‘How?’: CNBC Host Pushes Back Against Biden Econ Advisor Who Said Inflation Complaints Are ‘Becoming Stale’

[Screenshot CNBC]

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
Font Size:

CNBC’s Scott Wapner pushed back against White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein on Monday after Bernstein claimed that complaints about inflation are “becoming stale.”

President Joe Biden has struggled in recent polls, with CNN finding that 51 percent of Americans say the economy is getting worse and Biden himself receiving a 41 percent approval rating. For his handling of the economy, Biden received just a 37 percent approval rating, according to the poll. The approval rating for his handling of inflation is even worse, at 30 percent.

Wapner questioned Bernstein about why Biden’s poll numbers remain low despite other economic indicators that appear to be trending in a positive direction.

“It’s pretty telling as we talk about GDP and the GDP now from the Atlanta fed at 5.8, which was stunning, obviously, to everybody. Any president who had numbers like that — a 5.8 GDP, wages where they are, unemployment rates low, consumers are strong, they’re keeping the train on the track and, you know, going at a pretty good clip — and yet, the polling numbers as we talked at the outset are just 36 percent,” Wapner said. “It’s a dramatic disconnect, obviously, but it also points to the fact that inflation is driving the train and as long as inflation remains — even if it remains where it is, it’s still sticky. How do you compete against that narrative? Because otherwise you could build a case that said, ‘You know what? The economy’s pretty good.’ But the people don’t care because they’re tired of paying higher prices and they think the president is, at least in part, to blame.”

“Look, I hear where you’re coming from, and I get this question all the time, but I feel like that line of questioning is starting to get a little bit stale, and the reason I say that —” Bernstein began before Wapner cut in. (RELATED: Chuck Todd Says Biden’s Job Approval In Polls ‘Doesn’t Look Good’ For Him)

“How?” the host interjected.

“I’m gonna explain. The reason I say that is you’ve got to get into some of the guts of what these polls are telling us. Now I understand the approval rating, and I think that that invokes a level of political tribalism that has a lot to do with things other than how the economy is doing,” Bernstein responded. “From my perspective as the chair of the [president’s Council of Economic Advisers], look at the University of Michigan [Consumer] Sentiment [Index], at its highest level since October of ’21. It’s been coming up. Same thing with consumer confidence. Look, job satisfaction is at a 36-year high. The [Conference] Board [Job] Satisfaction survey is the highest level it’s been since they started tracking that in ’87.”

“You talk about inflation, inflation expectations are down in the University of Michigan survey. So I think if you get under the hood, you look at some of the more recent trends, we’re beginning to see, particularly — and I think it is disinflation; I think it’s the fact that inflation went from nine to about three percent — is registering with folks, and especially when it starts generating real wage gains. So look, I think the remarkable thing in this economy that you didn’t mention is we got all that inflation reduction without giving up anything thus far on the unemployment rate for aficionados of the Phillips curve, that’s a zero sacrifice ratio,” he continued, referring to the economic theory that lower inflation leads to higher unemployment (and vice versa).

“And that’s a strategy to get real wages going up, maintain tight labor market with easing inflation, real wage gains,” Bernstein concluded. “That’s precisely what we’re seeing, and it’s starting — it’s starting to show up in some of these poll numbers.”

Mortgage rates hit a 20-year-high recently amid interest rate hikes, with inflation remaining elevated in July at 3.2 percent year-over-year compared to 3.0 percent in June. Inflation peaked in June of 2022 at 9.1 percent.