President Biden said Thursday that the American people are "really, really down" after a tumultuous two years that included the coronavirus pandemic, volatility in the economy, and surging gasoline prices that are slamming household budgets. In an interview with the AP in the Oval Office, the president also said a recession is not inevitable and bristled at claims by Republican lawmakers that last year's COVID-19 aid plan was fully to blame for inflation reaching a 40-year high, calling that argument "bizarre." But overall, "People are really, really down," Biden said.
"The need for mental health in America, it has skyrocketed, because people have seen everything upset, everything they've counted on upset," he said. "But most of it’s the consequence of what’s happened, what happened as a consequence of the COVID crisis." Biden addressed the warnings by economists that the US could be headed for a recession. "First of all, it's not inevitable," he said. "Secondly, we're in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation." Biden flashed some defensiveness on the causes of inflation. "If it's my fault, why is it the case in every other major industrial country in the world that inflation is higher? You ask yourself that?" he said, adding, "I'm not being a wise guy."
The president said he saw reason for optimism, with the 3.6% unemployment rate and America's relative strength in the world. "Be confident, because I am confident we're better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century," Biden said. His bleak assessment of the national psyche comes as voters have soured on his job performance and the direction of the country. Only 39% of US adults approve of Biden's performance as president, according to a May poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research, dipping from already negative ratings a month earlier. A transcript of the interview can be found here.
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