RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- President Joe Biden is set to visit Greensboro Thursday afternoon, where he's expected to discuss efforts to expand manufacturing, rebuild supply chains, and lower costs.
The trip comes just after a recent Consumer Price Index report which showed inflation increased to 8.5% over the past twelve months, with energy costs accounting for the bulk of the totals.
"I'm looking at airfare prices to visit a friend and they're all over the place. They're getting higher and higher. My biggest cost is fuel as far as my job is concerned. But the rest of the things, I'm still a coupon clipper and I try to stay as efficient as I can at the grocery stores," said Starr Markham, who lost her job during the pandemic.
Markham works at DPAC and relied on unemployment and her savings when the theatre industry was forced to shut down.
"There's no curbside or takeout in the entertainment industry, so we were gone," Markham said.
With COVID-19 metrics improved, events have returned and Markham is grateful to be back working; however, it's now costing her more to drive in to work.
"It's a problem worldwide if you pay attention of the news that goes on, and I think our leaders have to treat that as a very real worldwide problem. And that's where I think they need to come together and get out of this partisan politics, and let's make this work," Markham said.
In a one-on-one interview with ABC 11, White House Deputy Press Secretary Chris Meagher highlighted some of the steps the administration is taking to combat rising energy costs.
"The president has been laser-focused on the energy sector, and what we can be doing to lower costs at the gas pump. Just yesterday he was in Iowa talking about making gasoline that's 15% ethanol available to Americans across the country. That's going to reduce prices by making it more accessible. That's on top of a historic release of the strategic petroleum reserve that the president announced a couple weeks back. A million barrels a day for the next six months as a war-time bridge during the Ukraine-Russia war. We hope and expect those cost savings are also passed on to the consumer when they're going to the gas pumps," said Meagher.
Both supply chain issues and increasing gas prices are being felt in several other countries, with Meagher noting ongoing conversations with world leaders to attempt to ease challenges.
"One of the things that he did was work with the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach where a lot of our goods enter the country to get them up and running 24/7, so we're getting goods from the sup to the shelve even faster, moving containers even more quickly through those ports. After he announced the historic release from the strategic petroleum reserve a couple months ago, many countries followed suit and announced releases of their own when it comes to oil," said Meagher.
Meagher pointed to the impact the ongoing war in Ukraine has had on the oil sector, with gas prices increasing by 18.3% between February and March. Crude oil prices have been choppy over the past five weeks, spiking to more than $123 a barrel on March 8th, before falling to $95 a barrel just eight days later; as of Wednesday, the price was $104 a barrel. Since the beginning of the invasion, crude oil prices are up about 9%, though they had been increasing prior to then. Part of the rising costs are also tied to people returning to the office and traveling more often. While unemployment levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels, wages have not kept up with inflation.
"Certainly (President Biden is) going to try and emphasize that he's doing everything he can about it. I suspect he'll try to emphasize the limits of what he can do about it. One of the interesting things here from a political science perspective, presidents get too much blame for the economy when things are bad, and too much credit when things are good. So the reality he's probably getting too much credit for unemployment and too much blame for inflation," said Dr. Steven Greene, a political science professor at NC State.
Republicans have consistently highlighted rising inflation, a point of focus during former president Donald Trump's visit to Selma Saturday night, where he appeared alongside a number of election officials. During his hourlong address, Trump emphasized a number of endorsements ahead of next month's primaries.
Historically, the party out of power -- in this case, Republicans - performs strongly in midterms, though Greene noted a lot can change between now and November.
"What the pandemic is like come this fall could play a substantial role. And if the pandemic is in really good shape, and supply chains are bouncing back and inflation - we're not going to back to 2%, but maybe it's 4% - things can be a lot less bad for the Democrats than we expect," said Greene.
Thursday will mark Biden's first visit to North Carolina since November when he met with troops at Fort Bragg prior to Thanksgiving. North Carolina, which has emerged as one of the most competitive states in the country, will likely draw increased national attention as midterms near.
"We should absolutely expect prominent national figures from both political parties campaigning hard for this Senate seat coming up, and certainly (in) 2024, we're going to be right in the thick of things," Greene explained.