CNBC anchor Joe Kernen called out Biden economic adviser Heather Boushey on Monday during a heated dispute over the administration’s messaging on the struggling US economy.
The exchange on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” came after Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended the administration’s progress in fighting inflation.
Kernan claimed that the Biden administration “generally rejects any blame” for inflation, prompting a retort from Boushey.
“This president put in place a set of policies that fixed the economy, put it on a better track, brought jobs back,” Boushey said. “We created nearly 10 million jobs under the president’s watch. That is a historic and impressive achievement that he has been providing to people across the country.”
In the same interview, Kernen pointed to signs of lingering problems in the economy while Boushey touted the Biden administration’s progress despite rising geopolitical tensions.
“The stock market obviously has all these things wrong,” Kernen said. “That’s a nice picture you’ve painted, but it looks like mortgage rates have doubled in the last year, gas prices are still up probably 60%, 70% from where they were before the president took office. , inflation is at 8.3%, maximum of 40 years”.
“Gas prices are down phenomenally, Joe. You can’t deny that,” Boushey chimed in.
“There were two of them and it changed when he took office,” Kernen replied.
The national average price for gasoline was $3,677 a gallon as of Monday, according to AAA. Prices have fallen steadily since reaching an all-time high of $5,016 in June, but remain much higher than their average cost of $2.39 a gallon when Biden took office.
Boushey reiterated the Biden administration’s frequent claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was primarily responsible for the rise in gasoline prices.
“We’ve had a geopolitical crisis that has disrupted the oil markets, which is why the president is so focused on moving us all toward electric vehicles,” he said.
“If you’re going to blame everything on the pandemic for inflation, then you have to recognize that the reopening after the pandemic is the reason we basically went back to the job numbers that we had before the pandemic, those 10 million [jobs] it just brought us back to equality,” Kernen replied.
“We’re putting ourselves on a better path now,” Boushey said.
The exchange came days after Kernen also grilled Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on inflation, urging the Biden cabinet member to “be honest” about inflation and other issues facing American households.
Biden, meanwhile, personally downplayed the inflation crisis during an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, even after an alarming consumer price index report for August that showed prices rose 8.3%. more than expected.
When CBS correspondent Scott Pelley brought up the 8.3% increase figure, Biden replied that prices had risen “only an inch, almost nothing” compared to the previous month.
Pelley backed down, noting that inflation was at its highest level in four decades. Once again, Biden downplayed the situation.
“Got it. But guess what we are. We’re in a position where, for the last few months, it hasn’t skyrocketed,” Biden replied. “It’s been barely, it’s been basically even. And in the meantime, we’ve created all these jobs of work”.
Biden acknowledged that prices “have gone up,” but noted that “they have gone down because of energy.”
“The fact is that we have created 10 million new jobs,” he added.