Lawmakers like Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), and others are responding after a Thursday morning report showed that inflation in 2021 hit its highest annual point since 1982.
The fact that inflation has been rising is no surprise—for months, the U.S. Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) has shown that rising prices have been battering consumers, and month after month prices have continued to rise.
Thursday’s CPI report detailed inflation figures for the entirety of President Joe Biden’s first year in office, and showed that prices have risen an average of 7.5 percent over the past 12 months. This startling figure places 2021 as the most inflation-ridden year since February 1982.
According to the Labor Department, the energy sector was the hardest hit. Energy prices across the board increased by 27.4 percent on average over the past 12 months. However, this average masks the fact that gasoline prices rose even more: from Feb. 2021 to Feb. 2022, gasoline prices increased by a staggering 40 percent, while fuel oil increased by 46.5 percent.
While food prices managed to stay below the overall rate of inflation, they still increased substantially in 2021, coming in at a seven percent increase on average.
The price of used cars and trucks also increased dramatically, with average prices to buy one going up 40.5 percent.
This rate of inflation renders Americans’ savings and paychecks significantly less valuable and substantially lowers benefits that employees may have received from pay raises.
In October, well aware that inflation was only getting worse, the Social Security Administration announced its largest inflation-adjusted benefits hike since 1982, raising it 5.9 percent. However, Thursday’s CPI shows that this falls well short of the 7.5 percent threshold, leaving social security checks less valuable than they were in Feb. 2021.
GOP Leader McConnell discussed the significance of the report in a Thursday morning speech on the Senate floor.
“Moments ago, the country got yet another terrible monthly inflation report,” McConnell said. “Rampant inflation [and] soaring prices are crushing—crushing—the American people.”
He noted that while financial experts were prepared for another “red hot inflation report” detailing an inflation rate of around seven percent, “but reality turned out to be even worse than that.”
“If you haven’t personally gotten a pay raise of eight percent or more in the last year, then Democrats’ policies have given you a pay cut,” McConnell emphasized.
“This is not about financial inconvenience for wealthy people who can stomach it,” McConnell said. “This is about massive price increases for essential goods that make up a huge share of working families’ budgets.”
“This is a direct result of liberal policy choices,” McConnell argued.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), a GOP campaign funding and strategy group, said of the report, “thanks to Bidenflation and the Democrats’ reckless spending, grocery prices are skyrocketing.”
Maverick West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin also commented on the CPI report in a statement to reporters on Capitol Hill.
“This inflation is real,” Manchin said. “It’s harming people. It’s 7.5%. That’s a tax, and it continues to increase. It’s not decreasing.
“The feds have to step up to the plate and do something. The administration has to. We all have to work together right now to get our financial house in order. If not, it’s going to be absolutely horrible what it’s going to do to the American economy.”
Manchin has oft-repeated his concerns about rising inflation over the past year, even as Democrats downplayed the inflation as “transitory”—a characterization that Fed Chief Jerome Powell has since rejected.
Inflation was one of the driving factors behind Manchin’s decision to totally end Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better bill. Despite attempting for months to reach a compromise with the White House on the bill, ever-worsening inflation caused Manchin to lose confidence entirely in the claim that inflation would get better on its own, and that Build Back Better would not worsen it further.
Biden brushed off concerns over the report on Thursday morning.
“My two top economic priorities have been to create a growing economy with more good-paying jobs, and to lower the prices Americans have faced from the global problem of inflation related to the pandemic,” Biden said. “We have seen historic success on the first priority, with the greatest year of job growth in history.”