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Jerome Powell

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell departs after speaking at a news conference on interest rates, the economy, and monetary policy actions, at the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C. on June 15, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Poll Shows Majority of US Voters Oppose Triggering Recession to Battle Inflation

"Voters do not accept the idea that raising unemployment is the only way to curtail inflation," said one progressive pollster.

Brett Wilkins

Amid fears by progressive economists that the U.S. Federal Reserve will move the country closer to a recession by raising interest rates, a new poll published Thursday revealed that American voters overwhelmingly oppose a call by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to tackle inflation by effectively taking jobs from millions of people.

"Larry Summers' cure for fighting inflation is worse than the disease itself."

"Larry Summers' cure for fighting inflation is worse than the disease itself," Groundwork Collaborative executive director Lindsay Owens said in a statement. "Manufacturing a recession and throwing millions out of work to bring down prices is not only cruel, it also reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of why prices are rising in the first place."

The Data for Progress and Groundwork Collaborative survey of nearly 3,000 likely U.S. voters found that inflation was by far the most important economic problem facing the country today. This was true across the political spectrum, with 36% of Democrats, 49% of Independents, and 58% of Republicans saying inflation was their number one economic concern.

On Wednesday, Summers—who served in the Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama administrations, including as treasury secretary for Clinton and Obama—said it is "very unlikely" that inflation will decrease "without a significant economic downturn," an outcome made more likely by an interest rate hike.

The Fed approved a 75-basis point interest rate increase last month and is considering the implementation of what would be a historic 100-basis point boost for later this month. Economists are warning that further interest rate hikes could cost millions of people their jobs and plunge the nation into recession.

Survey respondents rejected Summers' argument that the unemployment rate should exceed 5% over the next five years to tame inflation, with only 6% of Democrats, 3% of Independents, and 6% of Republicans strongly agreeing with the former treasury secretary's assertion.

"Voters do not accept the idea that raising unemployment is the only way to curtail inflation," Ethan Winter, a lead analyst at Data for Progress, said. "Rather, a strong majority think that broad investments in healthcare and energy costs are the best path to growing the economy and reducing costs for families."

Groundwork Collaborative chief economist Rakeen Mabud said Wednesday that the root cause of inflation is the "rampant corporate profiteering and snarled supply chains," an assessment shared by numerous progressive economists—and nearly half of respondents to the new survey, including 74% of Democrats.

Summers' track record has long been subject to critical scrutiny by progressives including Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, who in a Washington Post opinion piece published during the Great Recession called him "spectacularly wrong" about not regulating derivatives, "turning banks into too-big-to-fail welfare monsters" by killing the Glass-Steagall Act, and helping to "devise ever more complex tricks" while spending "ever more taxpayer dollars to keep the financial casino running."

The new poll was published in the wake of Wednesday's news that the Consumer Price Index soared 9.1% over the past year, its biggest increase in more than 40 years.

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