May 26, 2021
Senate Republicans Press Conference on Inflation, Biden’s Economic Policies Transcript
Republican Senators held a press conference on May 26, 2021 to discuss concerns about Biden’s economic policies and inflation. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Sen. Rick Scott: (00:00)
… Biden won’t talk about it. Where’s Joe Biden? He will not talk about inflation, even though he’s proposed $7.1 trillion in spending. Historically, government spending has always caused inflation, excessive government spending. So today, we have a contest that you guys all get to participate in. So I hope you’re ready with your answers. It’s called the Biden’s… It’s like the price is wrong, but the price is right, but now it’s the price is wrong because the wrong things are happening. So first off, what do you all think as far as how much in the last 12 months… and these are products that impacts everybody, right? Milk, bread and gas. How much, as a percentage, how much is milk up in 12 months?
Speaker 2: (00:41)
Sen. Rick Scott: (00:43)
50%. Anybody else?
Speaker 3: (00:45)
Sen. Rick Scott: (00:47)
30%. So milk is up 5.5%. Now first off, people think [crosstalk 00:00:54] but people think about it, 5.5% is not a lot. But I can tell you, already over 80% of Americans are saying they have to tighten their belts and 80% of Americans are concerned about the price of milk and bread and diapers and gas and things like that. All right. Let’s see if we do better with bread. How much is bread up as a percentage?
Speaker 4: (01:16)
Sen. Rick Scott: (01:18)
All right. It’s up 7.4% just in 12 months. All right. And how about gas? Now, everybody has to buy gas. How much is that up? 51%. How many of you have filled up your car lately? 51% increase. Now, if you take a family like mine growing up, I grew up in a very poor family. I went to the grocery store whenever my mom had money. She would take an ironing to make ends meet. Either my older brother and I, whoever my mom made, one of us would go to the grocery store for our family and she gave us a set amount of money. So when you saw something go up in price, we didn’t have the money to pay for it. This is a kitchen table issue going on all across our country right now. People are worried about inflation.
Sen. Rick Scott: (02:00)
So milk being up, bread being up, gas being up, who does it impact? It doesn’t change the life of the rich, it’s the poor. The people on fixed income. So if you’re on fixed income and all these things go up, your wages aren’t going up. If you’re a poor family, your wages never go up as fast as inflation is going up. We have got to stop this reckless spending. Joe Biden’s off his… his ideas of $7.1 trillion is going to make it worse. Already what they did with this 1.9 trillion, which had very little to do with COVID, Larry Summers, an economist from Democrat administration has already said, “This is going to cause significant inflation,” and we’re seeing it. So Joe Biden has got to stop this reckless spending, stop asking for it, and all of us have to figure out how do we stop this wasteful spending. So now let me turn it over to Senator Ron Johnson.
Sen. Ron Johnson: (02:51)
Well, thanks, Rick. I think you should have started out with gasoline. They would’ve got that one right. The gross amounts of spending didn’t just start this year. It was in reaction to COVID and we had to do something massive, we had to do something quick. But let’s face it, over the last 18 months, we’ve had about $7 trillion in debt of spending. Now President Biden is predicting or proposing another $7 trillion. We’re $20 trillion in debt. By the end of this fiscal year, we’ll be about $30 trillion in debt and that’s on top of a roughly 21, $22 trillion economy. We’re at dangerous levels. Rick talked a little bit about some of these macro inflation numbers. Personal savings is up two and a half trillion dollars year over year. It was $1.6 trillion, now it’s 4.1. We have so much pent up demand. Our economy is already taking off from the COVID recession, but the problem we have is we can’t supply all the goods, all the services that the American population wants.
Sen. Ron Johnson: (03:56)
That sets the conditions for runaway inflation. I want to really talk about the labor component to inflation. Because gasoline prices, other prices go up and down. That’s commodity. That can happen. Lumber prices, talked to Wisconsin home builders. The average price of a new home being constructed today in Wisconsin, the cost of it has increased by $36,000 just because of lumber prices. There’s a manufacturer I talked to in Wisconsin. Average wage that he’s offering is $20 an hour. He’s got 1000 jobs that are not going to be filled, that he can’t fill in. In Wisconsin, our unemployment rate’s at 3.8%. So again, commodities will go up and down, but as that labor shortage which by the way is created by government action. We’re flooding the marketplace with dollars, personal savings, pent up demand. That’s going to fuel inflation. But the fact that we have incentivized people to stay on the sidelines, not engage in the labor market and not offer their services is going to drive up the price of labor. That doesn’t go up and down. That only ratchets up in one direction.
