Biden pulls back from recession talk, speaks up to fight inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden and his administration moved Thursday to play down a troubling new economic report that added to the evidence of a recession, trying instead to draw attention to major legislative progress on measures to tame inflation, reduce debt and maintain America’s competitive advantage.

The desire to emphasize the positive reflected the political tensions that are already playing out in the run-up to the midterm elections. Republican lawmakers are sounding the alarm that a downturn has already begun, a claim challenged by Biden and his fellow Democrats, who wanted the public to focus instead on a few likely wins in Congress.

Thursday reflected the constant push-and-pull that has defined the Biden administration, where every triumph can be overshadowed by a setback and the news cycle moves at a faster pace than victory laps. This created dueling narratives about where the land is.

Republicans said the report, showing the economy shrank for a second straight quarter, was evidence of a “Biden recession” at a time when inflation is at a four-decade high.

Biden, in turn, cited near-record low unemployment and signs of continued business investment in the economy. He declared, “That doesn’t sound like a recession to me.”

The president celebrated Congress’ passage of a bipartisan $280 billion package to boost the U.S. semiconductor industry and the sudden resurrection of a Democrat-only proposal to lower prescription drug costs, tackle climate change, fund the IRS, establish a minimum corporate tax and reduce the deficit.

Other White House officials took Biden’s cue, shrugging off the gross domestic product report that showed the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.9%.

“Where we are right now, we’re on the cusp of doing really historic things that would help move the ball forward on the economy,” Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, told The Associated Press when he was asked about worrying GDP report. “That’s our focus.”

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