Janet Yellen Flip-Flops, Insists Biden’s ‘BBB’ Plan Will Actually Help Suppress Inflation
Before jetting off to Rome for a weekend G-20 summit in Rome, President Biden on Thursday offered his most detailed outline yet of the Dems new $1.75 trillion social spending/climate changing package, a number that was too small for progressives, who proceeded to block a Thursday vote on the president’s “bipartisan” infrastructure bill.
Speaking to CNBC from Rome where Yellen is attending the G-20 conference of global leaders with President Biden, the Treasury Secretary delivered her latest pitch in support of the $1.75 trillion social spending-climate agenda, covering a critical area of concern that her boss did his best to avoid during his speech yesterday.
That subject? Inflation, which Biden’s aides probably felt might be too dangerous for him to discuss due to his cognitive decline.
And so Treasury Secretary Yellen was left to pick up the slack with a 0500ET interview on CNBC’s Worldwide Exchange. The broad takeaway from her remarks: President Biden’s two-party social-spending-climate plan and his “bipartisan” infrastructure plan will actually help lower inflation by reducing costs for households for key services like child-care, health care and other issues. Ultimately, she expects these pressures to subside by the second half of next year.
“I don’t think that these investments will drive up inflation at all,” she told CNBC’s Sara Eisen during a live “Worldwide Exchange” interview.
Months ago, Yellen was one of the first to warn about the looming inflationary beast. But now she’s in charge of taming it, so of course her rhetoric has changed.
Biden claimed during his White House address yesterday that “17 Nobel winning economists” had signed off on his framework, claiming it wouldn’t push up inflation because it would be – more or less – be fully paid for by tax hikes while creating new economic opportunities. Right now, the bigger driver of inflation is the supply-side shocks like those unveiled by Apple during last night’s earnings.
“I think supply chain issues are holding our economy back somewhat…it will take a while to boost supply.” @SecYellen discusses the impact of the supply chain crunch on the American and global economy, and tells @SaraEisen when to expect some relief: pic.twitter.com/yyzrsOSlmL
— Worldwide Exchange (@CNBCWEX) October 29, 2021
Yellen renewed her push for White House spending plans that are unpopular with several factions of Congress and have yet to be approved. But even as the headline CPI number hits its highest level in 30 years, Yellen insisted that Biden’s program would be a net benefit for workers.
“It will boost the economy’s potential to grow, the economy’s supply potential, which tends to push inflation down, not up,” she said. “For many American families experiencing inflation, seeing the prices of gas and other things that they buy rise, what this package will do is lower some of the most important costs, what they pay for health care, for child care. It’s anti-inflationary in that sense as well.”
The only problem with Yellen’s worldview right now is that, as the holiday’s approach, GDP is slowing because more than 100 ships are being left floating in a massive logjam making it nearly impossible for companies to obtain the goods they need ahead of the holiday season. As we noted the other day, economists from the American farm bureau warned that the US is headed for its expensive Thanksgiving ever.
In effect, the reality of our current economy reflects the exact opposite of what Yellen says is coming just around the corner.
“Not only has inflation risen, but growth also has decelerated. Due in large part to supply issues that have left dozens of ships stranded at U.S. ports, the pace of gross domestic product growth slowed to 2% in the third quarter, the slowest rate since the pandemic-induced recession ended in April 2020.
Part of the administration’s G-20 agenda will be addressing its pet economic concerns, including the implementation of a global minimum for corporate taxes, as well as addressing climate change and the supply chain issues that have hampered growth and threaten to cut into holiday spending patterns. Yellen said she expects the supply chain issues “will be addressed over the medium term.” She called the White House’s Build Back Better program “transformational” in addressing the economy’s needs as the nation seeks to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. She insisted that the spending plans are “fully paid for” through tax proposals primarily aimed at higher earners and corporations. “I think it really helps us invest in physical capital. That’s public infrastructure that’s important to productivity growth,” she said. “There’s investment in human capital, there’s investment in research and development, the support that families will receive that will help them participate in the labor market.”
As we quipped on twitter just a week ago, the nabobs running American fiscal and monetary policy have been slowly moving the goalposts vis-a-vis inflation since the start of the year, when Larry Summers first warned about the risks of rising inflation – prompting his fellow academics to response with a mix of derision and mockery.
Big finance experts:
Q1 2021: There is inflation, but it’s transitory
Q3 2021: Ok, inflation isn’t transitory, but there is no stagflation
Q1 2022: Ok, there is stagflation, but this time is different and we are definitely not in the 1970s
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) October 22, 2021
Now, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has revised the narrative once again: President Biden’s massive spending plan won’t stoke even more inflation (like other recent COVID-related stmulus plans have) because the Biden plan will help stoke economic growth by allowing more women to participate in the workforce while investing in “public infrastructure.”
She called the White House’s Build Back Better program “transformational” in addressing the economy’s needs as the nation seeks to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. She insisted that the spending plans are “fully paid for” through tax proposals primarily aimed at higher earners and corporations.
“I think it really helps us invest in physical capital. That’s public infrastructure that’s important to productivity growth,” she said. “There’s investment in human capital, there’s investment in research and development, the support that families will receive that will help them participate in the labor market.”
In the end, she’s hopeful that economic growth will accelerate and inflation will recede. But to claim that this is a certainty is magical thinking at best.
Over the past few weeks, the debate surrounding the inherent “transitoriness of inflation” has become increasingly fierce, forcing Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to tacitly signale to other senior Fed officials that the word “transitory” shouldn’t be used during public remarks, even as America’s current inflationary issues, as the accelerating price pressures have already risen more quickly than the Fed had anticipated (something billionaire PTJ warned is the “biggest threat to society).
Yellen said she Friday she expects inflation to ebb over time and return to its longer-run average around 2%, which tracks with the Fed’s latest economic projections. The fact that it hasn’t subsided as quickly as the Fed had hoped is simply a reflection of the fact that humanity is still caught in an unprecedented pandemic in a globalized world.
“I think it’s still fair to use [‘transitory’] in the sense that even if it doesn’t mean a month or two, it means a little bit longer than that. I think it conveys that the pressures that we’re seeing are related to a unique shock to the economy,” she said. “As the United States recovers and as vaccinations proceed globally, and the global economic activity revives, that pricing pressure will ease.”
To be sure, not every business has been harmed or frustrated by inflation. Take hotels, for instance, which have the luxury of re-setting their prices every night. “If you look at the $3 trillion of incremental savings during COVID, there’s a long way to go to spend it all. Thank you Federal Reserve and the U.S. Congress for fiscal and monetary stimulus,” said CEO Christopher Nassetta.
But what we would like to know is why Yellen and other top officials at the Fed and elsewhere seem so blithe to throw away their reputations as sober-minded observers of the American economy. There was – not all that long ago – a time when Yellen spoke honestly about the inflationary threat. But now that this threat has apparently surpassed the Fed and Treasury’s worst-case scenarios, the Bide Admin and its top economic officials have decided to return to magical thinking while Biden weighs deploying the National Guard to drive trucks laden with goods off boatss.
Fri, 10/29/2021 – 19:05