WASHINGTON – Through the years, American presidents have tried, and mostly floundered, in their efforts to quell the economic and political menace of consumer inflation.
Now, President Joe Biden is giving it a shot.
Biden's order Tuesday to release 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's reserve isthe latest step Biden has taken to show he is doing everything he can to combat inflation as gasoline and food prices, in particular, have imposed a growing burden on American households.
On Monday, he announced he would reappoint Jerome Powell as chair of the Federal Reserve, a move meant in part to reassure financial markets the federal government is serious about containing consumer prices.
Last month, he announced a deal to ease supply backlogs at the Port of Los Angeles by extending operations there to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Yet none of the president's actions is considered likely to make a meaningful dent in surging prices anytime soon.
The government's consumer price index skyrocketed 6.2% in the 12 months that ended in October, the sharpest such jump since 1990.
Compounding the pain and heightening the pressure on Biden, inflation has been outpacing Americans' income. Adjusted for price increases, average hourly wages were actually down 1.2% last month compared with a year earlier. The White House has limited tools for reversing higher prices. That task belongs more to the Fed, which can raise borrowing costs to cool a sizzling economy.
“I don't think the president has many levers to pull to bring down the rate of inflation any time soon,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. “The things he is doing are positive, and there's no downside to them, ... but they are on the margins. They're not going to move the dial very much.''