Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving through Dallas in a Lincoln convertible, the top down. Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office that afternoon aboard Air Force One as it sat on the tarmac at Dallas Love Field airport.

The big idea

White House may escalate attacks on corporations over inflation

As Democrats fear the political costs of surging inflation, President Biden will give a speech Tuesday “on the economy and lowering prices for the American people.” The remarks could mark an inflection point (to borrow a phrase) in his fight against higher consumer costs.

After expressing empathy with Americans facing higher costs on everything from gas for Thanksgiving travel to traditional holiday dishes, and after promising to solve supply-chain disruptions fueling higher prices, Biden could escalate criticisms of corporate America’s role.

It’s not a done deal. On Sunday night, the White House mass-emailed highlights from a Bloomberg Opinion piece entitled “the U.S. Supply-Chain Crisis Is Already Easing,” previewing another potential strategy: Telling Americans the worst is over.

And I said escalate, not launch, because the administration has already taken several steps in this direction in 2021 as Democrats increasingly worry about paying a political price in the 2022 midterm elections for inflation, which jumped enough in October to wipe out real wage growth.

In July, Biden signed an executive order taking aim at corporate consolidation, blaming a lack of competition for lower wages and higher prices. In September, National Economic Council director Brian Deese blamed consolidation for higher meat and poultry costs at the supermarket.

Last week, my colleagues Jeff Stein and Cat Zakrzewski reported, Biden “called on the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into oil and gas companies, alleging that their ‘anti-consumer’ behavior has led to higher gas prices.”

“‘The bottom line is this: gasoline prices at the pump remain high, even though oil and gas companies’ costs are declining,’ Biden wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. ‘The Federal Trade Commission has authority to consider whether illegal conduct is costing families at the pump. I believe you should do so immediately.’”

These efforts don’t seem to have translated into higher job approval ratings for Biden. And so, Jeff reported over the weekend, there could be a shift in the White House’s political response to an economic phenomenon Americans confront at the pump and in the supermarket.

“Republicans have blamed the inflation problems on Biden’s economic agenda,” Jeff reported, “but there are signs that the White House could soon push back more forcefully, saying that large corporations are partly to blame for the dramatic increase in costs.”

“Several outside advisers have pitched senior White House officials — including White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese — on an offensive in which the administration would amplify criticisms of large firms in heavily concentrated industries for passing higher prices on to consumers as they benefit from high profits, the people familiar with the matter said. The effort would be aimed at both directing voters’ attention to companies over inflation as well as giving companies a reason to think twice before raising prices. But the push could backfire, should it antagonize many of the firms it is highly dependent on to resolve supply chain pressures ahead of the holiday season.”

Jeff noted the potential downside of such a strategy. 

“Many economists are skeptical of whether publicly cajoling firms would actually lead them to lower their prices. And Biden has leaned heavily on the heads of companies such as FedEx, Walmart and Target over the supply-chain crunch, with the administration just this month touting executives’ commitments to stock their shelves ahead of the holidays. It is unclear how these corporations would react to being criticized over corporate consolidation.”

Corporate pushback

On the other hand, some top executives at huge economic players like Kroger supermarkets or Walmart appear to be giving ammunition to the White House.

In late October, Sharon Terlep of the Wall Street Journal had an eye-opening report entitled “U.S. Companies Bet Shoppers Will Keep Paying Higher Prices,” about how some vastly profitable household name corporations plan to keep passing higher costs on to consumers.

Companies like Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Verizon, “say they plan to continue raising prices or pushing customers to buy more expensive products into 2022 to offset fast-growing costs amid a global supply-chain crisis. Gillette razors, Nestlé coffee and Chipotle burritos are among the products that could get more expensive in coming months,” she reported.

And, she noted, “price increases so far have paid off for makers of household staples as shoppers, particularly in the U.S. and Western Europe, have remained loyal to big-name brands.”

And, a week ago, the Wall Street Journal’s Kristin Broughton and Theo Francis delivered this data point:

“Nearly two out of three of the biggest U.S. publicly traded companies have reported fatter profit margins so far this year than they did over the same stretch of 2019, before the Covid-19 outbreak, data from FactSet show.”

