Sen. Mitt Romney criticized the Biden administration for doing “almost all the wrong things” to mitigate inflation and cautioned the country could be headed for a recession if things aren’t properly managed going forward.

While meeting with the Utah Trucking Association on Wednesday, the Utah Republican doubled down on a Wall Street Journal op-ed he published the day prior, in which he said President Joe Biden needs to “ditch his woke advisers” and focus on addressing record levels of inflation.

Romney pointed to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s handling of monetary policy as primary drivers of the current inflation rate.

“The president coming into office did almost all the wrong things,” Romney told the Deseret News. “He sent out $1.9 trillion dollars that the economy didn’t need, told people they could stay in their apartments without paying rent, did not deal with immigration in a way that would be helpful. ... Almost everything he did, unfortunately, added to inflation.”

Biden’s recent decision to tap into the nation’s strategic oil reserves is only a “small drop in the bucket” that is unlikely to do much to reduce the current price of gas, he said.

“I don’t believe that what the administration is doing will have much impact at all,” Romney said. “They’ve got to say something to make it look like they’re doing something.”

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Mark Droubay, president of Double D Distribution in Salt Lake City, gives Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a tour on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

He said the president’s stalled “Build Back Better” Act would only further exacerbate the issue, adding that he’s already concerned with what he sees as a cycle of demand for higher wages, which in turn increases the cost of goods and services.

“What’s going to stop it from happening? The answer is, I don’t see it stopping anytime soon,” Romney said during a roundtable discussion with the association. “I fear that what it’s going to take to make it stop is the Federal Reserve raising interest rates so high that it slows down the economy as the result of a recession. That’s what it’s taken in the past.”

The Fed already increased interest rates last month, but Romney said he’s confident officials are moving ahead cautiously to prevent an economic collapse.

“A lot of people looking at what the Fed is going to do suggest that in order to tame this amount of inflation, they will end up causing a recession,” he said. “I hope not. They’re trying not to. They’re gonna do their best to tamp the brakes gently. Hopefully they’ll be successful.”

“I am not going to predict the next recession,” Romney said. “But obviously, we’re in some vulnerability for that. And until that happens, well, we’re going to see inflation continue to impact us.”

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks with a group gathered at the Utah Trucking Association in West Valley City on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

‘Fighting is fine if you win’

Romney also spoke out against a culture among some politicians in Washington who make a show of “fighting” for their constituents without having anything to show for it.

“There’s some politicians who go just to fight. ‘I’m fighting for this, and I’m fighting for that.’ And fighting is fine if you win. You’ve got to win. You’ve actually got to accomplish something,” he said.

Specifically, he defended his decision to support last year’s bipartisan, $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, for which he has received some criticism from the far right of his party.

Romney said that politics on both sides of the aisle is driven by politicians who can rake in small dollar donations by firing up their base on cable television.

“You wonder, ‘How did someone elect that nut? That person’s a moron!’ Well, because that person just got a half a million dollars for saying something moronic. Because people love it,” he said.

Hitting the road

After hearing from members of the association — many who said they have acutely felt the pinch from inflation — Romney toured the facilities of Double D Distribution, a transport company in Salt Lake City. He posed for photos with the company’s staff and owners before jumping at the opportunity to drive a Freightliner semi truck around the block.

Thanks to the current worker shortage, owner Mark Droubay joked that he might need the senator’s help to haul a shipment across the country to Massachusetts. Romney didn’t make it that far, but managed the short drive without incident.

“No accidents,” he said as he stepped out of the cab.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, walks around the front of a Freightliner semi owned by Double D Distribution in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News