Adding a few tenths of a percent to already high inflation might feel more meaningful, moving price gains farther from the Fed’s 2 percent goal.
Some economists have argued that as companies scramble for workers, prices rise and supply chains struggle to keep pace with booming demand, this is the wrong moment to hit the economy with any added juice.
“We don’t have a lot of spare capacity,” said Kristin J. Forbes, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We certainly don’t have a lot of spare workers today.”
Inflation looms more significantly in the near term because it is currently high, and if it remains that way for an extended period, consumers could change their behaviors and expectations, locking in faster gains. People who worry about the proposals say that 2022 is the wrong time to hand households more money.
Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said she was unsure whether the package would fuel inflation. But given the current pace of price increases, “you have to be more careful than you would be otherwise.”
The White House says the provisions of the bill that put money in family’s pockets, such as child care help, are not simple stimulus. They will allow caregivers into the labor market, they argue, an investment in the economy’s future that will allow it to produce more with time.
That makes the new program different from the spending passed earlier this year. The Biden administration increasingly acknowledges that sending households checks and offering expanded unemployment insurance supplemented savings, and that as households had more wherewithal to spend it helped to drive up prices.