Sen. Ron Johnson: (05:10)
Now, you may say, hey, that’s good if you get at 5% wage increase. It’s not very good though if prices go up six or 7%, which is what we’re on a trajectory to achieve. That is sticky inflation. That’s here to stay. And my concern is that creates an expectation of future inflation. And I know I’m reading articles saying there’s no way we could ever return to stagflation. I’m seeing the conditions. I’m seeing the ingredients being concocted here for potential stagflation. You increase taxes, that’s going to harm our economy. When businesses can’t get the commodities, everybody’s on allocation for residence supplies, for lumber. When they can’t find the labor, you’re not going to produce the products. They can’t get the component parts to manufacturing. That’s going to also harm our economy and potentially snuff it out, the recovery. You combine that with inflation, you’ve got stagflation.
Sen. Ron Johnson: (06:07)
One final example of how difficult it is, in Wisconsin for example, to find labor is Milwaukee County just announced they’re canceling fireworks two years in a row. Not because of COVID this time, because they literally can’t find the people to put on the fireworks display. I realize that’s a small example, but it’s just showing that the headwinds we’ve caused here by federal plus up to unemployment that fortunately about 21 Republican governors have announced that they’re not going to take anymore. But we called for it in Wisconsin. Governor Evers has ignored our plea to stop accepting that so that Wisconsin employers can start hiring people. But again, we have to be concerned about longterm wage inflation that will be surpassed by the rate of inflation and it’ll wipe out those gains.
Speaker 6: (07:03)
Thank you. I went through inflation back in the 1970s growing up, and it wasn’t a pretty sight and we’re getting ready to see it really build. It is a situation where I was in Auburn, Alabama last week. I paid a dollar more gallon for gas at just a local store, which is normally a lower price. A dollar more a gallon. The average person cannot afford that. This is basically attacks on the poor. And I keep hearing from this administration, we’re not going to raise taxes on the middle class. The people that don’t have money. Well, folks, it is hitting us right between the eyes. And it’s a shame that we’re doing this to people that don’t deserve it and at a tough time coming off of COVID when people are trying to get back to work. And there’s jobs out there, people can get a job, but here’s what’s happening. I talked to Alabama Home Builders Association this morning. Particle board, which is one of the main ingredients of building a house or any kind of construction is up 700% this year.
Speaker 6: (08:15)
What’s happening? People are saying, I’m not building. I’m not building because prices are too high. Laying people off work. People won’t have an opportunity to make a living and it’s going to get worse. We’re just hitting the very tip of what’s going to happen. Poor people, people without money don’t deserve having to pay 5, 10, 15% more for groceries. That’s where it hurts. So the Biden administration, they’re getting ready to get what they asked for. And we’re telling them right now, you better make some decisions and it’s not throwing money at the problem. Every time we look up, when I was in education, everybody says, “We can make education better. We’re going to throw money at it,” and it doesn’t do one bit of good. It’s called organization and planning and leadership. And we have very little of that going on right now. We’ve got to take advantage of this situation coming out of the pandemic and we’re going the opposite direction. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (09:17)
Well, coach was telling you what they’re saying in Alabama. And let me tell you, they’re saying about the same thing in Tennessee. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the gas pump or the cash register at the grocery store, you are paying more for everything. And this is totally because of policies of the Biden administration and changes that he has made since he came into office. You can start with that decision to kill the Keystone Pipeline. And when you look at what the price is for groceries, everything comes in a plastic container. Well, where do you get these containers from?
Speaker 7: (10:04)
They come from the polymers. They come from the hydrocarbons. So of course not only is your logistics costs going up, your container costs, your production cost and the cost of those food items. The cost to build a house, the costs to run a business. Every cost that you incur from the time your feet hit the floor in the morning to the time you turn that light switch off at night, the cost is going up and it is all due to the change in policies that the Biden administration has put in place. The Biden administration owns this economy.
Speaker 8: (10:53)
Back in 1978 when I was 17 years old, I moved out of home. I had a great family life, but I was pretty independent. That was roughly the time when we started seeing these numbers. This gas price was the difference between me being able to fill my tank or maybe put enough in it to where I can get back and forth to work every other day until I found another source of cash. The president is mistaken in talking about raising taxes. Anybody who thinks that we’re going through transitory inflation right now should take a look at what that really means. We’re not talking about a couple of quarters of inflation. We’re talking about policies that could have that extend into next year and years beyond. And who it hurts the most are kids like me that were struggling to make ends meet and my parents who were trying to feed six hungry kids.
