Week in politics: Inflation brings political pain; FBI releases Mar-a-Lago affidavit
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Of course, the economy may be the central issue in the midterm elections that will soon be here. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: What are some of the implications of Chairman Powell warning about pain for households and businesses?
ELVING: Powell's point was to warn the business world of economic pain, higher costs of borrowing, possibly a recession. But beyond that, he was signaling pain to politicians as well, which follows as night follows day. If there's a recession, even a brief or a shallow one, it will cost current members of Congress in the midterms. And in the past, that has meant a drubbing for the party of the president, Republican or Democrat, especially when a president's party has even a nominal majority in Congress. In recent weeks, there's been a lot of non-economic news to talk about, but with more big increases coming in interest rates, the economic issues could be back with a vengeance this fall.
SIMON: We, of course, have been talking about how inflation could dim the prospects for Democrats, but would they rather run with inflation or a recession?
ELVING: Well, they'd rather have neither. But a lot depends on what's leading the news come October. Inflation is the present danger, but waiting on deck is that prospect of recession. That could be a shock for voters who have come to expect jobs to be plentiful and wages negotiable and homes affordable because interest rates were historically low. Democrats have been in a bit of a sweet spot this summer with less inflation and a strong jobs market. Also with a lot of negative news about the former president and some of the Republicans running for the Senate, there's no question things have been getting better for Democrats. The question is, will this be as good as it gets? And if so, will it be enough to limit the damage in November?
SIMON: Of course, the FBI released, as ordered, their affidavit for the search of President Trump's - former President Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago. Reading between all those black lines that redact information, what does the affidavit tell us?
ELVING: First of all, we know that the trove down there at Mar-a-Lago included many documents at various levels of classification that were simply not Trump's to take, despite his assertions to the contrary. We also know the National Archives and the Justice Department had been trying for more than a year to get all the presidential papers returned. And what we can see of the redacted affidavit - about half of it - also makes clear that these documents had highly sensitive information about clandestine sources of information, human sources, as opposed to some sort of technology. We do not know what else may have been at risk due to the redactions. We still don't know why he took these box loads of documents. Theories abound, but we are going to have to wait to see more if and when Trump is actually charged with a crime.
SIMON: And at the same time, are there signs that Donald Trump's mounting legal troubles help Democrats in the midterms, or, for that matter, his own political prospects?
ELVING: Trump's troubles are clearly a better story for Democrats than the economy or the one-year anniversary of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Of course, the Mar-a-Lago search can help Trump and his party, too, in a sense. It gives them something to rally around, a better set of talking points than the January 6 investigation. But the Democrats also have some other assets right now. They got their budget bill through at long last addressing climate change, expanding health care, among other things. And they are getting a major boost from abortion rights supporters. Women are out-registering men this summer, and it's making a difference in contested races, like the special election for Congress that the Democrats won in New York last week.
SIMON: Finally, Ron, President Biden this week signed a student debt proposal that forgives up to $20,000 if they meet income and other requirements. But there have been sharp criticisms - some Democrats, as well as Republicans, calling it elitist and an insult to the working class.
ELVING: There is blowback from those who resent the tilt of the benefits to those who are able to go to college in the first place. That resentment would have been much worse had Biden simply wiped out all those debts, as many were urging him to do. What happened here was a compromise that involves far less money from the government and provides a basic benefit where it's needed most. There are a lot of working-class families with kids who have student debt. And yes, the White House is no doubt aware that Biden's support among young voters had fallen off quite a bit since they favored him so strongly over Trump in 2020. And yes, this has to be seen as a bid for their attention as well.
SIMON: Ron Elving, unredacted senior editor and correspondent, thanks so much for joining us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.