White House struggles to talk about the "problem from hell"

The administration has at times splintered internally over how to discuss price increases and has revised its inflation-related message several times as talking points fail to resonate and new data comes in. Some Democrats in Congress have urged the White House to strike a different — and more proactive — tone ahead of the November midterm elections.

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But the reality the White House faces is a hard one: There is little politicians can do to quickly bring price increases to heel. Federal Reserve policy is the nation’s main solution to inflation, but the central bank tempers price gains by making money more expensive to borrow to cool off demand, a slow and potentially painful process for the economy.

“For a president, inflation is the problem from hell — you can’t win,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management. “Because it’s so difficult economically, politically it is even worse: There’s nothing you can do in the short run to solve it.”

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