Speaker 8: (11:39)
The American people need to understand this is the tip of the iceberg. You talk to manufacturers in North Carolina and across this country, they’re talking about double and triple digit increases in inputs. They’re going to make houses unaffordable. They’re going to put the American dream out of rage. And the president is talking about going farther with an infrastructure bill that has little to do with infrastructure. With proposals on spending and taxes are going to make it a lot harder for kids like me who are dealing with the Biden economy. And I hope their president listens and understands the people harmed the most are the ones that he professes to be most concerned about.
Speaker 9: (12:19)
Well, good afternoon. And I think that coach’s people have been talking to my people, have been talking to Marcia’s people as well. I was back in Kansas this weekend and $100 bill would not fill my Ford truck with gasoline. And I know there’s a lot of other Americans that went to the grocery store this weekend, and they’ve all been to the Dame Ramsey school of finance. They went in there with their budget and they walked home. They filled the refrigerator and they filled their pantries. And guess what? They were about half full or three quarters full. Certainly we’re starting to feel it. Thanks to inflation, COVID is no longer the top of the mountain for Americans’ concerns and problems. I too remember the ’80s. I remember the inflation of the ’80s was the most challenging economic times of my life. I also remember our pre COVID economy, the greatest economy of my lifetime, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Speaker 9: (13:11)
Thanks to rolling back regulations, thanks to energy independence. It was the greatest economy of our lifetime. And today I look out there and see the social injustices created by the socialist economy and the socialist policies of this administration. And I just want everyone to realize, and to emphasize that this inflation is a social injustice. It certainly hurts those who are on the lower income portion more than other folks. It certainly hurts our senior citizens who are on fixed incomes. Folks who have young families. Young hardworking Americans are impacted more by inflation than anybody else. And again, I just think at the end of the day, what we’re seeing here is a very socialist agenda that’s leading to social injustices. Thank you.
Speaker 10: (13:58)
Thank you. I’m the ranking member on agriculture. And on that committee, we do our best to represent our farmers, our foresters, our ranchers, all of those involved in agriculture. It’s so important. Agriculture is such a big part of our states and Arkansas’ 25%. It doesn’t matter if it’s Arkansas or Ohio or wherever, it’s a huge part. But when you get into rural America, it’s probably 85 or 90%. We’re in a situation now where there’s two things going on that are really hurting rural America, hurting agriculture. And many of you are from these places. First thing is the potential for the stepped up basis, the inheritance tax. We had a forester testify in committee the other day, the head forester, he said, and I quote, “It would be devastating to the forestry industry.” So we’ve got that going on. We’ve got the land swap, doing away with that. Doubling the capital gain.
Speaker 10: (14:57)
The list goes on and on. But these are very, very difficult for our farm community and thus rural America. The other thing that’s happened is we worked so hard to get our commodity prices up. We’ve had our trade issues. We’ve sorted a lot of those things out. We’re getting additional trade issues. Commodity prices have come up for our farmers where they can actually make a living now. That’s a good thing. When you look at these prices, especially the energy inputs, fertilizer, the electricity that they use for irrigation and the diesel they use for irrigation, the list goes on and on. As your input costs go up, you wipe out these increase in commodity prices. So these are serious things. And again, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts. The Biden agenda is influencing such that we’re causing a significant inflationary period.
Speaker 11: (15:53)
So I’m not going to repeat everything that’s already been said, but inflation is a huge regressive tax. That’s a fact. So the poorest people in America are going to be impacted the most. Secondly, in an area that I care deeply about, energy, that’s also something we’re seeing a huge increase. Look at the pump, look at energy costs. And that is a completely self-inflicted wound right now by this administration. Why? They’re restricting the production of American energy and importing more oil from Russia than ever before. That doesn’t make sense. They are making it harder to permit things like pipelines and canceling them and delaying them. That doesn’t make sense. And they’re even going to Wall Street and saying to come to our banks, “Don’t invest in the American energy sector,” putting pressure on the production of American energy. American energy prices are going to go up because of these policies and the people who will be hurt the most are the least fortunate Americans. That is a fact that’s happening now, and it needs to change.
Sen. Rick Scott: (17:08)
So we’ll be glad to take any questions. But the bottom line is this, the Biden ministration is hurting the poorest families in our country. The people on fixed income, they can’t stay up with these price increases. Our poor families, their wages are never going to go up as fast as these price increases. So they’re hurting the poorest families in our country. Right now it’s happening all across this country. So be glad to answer any questions anybody has. Yes.
