"They’re the kind of folks who see inflation as something that happens on paper. But seeing it on paper is different than feeling it."

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Video of Senator Sasse's speech is available here or by clicking the image above

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, spoke on the Senate floor condemning the White House's spin, condescension, and celebration of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act while Americans are facing record-breaking inflation. 

"Washington, D.C. is obviously in a bubble and not the first time. The same folks who threw the party at the White House are the types who order lots of their food from Door Dash and may not actually know what the price of eggs, milk, and meat are. They’re the kind of folks who see inflation as something that happens on paper. But seeing it on paper is different than feeling it. D.C. sees many problems on paper, but doesn’t really connect with what the American people are living..."

D.C. saw the housing crisis of 2008-09 as something on paper, not as reality. Why? Because five of the seven richest counties in the country are in Northern Virginia and Maryland that ring Washington D.C. Think about that. Of 300,000 counties in America, five of the seven richest ones are the ones that surround this city..."

"Opioids is a crisis that a lot of people in Washington D.C. know only on paper because they don’t see it in the upper neighborhoods in D.C. Inflation is now that kind of crisis. It’s It is a very real thing and yet people in this city host white wine parties to talk about how great it is that passing legislation that spent hundred of billions of dollars to more, accelerating inflation and they decided they’d name it the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

"Folks, this is not just offensive. It is the kind of behavior, the kind of dishonesty that poisons a democracy. When politicians are saying things that are 180 degrees away from reality. This cuts right to the issue of public trust. It doesn’t just matter economically, it matters civically..."

"The relationship between the American people and their leaders is a relationship built on trust — a trust that, when elected officials at their desks in Washington, should be taking seriously the needs and desires of their constituents." 

Full transcript below.  

Madam President: 

I  wasn’t invited, but it looks like the White House had one heck of a party this week. In case folks missed it, President Biden, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and others gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday afternoon to clink champagne glasses and celebrate the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, passed along straight party lines last month. James Taylor even flew in for the festivities.

But at the same time that Washington politicians were patting themselves on the back, here’s actual reality, not Orwellian rhetoric, not made-up names for legislation to spend hundreds of billions of dollars. Here’s actual reality Americans are getting slapped in the face with yet another month of bad news: Core inflation grew another +0.6% just in August — defying even the most pessimistic expectations and analysis. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 had their worst days since the very arrival of COVID. Consumer prices are now up +8.3% from this time last year, but its worse than that more median income households in America. Groceries are 13% more expensive this middle of September than they were the middle of last September. How do you think about what 13% inflation looks like? Here’s how I explained it to my kids.  If  a year ago today you showed up at a grocery store check out line and you had $100 dollars in your pocket and you had a cart full of groceries. If you showed up today with exact same cart and the exact same hundred bucks you would have to awkwardly and embarrassed way, in front of the people behind you, you’d say “I have to figure out how to take $13 off this check out line, because the $13 dollars I have, the $100 that I had last year, only buys $87 worth of food right now. That’s what inflation means. 

Even CNN had to admit that the White House’s timing was awkward, calling the event a “bizarre split-screen moment,” with President Biden taking a victory lap with a so-called Inflation Reduction Act while in the real-world inflation was tanking the markets, that’s actually what happened on Tuesday. On-air, CNN’s anchor suggested that it “feels like it’s a little hard to be celebratory.” That’s an awkward way to tell the truth.

Lots of Americans have become used to this split-screen reality from Washington, when Washington says one thing but reality is something different. It often feels like Washington officials are living in an alternate reality, and trying to convince the American people: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. What you’re actually experiencing at the checkout line, when you had to put back $13 dollars of groceries, it’s not true. The great news is we have wine glasses in our hand let’s clink our glasses together.

Washington, D.C. is obviously in a bubble and not the first time. The same folks who threw the party at the White House are the types who order lots of their food from Door Dash and may not actually know what the price of eggs, milk, and meat are. They’re the kind of folks who see inflation as something that happens on paper. But seeing it on paper is different than feeling it. D.C. sees many problems on paper, but doesn’t really connect with what the American people are living.

D.C. saw the housing crisis of 2008-09 as something on paper, not as reality. Why? Because five of the seven richest counties in the country are in Northern Virginia and Maryland that ring Washington D.C. Think about that. Of 300,000 counties in America, five of the seven richest ones are the ones that surround this city. 

So in 2009 when housing was collapsing everywhere, and a lot of people were going bankrupt in the country. This city said “I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. We’ve got massive demand. Houses sell with escalator closets, there are way more buyers than there are sellers.” So housing markets in Washington DC, and northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland went up, even as the country was living that collapse.

Opioids is a crisis that a lot of people in Washington D.C. know only on paper because they don’t see it in the upper neighborhoods in D.C. Inflation is now that kind of crisis. It’s It is a very real thing and yet people in this city host white wine parties to talk about how great it is that passing legislation that spent hundred of billions of dollars to more, accelerating inflation and they decided they’d name it the “Inflation Reduction Act."

