By JOSH BOAK
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told The Associated Press Thursday that the American people are “really, really depressed” after two tumultuous years with the coronavirus pandemic, volatile economy and now soaring prices. gasoline that slams family budgets.
He said a recession is not inevitable and bristled at claims by Republican lawmakers that last year’s COVID-19 relief package was entirely responsible for inflation hitting a 40-year high. , calling this argument “weird”.
As for the general mood of Americans, Biden said, “People are really, really depressed.”
“They’re really down,” he said. “The need for mental health in America, it’s skyrocketed, because people have seen everything turned upside down. Everything they counted on turned upside down. But most of it is the consequence of what happened, what happened as a result of the COVID crisis.
Speaking to the AP in a 30-Minute Oval Office interview, Biden responded to warnings from economists that the United States could be heading into a recession.
“First of all, it’s not inevitable,” he said. “Second, we are in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation.”
As for the causes of inflation, Biden has been somewhat defensive in this regard. “If it’s my fault, why is it the case in all the other major industrialized countries in the world that inflation is higher? Are you wondering that? I am not a sage,” he said.
The president said he saw reason to be optimistic with the 3.6% unemployment rate and America’s relative strength in the world.
“Be confident, because I am convinced that we are better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century,” Biden said. “That’s not hyperbole, that’s fact.”
Biden’s grim assessment of the national psyche comes as voters soured on his job performance and the direction of the country. Only 39% of American adults approve of Biden’s performance as president, according to a May poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research, falling from already negative ratings a month earlier.
Overall, only about 2 in 10 adults said the United States is heading in the right direction or the economy is good, both down from about 3 in 10 in April. Those declines were concentrated among Democrats, with just 33% in the presidential party saying the country is heading in the right direction, down from 49% in April.
The president described some of the tough choices he faced, saying the United States must stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine in February, even as tough sanctions imposed as a result of that war have drives up gasoline prices, creating a political crisis. risk for Biden in an election year. He called on oil companies to think about short-term global needs and increase production.
When asked why he ordered financial sanctions against Moscow that disrupted global food and energy markets, Biden said he made his calculations as commander-in-chief rather than as commander-in-chief. as a politician thinking about elections.
“I am the President of the United States,” he said. “It’s the best in the country. No kidding. No kidding. So what’s going on? What will happen if the strongest power in NATO, the organizational structure that we have put in place, moves away from Russian aggression? »
Biden created the possibility of chaos in Europe if an unfettered Russia continued to push deeper into the continent, China was encouraged to seize control of Taiwan, and North Korea grew even more aggressive with its ambitions to ‘nuclear weapons.
Biden reiterated his assertion that major oil companies have benefited from higher prices without increasing production as much as they should. He said companies need to think about the short-term world, not just their investors.
“Don’t just reward yourself,” he said.