There’s nothing illegal about companies passing rising costs on to consumers. As an economic matter, there might be blowback from consumers or retailers. The next few weeks could test the politics of the matter.

What's happening now

Biden picks Powell for Fed

“Powell’s nomination signals Biden’s intent for continuity at the central bank, which is grappling with inflation at 30-year highs, widespread changes in the labor market and looming questions over how the Fed should and will respond. Whether the Fed’s policies prove to be right will have major implications for the U.S. and global economy,” Rachel Siegel reports.

Biden also will nominate Lael Brainard, the Fed board’s lone Democrat, to be the central bank’s vice chair. The move is likely meant to appease progressives who don’t view Powell’s strategies as aggressive enough.

  • Seeking consistency: “As speculation around Biden’s pick grew, people close to the Fed and Capitol Hill believed that reappointing a popular Republican chair would carry political weight at time of such high partisanship and heated squabbling over inflation and Biden’s economic agenda,” Siegel writes.
  • A safer bet: “Renominating Mr. Powell — who won bipartisan support moments after the announcement — also spares the White House what might have been a bruising confirmation battle if the president had instead chosen Ms. Brainard, who has fewer Republican supporters in the Senate than Mr. Powell," the New York Times's Jeanna Smialek reports.
    • “Powell, 68 years old, is seen by supporters inside the administration and in markets as a steady hand whose extensive, personal outreach helped restore bipartisan support for the central bank one decade after its reputation was badly bruised by the 2008 financial crisis," the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos and Andrew Restuccia report.
  • “Powell, 68 years old, is seen by supporters inside the administration and in markets as a steady hand whose extensive, personal outreach helped restore bipartisan support for the central bank one decade after its reputation was badly bruised by the 2008 financial crisis," the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos and Andrew Restuccia report.
  • The stakes: “Powell has to manage a group of 12 reserve bank presidents and up to six other governors who participate in rate-setting meetings. Several are growing more concerned that high inflation will persist, requiring the central bank to raise rates sooner or more aggressively than expected just a few months ago. Others are nervous about overreacting and have argued that pre-pandemic dynamics in which inflation, interest rates and global growth were historically low will eventually reassert themselves,” Timiraos and Restuccia write.
    • The bottom line: “Mr. Biden’s political fortunes in the coming years may be tied to how Mr. Powell responds.”
  • The bottom line: “Mr. Biden’s political fortunes in the coming years may be tied to how Mr. Powell responds.”

Welch announces Democratic bid for seat of retiring Sen. Leahy

“Rep. Peter Welch (D), Vermont’s sole House member, said Monday that he is moving forward with a widely expected bid to succeed Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who announced last week that he would not seek a ninth term next year,” John Wagner reports.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is a free man

“On Monday morning Donald Trump's former personal attorney and self-described fixer was officially released from his three-year prison sentence -- the past year-plus of it served from his posh Park Avenue apartment.,” CNN’s Kara Scannell reports.

Senate’s Jan. 6 ethics probe into Cruz, Hawley drags on

“House Democrats swiftly moved to punish Paul Gosar within days of his violent social media post. The Senate’s investigation into two Republicans who challenged the 2020 election is a much different matter," Politico’s Burgess Everett reports.

  • Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz “both said in interviews that they have received no contact from the secretive ethics committee, which Hawley also tasked with a counter-complaint against the seven Democratic senators who sought an investigation into his actions ahead of the Capitol attack.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, U.S. virus cases tick upward once more

“The new rise in cases comes at a complicated moment. Last Thanksgiving, before vaccines were available, federal and local officials had firmly urged Americans to forgo holiday gatherings. But in sharp contrast, public health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, have mostly suggested this year that vaccinated people could gather in relative safety,” the New York Times’s Mitch Smith reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

N.Y. prosecutors set sights on new Trump target: Widely different valuations on the same properties

In 2012, the Trump Organization told potential lenders one of its properties was worth $527 million. “But just a few months later, the Trump Organization told property tax officials that the entire 70-story building was worth less than a high-end Manhattan condo: just $16.7 million, according to newly released city records. That was less than one-thirtieth the amount it had claimed the year before,” David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs report.

