How your Thanksgiving turkey became a proxy in the last political war

“Everything from turkeys to baked goods costs families more and this Thanksgiving dinner could be one of the most expensive yet,” Daines said.

Never mind that some of the mind-boggling data relates to a rebound from last year, when the pandemic canceled countless Thanksgiving gatherings and drove prices down. And some of the current food price hikes have more to do with labor shortages and infrequent supply chain grunts – not the money that will flow into the economy over the course of time. years to come.

But the problems have pushed the White House into a messaging mess as it tries to avoid repeating its missteps on food prices from the start of the year. White House officials have been slow to formulate an effective counterattack, relying largely – until recently – on the argument that price spikes are temporary. Biden this week finally addressed the issue directly, telling Americans that the administration’s efforts to unblock ports and cut gas prices would ensure they had enough food on their Thanksgiving tables.

Yet weeks of rising price stories provide Republicans with powerful ammunition as they attempt to sink the $ 1.7 trillion climate and social spending bill that cleaned up the house last week. which is probably the best chance for Democrats to secure a major political achievement ahead of the midterm elections. year. The attacks could be particularly effective in wresting the votes of vulnerable Democrats in the Senate.

Republicans are “very good at generating, distributing and propagating fear-mongering tactics with great success,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). Democrats shouldn’t help them by giving the impression that they don’t take inflation seriously, Il Phillips, who described the White House’s first response to inflation as “a response of ignorance”, praised what he called a “dramatic change” in recent posts to “relevance headlines.”

Biden officials admit that their past messages about inflation, especially food prices, have sometimes missed the mark. A White House Post this summer touted the cost of a July 4th barbecue down 16 cents from the previous year. Biden’s team has been widely criticized for the misleading message, based on an investigation by the Farm Bureau, an agricultural lobby group, rather than USDA data, as meat prices, l gasoline and the like were skyrocketing.

Now, even as the administration makes headway on food supplies and prices, it is drowned out by alarming reports of high-fat food prices based on findings from groups like the Farm Bureau rather than government data, a a White House official told POLITICO. . It’s a precedent that the White House itself helped set, the person said. “We kind of did that to ourselves,” the official added.

Republicans seized on a Farm Bureau claim that Thanksgiving food prices had risen 14%, with turkeys 24%, even though the lobby group acknowledged that the price of turkeys had fallen since it had gone. collected data in early November.

“They don’t have a plan,” Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Who heads the Senate re-election arm, said at a press conference Republicans held last week to hammer Democrats on holiday food prices.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, officials in the Biden administration feel like they are on a better track. “We understand that this is a problem that consumers face and that American families are frustrated with it,” a second White House official said.

On Tuesday, Biden acknowledged that “moms and dads are worried and asking,” Will there be enough food we can afford to buy for the holidays? multiple ports, Biden said.

“Families can rest easy” because the stores will be “well stocked with turkeys and everything you need for Thanksgiving,” Biden said.

As some food shortages persist, a spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation told POLITICO that the group expects an adequate supply of turkeys in stores for the holidays. Walmart, the nation’s largest grocery chain, and Target are now announcing that their shelves will be fully stocked for the holidays.

Biden also announced on Tuesday an effort that could bring down energy prices, which represent significant costs for farmers and food processors. White House officials who monitor the supply chain and inflation say lower energy prices are one of the few ways to reduce Americans’ higher grocery bills.

“The President is fighting every day to bring down inflation, by strengthening our supply chains, by taking action to reduce fuel costs and by passing his Build Back Better Act which will be a game-changer for the middle class,” said the deputy press secretary of the White House, Emilie Simons. in a press release, referring to the social spending bill.

Meanwhile, Republicans are still blaming food prices as they push back on the Democrats’ social spending bill.

John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, argued last week at the GOP Thanksgiving price press conference that the “best way” to combat rising food inflation “is to put end to this reckless tax and this spending madness “.

Thune said he hoped “some Democrats” would come to that conclusion and “be willing to work with us to make it happen.”

He did not mention by name moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, but Manchin himself cited rising inflation as the reason Democrats are not rushing the bill. The White House argues that the legislation will only help reduce inflation as it will lower health care and child care costs for Americans while expanding the child tax credit for families to cover the price increase.

Republicans see the problem continuing into the next year ahead of the midterms.

“It’s not just Joe Manchin, it’s also Mark Kelly and Maggie Hassan and Raphael Warnock,” a senior GOP official told POLITICO, noting three Democratic senators with tough 2022 re-election candidacies ahead of them. “As long as inflation remains high, they will have to defend to their constituents why inflation will not be made worse by spending billions of dollars more.”

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