CNBC anchor Joe Kernen called out Biden economic adviser Heather Boushey on Monday during a heated spat over the administration’s messaging on the struggling US economy.
The exchange on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” occurred after Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended the administration’s progress in fighting inflation.
Kernan asserted the Biden administration “usually rejects any blame” for inflation, prompting a retort from Boushey.
“This president put in place a set of policies that fixed the economy, put it on a better path, got jobs back,” Boushey said. “We created almost 10 million jobs under the president’s watch. That is an historic and impressive accomplishment that has been delivering for people around the country.”
In the same interview, Kernen pointed to signs of lingering trouble in the economy as Boushey touted the Biden administration’s progress despite rising geopolitical tensions.
“The stock market obviously has all these things wrong with it,” Kernen said. “That’s a pretty picture that you’ve painted, but it seems like mortgage rates have doubled in the last year, gas prices are still up probably 60%, 70% from where they were before the president took office, inflation’s running at 8.3%, 40-year highs.”
“Gas prices have come down phenomenally, Joe. You cannot deny that,” Boushey interjected.
“They were two-and-change when he came into office,” Kernen responded.
The national average price of gas was $3.677 per gallon as of Monday, according to AAA. Prices have fallen steadily since hitting an all-time high of $5.016 in June, but prices are still much higher than their average cost of $2.39 per gallon when Biden took office.
Boushey reiterated the Biden administration’s frequent assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was most responsible for the surge in gas prices.
“We’ve had a geopolitical crisis that has upended oil markets, which is why the president is so focused on moving us all toward electric vehicles,” she said.
“If you’re going to blame everything on the pandemic for inflation, then you’ve got to acknowledge that reopening after the pandemic is why we just got back to basically the job numbers that we had before the pandemic, that 10 million [jobs] just got us back to even,” Kernen responded.
“We are putting ourselves on a better path now,” Boushey said.
The exchange occurred days after Kernen also challenged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on inflation – urging the Biden Cabinet member to “be honest” about inflation and other problems facing American households.
Meanwhile, Biden personally downplayed the inflation crisis during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, even after an alarming August Consumer Price Index report that showed prices jumping by a larger-than-expected 8.3%.
When CBS correspondent Scott Pelley mentioned the 8.3% increase figure, Biden responded that prices were “up just an inch, hardly at all” compared to the previous month.
Pelley pushed back, noting inflation was at its highest level in four decades. Again, Biden downplayed the situation.
“I got that. But guess what we are. We’re in a position where, for the last several months, it hasn’t spiked,” Biden responded. “It has just barely, it’s been basically even. And in the meantime, we created all these jobs.”
Biden acknowledged that prices “have gone up” but noted they’ve “come down for energy.”
“The fact is that we’ve created 10 million new jobs,” he added.