Conservative lawmakers and commentators have called for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to be fired or resign after she admitted in an interview Tuesday night that she was “wrong… about the path that inflation would take” – as annual price increases reach levels not seen in 40 years .
During a sitdown with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Yellen played a clip from March 2021, when she told ABC’s “This Week”: “Is there a risk of inflation? I think there’s a small risk, and I think it’s manageable. ”
In a second clip, from May of that year, Yellen said, “I don’t anticipate that inflation is going to be a problem, but it’s something that we’re watching very carefully” during an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal. .
“Was it a mistake, Madam Secretary, to downplay this inflation risk?” Blitzer asked Tuesday. “Did that contribute to the problems we’re all seeing right now?”
“Well, look, I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” Yellen replied. “As I mentioned, there have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices, and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly, that I at the time didn’t fully understand. But we recognize that now. ”
Then, in an echo of President Biden’s own statements, Yellen said inflation was the central bank’s problem now: “The Federal Reserve is taking the steps that it needs to take. It’s up to them to decide what to do. ”
Social media users jumped on the comments, led by the Republican National Committee.
“The same officials who were 100% wrong on inflation are still making policy on inflation for the Biden admin,” posted RNC Rapid Response Director Tommy Pigott. “And they wonder why Americans don’t trust Biden on inflation.”
“The Biden administration finally admitted what we all already know: they were wrong about inflation,” Pigott said in a separate statement. “Unfortunately for the American people, it’s an admission that’s over 13 months too late, as inflation is now costing families over $ 500 per month. And remember, they weren’t just wrong once, but many, many, many times.
“It’s worth asking, will Biden finally admit he was wrong?” the RNC rep added. “Will there be any accountability? And how can Americans trust the Biden administration when the same people that were so wrong are still in charge? Answer: they can’t. ”
Other users were more succinct.
“Cool. Resign, ”The Spectator contributing editor Stephen Miller reacted to Yellen’s comment.
“She forgot the part about the months and months of the feds printing money, more money than God has ever seen, and paying people to stay home. @SecYellen respect that you admitted you were wrong but you need to resign, ” wrote Arizona state Rep. Walt Blackman, who is running for Congress.
Nevada GOP congressional candidate Noah Malgeri asked: “[If] you actually didn’t understand this most fundamental economic principle them why are you there? ”
“’Supply chain bottlenecks’ Ms. Yellen failed to fully ‘understand.’ Then Ms. Yellen shouldn’t be Treasury Secretary, ” tweeted former New York Congresswoman Nan Hayworth. “Not that any other Democrat’d be better. We need veto-proof GOP majorities in Congress, folks. The Democrats are killing us – let’s keep that metaphorical. ”
In response to the criticism, a Treasury spokesperson told CNN: “The Secretary was pointing out that there have been shocks to the economy that have exacerbated inflationary pressures which could not have been foreseen 18 months ago, including Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine, multiple successive variants of COVID, and lockdowns in China.
“As she also noted, there has been historic growth and record job creation and our goal is now to transition to steady and stable growth as inflation is brought down.”
At the time Yellen was asked about inflation on “This Week” in March 2021, the annual rate of inflation stood at 1.7%. Two months later, it had spiked to 5%. That July, Biden said that high inflation was “temporary” and claimed it had probably reached the “peak” in November, when the annual rate stood at 6.8%.
The annual US inflation rate declined slightly to 8.3% in April after hitting a 40-year annual high of 8.5% in March, according to official data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The White House has repeatedly blamed price increases on supply chain bottlenecks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Russia’s three-month-old invasion of Ukraine, which has increased energy and food prices. But critics say a surge in government spending is also to blame.
A study released in late March by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said that in the final quarter of 2021, about 3 percentage points of inflation may have been caused by government pandemic spending.