President Joe Biden said Wednesday there is little he can do to lower the cost of gasoline or food in the immediate term, an acknowledgment that prices for those goods will remain high as he works to bring down other costs incurred by families.
“There’s a lot going on right now but the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term. Nor is it with regard to food,” Biden said at the White House, where he was holding an event on the infant formula shortage.
Biden and his team are seeking to place heavy emphasis on the economy in the coming weeks as the President looks to demonstrate his commitment to reining in inflation, even as he says there’s not much he can do. The President has tasked his aides with improving the administration’s messaging as he watches his approval ratings sink.
His plan has centered on allowing the Federal Reserve the necessary independence to combat inflation through monetary policy.
But Biden conceded there was little he could do alone to bring down the highest profile cost spikes.
“We can’t take immediate action that I’m aware of yet to figure out how we’re bringing down the prices of gasoline back to $3 a gallon. And we can’t do that immediately with regard to food prices either,” he said.
He pointed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ensuing effect on energy and grain, as the culprit.
“We’re in a situation where because of a war in Ukraine, gas prices and food prices are extremely high,” he said.
“For example, we got millions of tons of wheat that is not able to get out and get to market. It’s causing everything from a loaf of bread to cost so much money, to food shortages all across the world,” he said. “And so we’re trying to work through a war, we’re trying to work through how we can get that harbor opened. And get the, you know, tens of thousands of tons of grain that are there.”
“The same with gasoline,” he went on. “We have the issue that is occurring now, you have Europe deciding they’re going to further curtail the purchase of Russian oil and there’s a whole lot of consideration going on about what can be done to maybe even purchase the oil even at a limited price so that it has to be sold, overwhelming need for the Russians to sell it, and it would be sold at a significantly lower price than the market is generating now.”
Biden said instead of direct action to bring down gas or food prices, he was looking to ease financial burden in other areas, like drugs and child care.
“But we can compensate by providing for other necessary costs for families by bringing those down. That reduces the inflation for that family,” he said.
He said he would discuss the issue further on Thursday.