10.6 (RCP Average)

Nevada senate race
Caroline Cortez Masto (D): 41 percent
Adam Laxalt (R): 42 percent (the Hill/Emerson)

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