CNBC anchor Joe Kernen took Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to task on Friday for the Biden administration holding a celebration on the same day that a worse-than-expected August inflation report caused stocks to tank.
President Biden held a party on the White House’s South Lawn on Tuesday to celebrate passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The event occurred even as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 1,300 points in response to federal data showing prices jumped 8.3% in August.
Kernen initially asked Buttigieg whether he felt it was a “mistake” for the White House to hold the celebration — but he turned more aggressive when the Biden cabinet member argued the party was warranted because of the Democrat-backed legislation’s long-term benefits.
“On that day it looked really tone-deaf. What you’re telling me is, just stick to the script,” Kernen said.
“’The economy is great, the border is secure, our cities are safe.’ Wouldn’t it be better to just be honest? Wouldn’t it be better to just be honest with the American people about the soup that we’re in right now and we can all try to deal with it together?” Kernen added.
Buttigieg stood his ground while touting the Inflation Reduction Act’s investments in climate-related spending and clauses to lower prescription drug costs.
“Nobody’s saying that we don’t have any problems, but if you don’t pause and recognize the meaning of one of the most significant pieces of legislation so far in the 21st century, just because we also have a lot of other problems, then I think you’re really feeding into a narrative that’s really pulling America down and holding America back,” Buttigieg said.
The conversation shifted to a discussion of the legislation’s name, with Kernen questioning why Democratic lawmakers referred to the law as the “Inflation Reduction Act.” Independent analyses have found the legislation, with its significant outlays for green energy and health care, will have little to no benefit on decades-high inflation.
“It wasn’t named the Climate Act. You deliberately, and some people would say erroneously, named it the Inflation Reduction Act and you’re celebrating it again on a day when, again, we had 40-year highs in inflation,” Kernen said.
“You know how it affects people on the low end of things,” he continued. “It’s like the most insidious problem an economy can face.”
“The worst thing about inflation is it means people are paying too much by definition for things,” Buttigieg responded. “What this bill does is allow people to pay less for things.”
The Biden administration faced widespread pushback over its response to the most recent Consumer Price Index data.
Earlier this week, CNN cut away from Biden’s speech at the event, with anchors pointing out it was “hard to be celebratory” while the stock market was in freefall.