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President Biden addressed rising inflation in his economy speech

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden says Americans have a lot to be thankful for, even if they're having to pay more for their turkey and cranberry sauce or to gas up the car to get to their Thanksgiving dinner. The president offered a sort of economic pep talk heading into the holiday. He says he is concerned the economic gains of the last year could be overshadowed by high inflation, which is hitting household budgets and the president's own approval rating.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now with more. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hey. OK, so we called this a pep talk, but let's get real here. Was it also sort of, like, damage control, too, on the president's part?

HORSLEY: Certainly. As the price of gasoline and groceries has gone up, the president's approval rating on the economy has been going down. Right now, it's hovering around 41%. And a lot of people are feeling pretty grumpy about the economy. You know, their paychecks are not stretching as far as they used to. The president's remarks this afternoon were partly to show he understands the pain that comes with rising prices, but it was also a chance for the president to remind people inflation's not the whole story.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's important to maintain perspective about where our economy stands today. The fact is, America has a lot to be proud of. We're experiencing the strongest economic recovery in the world. Even after accounting for inflation, our economy is bigger, and our families have more money in their pockets than they did before the pandemic.

HORSLEY: And Biden does have some good news he can point to - more than 5.5 million jobs added since he took office. The unemployment rates dipped to 4.6% long before many forecasters thought it would fall that low. The U.S. recovery is probably not the strongest in the world. China bounced back faster. But U.S. economic growth this year will likely be the fastest it's been in decades. And in fact, it's the very strength of that recovery, along with some supply chain bottlenecks, that have produced higher prices for things like gasoline.

CHANG: Yeah. On that front, I understand that the president announced some specific steps to address high gas prices. Can you talk about what those steps are?

HORSLEY: Yeah. Biden says demand for gas has grown pretty quickly as people started driving and traveling more, but oil producers in the U.S. and around the world have not kept up. Now, the administration thinks supply will catch up eventually. But in the meantime, Biden hopes to lower oil prices by releasing 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The president's also been talking with leaders of other oil-consuming countries like China, South Korea and the U.K., and they've agreed to tap their emergency stockpiles as well.

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BIDEN: This coordinated action will help us deal with the lack of supply, which in turn helps ease prices. The bottom line - today, we're launching a major effort to moderate the price of oil - an effort that will span the globe in its reach and ultimately reach your corner gas station, God willing.

HORSLEY: Now, I should say this is a fairly modest effort. Fifty million barrels of oil is about what the U.S. consumes in 2 1/2 days. And ultimately, of course, the president wants to wean the U.S. off of oil and encourage people to switch to electric cars. But in the meantime, Biden says he'll do what he can to keep gasoline prices in check. The White House certainly knows that high gas prices can deliver an outsized political and psychological punch.

CHANG: Absolutely. Well, I know that Biden also talked a bit about the supply chain challenges that have been contributing to this high inflation. I'm curious - how did he characterize how it's going on that front now?

HORSLEY: He's touting some progress on that front. The traffic jam at West Coast ports has eased a little bit in recent weeks, and shipping prices have come down, though they're still well above their pre-pandemic levels. You know, people who are looking for very specific items on their Christmas list may still have trouble finding what they want, but American businesses are pretty resourceful, and fears that we might see empty supermarkets at Thanksgiving turned out to be unfounded. Biden doesn't expect to see empty toy stores at Christmas, either.

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BIDEN: Families can rest easy. Grocery stores are well-stocked with turkey and everything you - else you need for Thanksgiving. And the major retailers I mentioned are - have confirmed that their shelves will be well-stocked in stores this holiday season.

HORSLEY: And the president also celebrated COVID vaccines and other promising treatments, which are allowing many Americans to do what they couldn't do this time last year - spend the holidays with their loved ones.

CHANG: That is NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.