Let’s review a little bit of history of what we’ve learned about inflation the last 15 months. More than a year ago,  last summer, when Americans were already feeling prices creep higher, the president dismissed worries about long-term inflation: “There’s nobody suggesting there’s any unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist.” What? That was an incredibly bizarre, dishonest statement, and everyone knew, when it was spoken, when speech writers wrote it, they knew that that wasn’t true. Why did they know? Because inflation had already gone from 1.4% to 5.4% in the three months before that statement was uttered. And Larry Summers, a longtime Democratic economist across multiple administrations, respected in academia and government and both sides, was screaming at the White House, not just in private, but in public that this was nonsense, they were delusional about inflation numbers. And yet our President said there’s nobody suggesting that unchecked inflation is on the way, no serious economist. Here's what was actually happening in White House meeting rooms at that time half of Obama White House economists was coming in telling the Biden economic team “hey you guys are going to get caught with your pants down.” This isn’t true. That spin isn’t reality, and inflation is big and it is bad, and it is growing. And yet speech writers said “lets have the President go out to the podium and say ‘there’s no serious economist who believes inflation is coming. That was July 2021.

February of this year inflation of this year hit 7.8% our President had “inflation ought to start tapering off as we go on with this year.” Then predicted in December that inflation had already peaked. Every one of these comments was detached from reality, and the people writing the speeches knew they were detached from reality. 

The president is obviously not the only offender. 

Last October, with higher prices already eating away at family’s savings accounts, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain applauded a tweet describing inflation and supply-chain snarls as “high-class problems.” This is white wine drunk commentary for ya. This is a middle class American problem that families in all 50 states are suffering.

A week later, the White House Press Secretary shrugged off the same problem when asked about inflation as “the tragedy of a treadmill that’s delayed.” The tragedy of a treadmill.  Ouch. Do these people know anyone in America who has ever had to put things back at the checkout because that’s what I experience and see right now at Walmart and Hyvee in Fremont, Nebraska. 

Have they ever sat down to compare their receipts week over week, month over month? Those people, looking at their receipts, knowing that they had to put stuff back. They’re not wrong and they aren’t talking about a 3-month delay on a Peloton delivery.

Just two months later, another White House Press Secretary declared that the U.S. is “stronger economically than we have ever been in our history”! Totally drunk stuff.  

According to a new Gallup poll, 56% of Americans now say price increases are causing financial hardship for their families —up from 49% in January and 45% the previous fall. 

According to a Monmouth poll from the summer, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track.

But the White House is throwing wine and cheese parties to celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act.

Americans have watched the President announce that he plans to force non-college graduates in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Beckley, West Virginia, to pay the debt burden of people with Master’s and Ph.D.’s in Berkley and Bethesda. 

Let’s be clear, 56% of those with student debt in America is held by those with graduate degrees. The majority of college loan debt in America is held by people with graduate degrees. Only a third of Americans go to college but what we should do, Biden says “is take money from non-college graduates and give it to folks with graduate degrees and then let’s claim it’s going to reduce the deficit.” Drunk stuff.

Americans have watched as every basic household necessity has become more expensive, from groceries to gasoline — then heard politicians change the name of their bill to the so-called Inflation Reduction Act and applaud themselves for spending hundreds of billions of inflationary dollars on the steps of the White House Tuesday afternoon.

Folks, this is not just offensive. It is the kind of behavior, the kind of dishonesty that poisons a democracy. When politicians are saying things that are 180 degrees away from reality. This cuts right to the issue of public trust. It doesn’t just matter economically, it matters civically. 

The relationship between the American people and their leaders is a relationship built on trust — a trust that, when elected officials at their desks in Washington, should be taking seriously the needs and desires of their constituents. We have a lot of people in Washington, D.C. who mistake the Washington D.C. elite experience, where the income of folks who works for the federal government is substantially higher than the median American.  It attacks public trust. Elected officials are not special – elected officials are, quite frankly, not terribly impressive. Elected officials are not demigods. Public servants are supposed to serve the public. 

It’s in our job description to trust that the people we represent know something about their own struggles, their own challenges, the day-to-day difficulties making ends meet. It’s in our job description to listen to them, to look at their experience and take it to heart. And it’s in our job description to think carefully about the challenges they face and we can address those challenges, with a mindful eye to the direction established by our constitutional order and the best of our democratic traditions.

The actual numbers are 13% groceries and 8.5% overall, these are late 1970s kind of numbers. Politicians know best. No, we don’t.

That relationship is destroyed when the self-satisfied appointees and smug bureaucrats in Washington who bustle up and down Pennsylvania Avenue decide that division is more efficient politics than competent governance.

Lectures about the “soul of America” ring hollow from practitioners of this craven politics of contempt.

Americans deserve better. Starting with honesty would be a good start. 

Here is honesty: we have an inflationary crisis on our hands: the reality is, inflation is making life difficult or precarious for millions and millions of our neighbors. Our families and friends and neighbors are feeling pain at the pump and at the checkout lines; they’re watching their savings accounts and pensions be nibbled away. They haven’t imagined a hardship; this is  reality, experiential and economic. The only thing that’s misaligned is the rhetoric of this place. Americans won’t be bludgeoned into believing that they’re actually thriving when they are experiencing 13% grocery inflation.

Things are hard. The barest minimum this White House could do is admit it, tell the truth, and put away the party hats. 

The American people are resilient. We’re tough. We’re not ready to accept this as the new normal and we’re willing to work our way through this. We just need to have less condescension and spin and a lot more truth-telling from those in power. We need fewer tone death and wine clinking parties from folks who have escalated inflation with reckless spending and claimed the American people are wrong, that this new spending will somehow reduce inflation. Nobody really believes that.

Folks writing those press releases and those speeches, inviting people to parties at the White House, they should reconsider. They should tell the truth. It’s hogwash and they know it, and more important the American people know it and we should tell them the truth. 

Thank you, Madam President.