Inflation is hurting some Americans more than others — just ask Mary Daly.
“‘I don’t find myself in a space where I have to make tradeoffs, because I have enough, and many, many Americans have enough.’”
— San Franciso Fed President Mary Daly
The San Francisco Fed president shared that she is among the “many, many Americans” who are actually not feeling the pain of inflation at the moment — she said it during a Reuters interview on Wednesday, which has drawn some backlash on finance Twitter.
But she also did devote plenty of airtime to discussing how she has seen consumers struggling, and her goal to get inflation down to pre-pandemic levels, which got somewhat lost in the social media discourse.
The Q&A streamed live over Twitter Spaces on Wednesday, and it seems plenty of ears perked up after a listener asked Daly where she has personally seen the impact of inflation on her own day-to-day life. The first part of her response — that inflation really isn’t affecting her lifestyle that much — was soon being called out of touch by some critics passing the clip around on Twitter on Wednesday.
It should be noted that Daly has supported raising interest rates in order to lower inflation, with a goal of getting it down to the 2% level it was before the pandemic. And it is important to read the full context of her response, which also included empathy for people who can’t afford rising prices right now. So here is her answer in full:
“You know I have to say that I live … I don’t feel the pain of inflation anymore. I see prices rising, but I have enough that I can make substitutions, that I can do things. So I’m not immune to gas prices rising, food prices rising. I sometimes balk at the price of things,” she said. “But I don’t find myself in a space where I have to make tradeoffs, because I have enough, and many, many Americans have enough.”
Daly then expressed empathy for the Americans who have been struggling under inflation, however, saying that, “those are the people we have to worry about,” which is why she is “so resolute on getting inflation down.” Daly also said that, “I recognize what it feels like when you don’t have that situation, when you live so close to the edge of your income that rising prices actually force real tradeoffs.”
She added, “So in my daily life, I see the rising prices, but I’m fine, because I have a sufficient income to make those tradeoffs. For other people, that’s not the case, and those are the people that [lowering inflation] is so important for.”
You can hear her remarks about inflation in her personal life starting at the 17-minute mark by clicking here, or in the tweet embedded below.
Other portions of Wednesday’s interview also featured Daly saying that her goal is to “create a sustainable economy” for Americans that gives people “economic dignity.” She described “economic dignity” as being able to both earn a living and to afford the things that you want.
“It’s not about trying to scrape by to get the things you need,” she said. “It’s about being able to save, and having disposable left over to do the things you want.”
But the San Francisco Fed president’s quotes about her own economic comfort rubbed some listeners the wrong way, especially considering San Francisco’s “unusually high” unsheltered homeless population, and her salary reportedly running well into six figures.
This week, several top Federal Reserve officials have said that the central bank must raise interest rates a lot higher — and will need to keep them up there for a while — in order to contain the worst inflation that the country has seen in almost 41 years. And on Tuesday, Daly told CNBC that the Fed is “nowhere near” being done in its fight against inflation.
Read more: Top Fed officials back aggressive interest-rate hikes until inflation eases
And to be sure, many, many Americans do not have enough money, and they are getting crushed by record inflation. This is impacting their back-to-school shopping, their ability to pay rent and to buy groceries. Rising prices have even forced some people to give up their beloved family pets.