Biden Seizes on Consumer Costs as Winning Issue for Reelection

Joe Biden is announcing three new federal actions, including updated guidance on antitrust enforcement, as part of his administration’s push to lower costs for Americans while he’s pursuing reelection in 2024.

(Bloomberg) — Joe Biden is announcing three new federal actions, including updated guidance on antitrust enforcement, as part of his administration’s push to lower costs for Americans while he’s pursuing reelection in 2024.

At a White House event Wednesday, Biden will put forth a partnership with state attorneys general to fight price-gouging on agricultural goods and an effort to reduce rental housing fees.

As a part of the rollout, Zillow,, and will unveil new website features that display the fees associated with applying for certain apartments to prospective tenants, a move the White House views as significant in the country’s tight rental market.

The administration has sought to increase competition in markets and reduce everyday costs and fees through a combination of regulatory actions, proposed laws and publicly lobbying companies to change their policies. 

The president’s team is betting that saving voters from so-called junk fees and other monthly financial annoyances will help turn around dismal polling numbers on his handling of the economy which have persisted even as recent reports show unemployment remains low and core inflation is slowing.

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The proposals generally poll well. A survey in late February by Global Strategy Group for Navigator Research, a Democrat-aligned polling group, found that three-fourths of registered voters supported a proposal to ban junk fees, including broad majorities of Republicans and independents.

Still, voters overall aren’t impressed with Biden’s handling of the economy, with roughly two-thirds having little or almost no confidence in various polls since he took office in 2021, a figure that has held steady even as unemployment has fallen to 3.6% and US inflation has cooled in recent reports.

Wednesday’s announcement also includes the release of new draft guidelines on the government’s review of mergers and acquisitions, which the administration believes should face tougher scrutiny. That proposal will enter a public-comment period for the next 60 days. 

Separately, the administration will work to bolster the legal tools available to more than 30 bipartisan state attorneys general in overseeing competition issues in the agricultural sector, and continue investing in independent meat and poultry processers.

In recent months, the Biden administration has sought to stop resorts from charging for things like pool towels, force airlines to pay for travelers to stay in a hotel when flights are canceled, prevent concert ticket vendors from adding unexpected fees at checkout, stop banks from levying overdraft fees when an ATM shows money in an account, and bar hospitals from charging surprise out-of-network bills.

These dovetail with other efforts to give consumers more money such as a cap on the cost of insulin of $35 a month for people on Medicare, a Federal Trade Commission complaint about how Amazon signs users up for Prime accounts and a renewed effort to forgive student debt after the Supreme Court overturned a previous attempt.

Biden highlighted his fight against junk fees in the State of the Union in February, an annual presidential address that typically focuses on loftier goals, arguing that they can add up to hundreds of dollars a month for middle-class families. 

In focus group real-time polling conducted by Navigator Research, Biden’s junk fees proposal was one of the highest-performing moments of the speech among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Democratic strategist Mike Lux, who has focused on struggling factory towns, said the smaller fights help show voters that Biden’s broader economic agenda to fix roads and bridges, incentivize domestic semiconductor manufacturing and rebuild the middle class.

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“This stuff adds up, especially if we tell the story effectively: Joe Biden is taking on greedy corporations who are trying to rip people off,” he said. “He’s doing it with airlines. He’s doing it with drug companies. He’s doing it with banks. You go down the list.”

Republican pollster Robert Blizzard said that there’s a risk for Biden that if voters still don’t feel good about the economy, they’ll see the small-bore initiatives as the president not having his eye on the big picture. 

He said the skepticism over Biden on the economy is also going to make it hard for the message to break through.

“The problem for the White House here is that they may have some popular tactics here, but people just don’t trust the messenger,” he said.

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