Speaker 12: (17:28)
What would you say to the White House argument that these increases in prices are just transitory? That one month does not make a trend and that this is a natural part of the economy’s adjustment to reopen?
Sen. Rick Scott: (17:41)
Well, these are pretty big price increases. I was with Jay Powell. He said we wouldn’t see inflation more than two and a half percent. This is a lot higher. Look at CPI, now 4.2%, commodity prices up 16%. It doesn’t look like it’s very transitory. And by the way, if you look at these numbers from February, so before COVID to now, the numbers are still just as bad. So you never know what’s going to happen. But if you look at all the things that they’re doing, whether it’s the tax increases, the regulatory reform, all of these things are causing prices to go up and it’s going to hurt the poorest families in our country.
Speaker 13: (18:16)
Senator Scott, the price of milk went up 9% from 2019 to 2020. Why did that happen? I mean, would you have blamed that on the Trump administration?
Sen. Rick Scott: (18:25)
I would blame it on reckless government spending. I’ve been complaining about the risk of inflation for the last… Since I got up here. I believe excessive government spending, when you run big deficits, when you see the Federal Reserve balance sheet go from four to $8 trillion, when you see money supply going up 25%, you’re going to see inflation. So all this, but today, this year, already $1.9 trillion. Anticipating they spend $7.1 trillion. This will be nothing as compared… I mean, it will be way worse than this.
Senator Tillis: (18:57)
You also have to keep in mind that same period wages went up largely due to the Jobs Cuts and Tax Act.
Speaker 9: (19:04)
Sen. Rick Scott: (19:05)
Can I just point out. So if you go back and look at the time I was governor of Florida, that’s exactly what Senator Tillis said is that we started seeing our wages go up, which is the best thing you can see. If you can see all wages go up, not just the wages for the rich, has the biggest impact on our country.
Speaker 9: (19:19)
So inflation occurs when we have too much cash [inaudible 00:19:22] too few commodities, too few products out there. And this will not be transitory if we keep paying people an extra $300 per week to stay at home. What that’s doing is bottling up and creating more shortages. For instance, in the meat marketing program, we have, I don’t know, 75% of the nation’s beef processing in Kansas and we can’t get people to come back to work. So that’s creating an artificial shortage of beef which is driving up the price of meat at the grocery store.
Speaker 15: (19:50)
Senator Scott, Senator Scott.
Sen. Rick Scott: (19:52)
Speaker 15: (19:53)
Officer Sicknick’s mother just put out a statement saying that not having a January 6th commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the face of all the officers who did their jobs that day. She’s asking to meet with Republican senators who are going to vote against the January 6th commission which I believe all six of you or seven of you will. What’s your message to Officer Sicknick’s mother and will you meet with?
Sen. Rick Scott: (20:13)
Sure. Well, first of all, I meet with people all the time and I’m very supportive of law enforcement. And I talk to sheriffs and police chiefs all across Florida constantly. I talked to one yesterday. What happened on January 6th is despicable. Everybody needs to be held accountable. The FBI’s already arrested, I think, over 400 people. They’re holding people accountable. We have two committees right now doing a report. We’ll get that report in the next, I think, two weeks.
Speaker 16: (20:37)
We’ll take one more question.
Sen. Rick Scott: (20:39)
Speaker 17: (20:44)
What’s your concern about reckless spending [inaudible 00:20:44] the White House would say long term investments in the economy aren’t going to cause [inaudible 00:20:48]
Sen. Rick Scott: (20:48)
Well, I’ll invest in infrastructure if it’s called roads, bridges, airports, and seaports. I did $85 billion in my eight years as governor. I think their original so-called infrastructure bill had $115 billion over 10 years for the whole country. It wasn’t infrastructure. But the way we did in Florida, we did it where we could cut taxes and reduce our debt. I paid off, that same eight years, a third of state debt and we cut taxes 100 times. What they’re doing up here is they’re saying they want to spend all this money on so-called infrastructure, it’s not, and they want to raise taxes. So you can’t be… And they want to run up the debt and you can’t do that.
Sen. Ron Johnson: (21:22)
So let me add, I think we all would agree that we do need to invest in infrastructure but it has to be true infrastructure. But there’s a way of doing without adding the federal debt. It’s called repurposing the more than $700 billion of the COVID relief bill that was going to be spent in years 2022 through 2028. So that obviously is not COVID relief. So you’ve got that pile of money there that we can just repurpose. $700 billion would be a very good down payment on true infrastructure spending.
Sen. Rick Scott: (21:52)