“After the indictment of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer this summer for income tax fraud, prosecutors now appear to be examining whether the company broke the law by providing low values to property tax officers, while using high ones to garner tax breaks or impress lenders.”

… and beyond

Leaked Texts: Jan. 6 Organizers Say They Were ‘Following POTUS’ Lead’

“Rally planners coordinated closely with the White House before Jan. 6 and readied a dinner party while the Capitol was under siege, according to leaked group text messages obtained by Rolling Stone,” Hunter Walker reports.

“Two sources who were involved in planning the Ellipse rally previously told Rolling Stone they had extensive interactions with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The text messages provide a deeper understanding of what that cooperation entailed, including an in-person meeting at the White House. Rally organizers also described working with Trump’s team to announce the event, promote it, and grant access to VIP guests. A spokesperson for the former president did not respond to a request for comment on the record.”

The Biden agenda

Some pep in Biden's step

Team Biden gets some pep in its step after months of taking it on the chin

“Against the backdrop of rising consumer costs, an equally steady drip in approval ratings, and a growing number of House Democratic retirements, the past week was a small glimpse of what a presidency on track could resemble. And, inside the White House, officials said they felt optimistic heading into the Thanksgiving holiday and ready for the next month of intense legislative battles and deadlines. Democrats on and off the Hill, likewise, expressed a rare bit of glee about the string of successes,” Politico’s Laura Barrón-López reports.

Cross-border tax-rate gaps to shrink as democrats advance Biden agenda

“In theory, if all contemplated changes go into effect, taxes would become a less important part of decision-making for multinational corporations. The resulting tax system would have significantly smaller incentives for them to enter deals that turn U.S. companies into foreign ones and start transactions that push profits from the U.S. into low-tax countries,” the WSJ’s Richard Rubin reports.

Activists urge Biden to push for intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

“Fifteen medical and human rights groups are urging U.S. President Joe Biden to get personally engaged in a long-running fight to enact an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization, calling his leadership ‘a moral necessity,’” Reuters’s Andrea Shalal reports.

Global supply chain, visualized

“This holiday season, just about everything that ends up in your shopping cart has taken a tumultuous journey through the world’s mangled supply chains. To show how some of the most popular products this year have been affected by this global upheaval, The Washington Post dug into the backstory for four top sellers, our colleagues explain.

Hot on the left

A theory of why Joe Biden’s popular agenda is so unpopular

The truth is that Biden’s presidency began to disintegrate without his abandoning the center at all. He found himself trapped instead between a well-funded left wing that has poisoned the party’s image with many of its former supporters and centrists unable to conceive of their job in any terms save as valets for the business elite. Biden’s party has not veered too far left or too far right so much as it has simply come apart,New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait writes.

Hot on the right

Two Fox News contributors quit in protest of Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 special

“In some ways, their departures should not be surprising: It’s simply part of the new right’s mopping up operation in the corners of conservative institutions that still house pockets of resistance to Donald J. Trump’s control of the Republican Party. Mr. [Jonah] Goldberg, a former National Review writer, and Mr. [Stephen] Hayes, a former Weekly Standard writer, were stars of the pre-Trump conservative movement. They clearly staked out their positions in 2019 when they founded The Dispatch, an online publication that they described as ‘a place that thoughtful readers can come for conservative, fact-based news and commentary. It now has nearly 30,000 paying subscribers,” the NYT's Ben Smith writes.

Today in Washington

At 1:20 p.m., Biden will officially announce Powell and Brainard as his nominees for chair and vice chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Both nominees will deliver remarks.

The Bidens will leave the White House for Fort Bragg, N.C., at 4 p.m., arriving at 5:25 p.m.

At 6 p.m., the Bidens will celebrate “Friendsgiving” with service members and military families as part of the Joining Forces initiative.

In closing

Saturday Night Live made some points here 👀

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.