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Biden's big inflation problem: Prices are now up nearly 20% since he took office

Inflation cooled slightly in April, but even the slower price increases revealed this week still added to a tally that is perhaps the Biden campaign's most intractable economic challenge in the 2024 campaign season.

Prices as measured by the seasonally adjusted Consumer Price Index (CPI) are now up over 19.4% in the three-plus years since Biden took office.

The cumulative price increase has been a GOP focus for months, and that continued Wednesday as new data showed the tally inching ever closer to a psychologically significant milestone of 20%.

The Trump campaign didn't even wait for the threshold to be crossed Wednesday, with a statement from the campaign press secretary flatly stating that "overall prices are up 20%."

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Trump himself, as he tends to do, exaggerated the numbers further and largely beyond recognition. In a video response to the inflation report, he said without offering any evidence that inflation "takes away 30% to 50% of every dollar you have."

President Biden himself reacted to the latest report with a statement calling costs his top economic priority while acknowledging that "even though we've made progress we have a lot more to do."

Read more: Inflation slowed in April — here’s how that affects your wallet

For comparison's sake, prices rose just under 7.8% during the four years of Donald Trump's presidency.

Economists often note that the differences between inflation in the two eras are due to a range of factors far beyond the Oval Office occupant.

Under Trump, for example, COVID disruptions at the end of his presidency significantly drove down gas prices. Under Biden, supply chain issues drove prices up in other areas.

But either way, expect to hear a lot more around the cumulative inflation tallies from Trump and his allies over the next six months.

These higher prices and the accompanying "economic narrative here is pretty well baked in," added Pangaea Policy founder Terry Haines to Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

"That hurts the president a lot in a lot of states that he needs to carry, and it is a dynamic that shadows his campaign," he added.

Many in Trump's orbit measure the increase over Biden's term even higher.

Make America Great Again Inc. is a super PAC that supports former President Trump. It reacted to the news Wednesday by saying that overall prices were up 19.9% since Biden took office.

The discrepancy between the 19.4% and 19.9% figures is based on how the Republican-aligned group uses data that isn't seasonally adjusted, which shows a slightly higher gap.

The group also listed a range of goods in Wednesday's release — from gasoline to eggs to airline tickets — that are up even more over the last 40 months.

That 19.9% tally was perhaps predictably repeated often by Republicans throughout the day Wednesday.

"#Bidenflation is a tax on ALL Americans," posted Elise Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference.

"That's Bidenomics!" added the Republican National Committee's account.

Biden's challenge on the inflation issue has been evident for months, with the president and his allies often struggling for a cohesive message on the issue.

Another example came just this week in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Finance. During that conversation, Biden was pushed on America's sour economic mood.

In his response, he discussed prices and repeated a false claim that inflation "was at 9% when I came in and it's now down around 3%." Biden made a similar claim previously on CNN.

In fact, the year-over-year inflation rate when he took office was 1.4%. Prices did then rise after Biden's inauguration and reached 9.1% — but that peak came in June 2022 after Biden had been in office for over a year.

The latest data, which came out Wednesday after Biden's recent remarks, pegs the current year-over-year inflation rate at 3.4%, a slight downtick from a 3.5% rate in March.

Biden also told Yahoo Finance Executive Editor Brian Sozzi during Tuesday's conversation that part of the unease in the country is because "I think people are just uncertain, and that's why we got to be steady, stay the course, and continue to produce these incredible jobs."

He said he was confident that his administration could handle it but that it's "going to take a little more time."

Whether voters will give Biden that time remains to be seen, but the comment marked a continuation of Biden's tendency to focus on jobs, even with poll after poll showing inflation as the top economic concern among voters.

It's a trend that has shown up even in the polling of Democratic allies. A survey last month from Blueprint 2024 — a Democratic-aligned group — found that 91% of respondents described inflation as a "serious problem."

Among those respondents, 37% also described inflation as among "the most important issues." Just 25% said the same about jobs and the economy.

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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