Yellen Grilled On Voter Dissatisfaction With Economy Under Biden
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen listens to President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York John C. Williams speak during an Economic Club of New York event on June 13, 2024 in New York City.
(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was pressed on Sunday to answer why voters are unhappy with the economy under President Joe Biden just months ahead of his expected rematch against former President Donald Trump in the 2024 election.

Jonathan Karl, a co-anchor of ABC News’s “This Week,” set up the question by telling Yellen that she had “cited a lot of positive macroeconomic indicators” while commenting on the economic situation in the United States.

“The rate of inflation is coming down. Unemployment is low. The economy’s growing. But why is it then that voters seem so unsatisfied?” Karl asked. “And in fact, in poll after poll, voters say they trust Donald Trump with the economy more than Joe Biden. What’s going on?”

“Well, I think the pandemic was a profoundly difficult time,” Yellen replied. “But in the years leading up to the pandemic, Americans were really, many of them, working-class families just struggling with things like healthcare costs, the cost of energy, education costs, childcare costs.”

She added, “And so they really feel the cost of living. Housing is particularly unaffordable in so many parts of the country. And I think the inflation that we experienced after the pandemic just compounded this feeling for them that life isn’t affordable. So it is the Biden administration’s top priority to address these costs where we possibly can.”

Karl interjected to focus on inflation.

“Yeah, and just to be clear, I mean, the rate of inflation is coming down, but overall inflation is up 19% since President Biden took office,” Karl said. “On some everyday goods, it’s much higher. The price of eggs is up 84% since President Biden took office; ground beef, up 30%; bread, up 27%. I mean, by and large, inflation rate may go down, but those prices aren’t returning to where they were. I mean, those prices are going to remain high.”

Yellen said “it is true that, over the last roughly three years, there’s been a significant increase in the price level. It’s now rising at a very slow, close to normal rate. But, yes, Americans see that, and mainly it comes on top of concerns about costs that were making life very difficult. So it’s something the Biden administration absolutely wants to address. I would point out, of course, that wages have also gone up during this time, and government studies show that, for all — for households at all points in the income distribution — wages have gone up somewhat more than prices. So the typical American is somewhat better off.”

Karl also asked Yellen to comment on Trump floating the idea of replacing federal income taxes with tariffs.

“It would require tariffs well over 100%,” Yellen said. “The impact would be to make life unaffordable for working-class Americans and would harm American businesses.”

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