Prices across the United States are rising, and Americans are starting to feel the pinch. The most recent Consumer Price Index, which tracks the cost of goods for most Americans, shows that prices rose over 5% last month compared to the same period a year ago. Supply chain bottlenecks and increased demand — driven by COVID-19 relief policies that increased income and savings past what could have been expected without the pandemic — have contributed greatly to this rapid inflation and serve as a warning against future stimulus checks. Inflation is now predicted to last at least until the middle of 2022, if not longer.
In the height of Washington Democrats’ summer push for trillions more in government spending, key party leaders downplayed inflation concerns. President Biden said in July that price increases were “temporary,” and many have claimed this is simply “transitory inflation.” But, after nearly half a year of significant rises in the cost of goods, the American people are growing concerned that inflation is here to stay.
Since March 2020, State Policy Network and Heart+Mind Strategies have tracked Americans’ opinions and needs in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s response to it. The most recent findings, released in September 2021, show that Americans, regardless of party affiliation or race, are significantly concerned about inflation.
A separate question in the Heart+Mind survey asks Americans, unaided, about concerns their households face today. Results show the American people are largely anxious about economic issues. The “Build Back Better” infrastructure plan from the Biden Administration is slowly working its way through Congress toward reconciliation. But, a massive government spending bill—largely focused on social programs—is unlikely to provide Americans relief from their worries.
Economic stability (29%) and cost of living (20%) concerns are the most top-of-mind for Americans. Yet the Build Back Better plan doesn’t create policy to deal with the underlying issues causing these concerns; it simply adds an influx of government money to the economy which experts warn is likely to exacerbate inflation and related price increases.
Taxes are not a primary concern for Americans today (1%) but that might change with tax changes included in the Build Back Better Plan. These tax increases are estimated to depress employment by 303,000 jobs, which will be troubling for the 7% of Americans whose largest concern is employment. It will also undermine the economic stability Americans crave.
One-in-five respondents (19%) mention concerns about health or healthcare but just 2% said the cost of health insurance is the specific issue they worry about. Yet, the Biden Administration’s plan includes a considerable sum for Medicare expansion, a program which continues to be in dire need of reform.
The infrastructure bill also sets money aside for combating climate change, which Democrats have noted needs to be included so Biden can take something to the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow. However, this is not a key concern among American households (2%) and will not provide any immediate economic relief to the people.
Government policy and relief spending is a risky endeavor regardless of intention, especially at the federal level. But, it only ever works when it’s aligned with what the people want and need. The Build Back Better Plan misses that mark by ignoring, and likely aggravating, the real issues Americans are facing today – the rising cost of living and economic instability brought on by surging inflation.