The decade's most triggering comedy
Harris remarked during a speech at Bowie State University in Maryland that efforts from the White House to lower costs have translated to lower power bills. “For working families,” she said, “we have reduced heating and electricity bills so folks have more money in their pocket to buy things like school supplies, replace the dishwasher, or take a family vacation.”
The national average cost of electricity has nevertheless increased from $0.136 per kilowatt-hour in January 2021 to $0.168 per kilowatt-hour in January 2023, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, constituting a 24% increase over the two years since President Joe Biden assumed office. Electricity costs had remained relatively stable for the previous decade, never exceeding $0.150 per kilowatt-hour until March 2022.
Power costs in the northeastern United States increased 39%, from $0.169 per kilowatt-hour to $0.235 per kilowatt-hour, between January 2021 and January 2023, while western and midwestern cities, respectively, saw prices rise 17% and 15% over the same time horizon.
Even more severe trends exist for utility natural gas: national average prices for the fuel rose 63% between January 2021 and January 2023, according to more data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prices for utility gas increased 112% for cities in the western United States, while prices rose 55% and 47% in the midwestern and northeastern portions of the country.
Critics of the Biden administration say the claim from Harris is one of several misleading assertions from senior administration officials about a supposed recent decline in cost pressures. The most recent inflation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed continually elevated food and shelter prices despite a lower headline inflation number, occurred one week after Biden said that “inflation is coming down” during his second State of the Union address. “Inflation has been a global problem because of the pandemic that disrupted supply chains and Putin’s war that disrupted energy and food supplies,” he contended. “But we’re better positioned than any country on Earth.”
Inflation was charted at 1.4% when Biden was inaugurated in January 2021. After reaching a height of 9.1% in June 2022, the most recent readings indicate that price levels are increasing year-over-year at a 6.4% rate. The phenomenon has decreased overall purchasing power even as nominal income rises; real wages, which account for inflationary pressures, fell 1.5% between January 2022 and January 2023, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Households appear to be financing their expenses with consumer debt and savings previously accumulated during the lockdown-induced recession. Households owe a combined $17 trillion as a result of their mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and auto loans, according to an analysis from WalletHub, a level that approaches the $18 trillion held by households in 2008.
Many Americans indicate they are in their most precarious financial situation since the 2008 financial crisis. Some 50% of respondents to a Gallup survey said they are “financially worse off” compared to last year, while 35% believe they are “financially better off.” Low-income Americans were the most likely to report that they have been worse off since last year: approximately 61% reflected pessimism about their current finances in 2023, an increase from 41% in 2022.