Biden’s fragile claims about jobs and gasoline

WASHINGTON (AP) – Boasting that government policies can make a difference in improving the economy, President Joe Biden went too far on Thursday by taking credit for job growth since his input function.

He has also dubiously suggested that wrongdoing is behind the rise in gasoline prices – something his administration will seek to correct. But analysts say there is little evidence that is the case.

A look at his claims and facts:

BIDEN: “When I was sworn in as president, the nation was struggling to come out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Job growth was anemic, with just over 60,000 new jobs per month in the three months before I was sworn in. Then we got down to business. We adopted the US bailout in March. And it worked; it still works. Over the past three months, we have created an average of 750,000 new jobs per month.

THE FACTS: Biden takes more credit for his plan than he deserves.

Robust hiring since its inauguration largely reflects the reopening of the U.S. economy after a huge winter wave of coronavirus infections began to peak in January. Widespread vaccinations, which topped three million a day in the spring, have played a key role in allowing restaurants, bars and entertainment venues to reopen and start hiring again. Planes were filling up, as were hotels.

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Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion financial bailout, approved by Congress in March, played an important role. By providing a third round of stimulus checks and extending an expanded unemployment benefit program until the first week of September, Biden’s plan has increased spending and the economy by putting more money in their pockets. Americans.

But the hiring slowed down sharply I n August to a gain of just 235,000 jobs, as the delta variant increased the number of cases, underscoring the virus’s continued hold on the economy.

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BIDEN: “We are also pursuing the bad actors and profiteers of the pandemic in our economy. There is a lot of evidence that gas prices are expected to come down, but it is not. We are looking at this closely. “

THE FACTS: There is actually little evidence that anything bad is behind higher gasoline prices, as Biden suggests.

In fact, gasoline prices generally drop after Labor Day, after the peak summer driving season. While that has yet to happen this year, analysts say factors other than embezzlement appear to be at play. Gasoline and oil prices in the United States, for example, have been affected by a hurricane that temporarily shut down most oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, several large refineries and a major pipeline to the east coast.

The national average price of a gallon of gasoline is $ 3.19, according to the AAA Automobile Club. This is unchanged from a month ago, although up by a dollar compared to the same period last year.

Gasoline prices generally follow oil prices, and the benchmark US crude price is again near its early July highs after falling in August.

Jeffery Born, an energy markets expert at Northeastern University, said current gasoline prices are in part the result of production and refining capacity that was decommissioned by the hurricane. Ida and other factors – even a shortage of tanker drivers.

“In short, I think we have supply chain issues,” Born said. “I’m sure Joe wants the prices down – you and me too. I would also like to weigh 20 pounds less tomorrow.

Phil Flynn, energy analyst at Price Futures Group and energy policy critic at Biden, said the prices reflect demand that has come back stronger than expected from the pandemic and declining oil production in the United States, aggravated by events such as the hurricane.

“I don’t see any profiteers or bad actors,” Flynn said.

Tom Kloza, chief analyst at consultancy firm Oil Price Information Service, said Hurricane Ida and its lingering effects on production and refining are causing summer prices to “linger longer”, especially in the summer. east of the Rockies. He predicted that pump prices would soon drop in the Western, Southwestern and Rocky Mountain states.

Energy economist Philip Verleger said gasoline prices are being supported by independent U.S. producers and OPEC members limiting their oil production, by the cost of blending ethanol into gasoline and by the decline in gasoline inventories.

There are already signs that retail gasoline prices have peaked, with the Energy Information Administration signaling last week that gasoline prices are expected to drop in the coming months. He predicted that prices would average $ 3.14 per gallon in September before dropping to $ 2.91 in the last three months of the year, as drive declines during the winter months and refining operations resume after being damaged by the hurricane.

Biden joins a rich tradition of presidents expressing frustration with high gasoline prices. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump tweeted about OPEC, the Saudi-led oil producer cartel.

“Oil prices are getting too high,” Trump tweeted. “OPEC, please relax and take it slow. The world cannot stand a price increase – fragile!

Biden himself tried this approach last month, when he urged OPEC members to increase oil production just as there were fears that rising energy prices could slow the recovery. of the US economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Production cuts made during the pandemic should be reversed as the global economy recovers in order to lower prices for consumers,” Biden said at the time.

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Koenig reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.

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Editor’s note – A look at the veracity of the assertions of political figures.

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