One of the biggest concerns that Americans wanted President Biden to address during the State of the Union speech was inflation.

Rising prices on necessities, particularly food, are hammering households for yet another consecutive year. The president did little to empathize with those who are spending increasingly more of their income to feed their families.

Perhaps he and his White House speech writers are out of touch with just how high food prices have skyrocketed under his watch. 

Perhaps he wanted to avoid the blame for inflation taking off in 2021 just after his signature American Rescue Plan was passed and enacted.

Perhaps both explanations are accurate. 

In either case, by overemphasizing that prices are not rising as fast as they were last summer and downplaying that prices are still markedly higher than when he was sworn in, he comes across as tone-deaf and disconnected from the everyday realities of most Americans. 

Americans are pessimistic about the economy precisely because of the stationary nature of inflation. 

New Rasmussen polling finds that nearly nine out of ten Americans say they are paying more for grocery prices than one year ago.  

Over half think they will be paying more for groceries a year from now.

As the primary shoppers in many households, women are keenly attentive to price increases along with shortages and shrinking packages.

In the same survey, women were more likely than men to have noticed they were paying higher grocery prices and more likely to have changed their eating habits because of inflation.

In recent Gallup polling, two out of three Americans (67%) say they expect inflation to rise. Overall, Americans’ confidence in the economy remains low. Inflation is a driver of that negative sentiment.

So what did we hear from President Biden about this top-of-mind issue? Gaslighting and a blame game.

As I explained in a Unicorn Fact Check, President Biden deserves four unicorns for his make-believe statement about the timeline and origins of inflation:

In January 2021 [when he took office], inflation (as measured by the consumer price index) was 1.4%. Inflation hovered near zero for a good part of 2020 and when it recovered, it never reached above 2%–the Federal Reserve’s target rate–since February 2020. The pandemic actually kept inflation low for most of 2020.

In March 2021, inflation nearly doubled to 2.6% and then nearly doubled again the next month to 4.2%. The inflation rate rose 18 months straight during President Biden’s first two years in office, climbing to 9.1% in June 2022. Prices were rising well before they spiked due to the Russian invasion.

And as for his claims that inflation is a global issue, a San Francisco Federal Reserve paper explained that inflation in the U.S. rose before it did in other countries due to massive federal spending on benefits such as stimulus checks and unemployment: 

Problems with global supply chains and changes in spending patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed up inflation worldwide. However, since the first half of 2021, U.S. inflation has increasingly outpaced inflation in other developed countries. Estimates suggest that fiscal support measures designed to counteract the severity of the pandemic’s economic effect may have contributed to this divergence by raising inflation about 3 percentage points by the end of 2021.

Americans deserve for President Biden to be honest that massive federal spending two years ago led to high prices over his term in office. 

Unfortunately, they are unlikely to ever receive such an admission.

More concerningly, policymakers are still committed to inflationary spending and will try again in the future to pass more of it.