President Joe Biden on February 22, 2020 in Las Vegas.

RONDA CHURCHILL

President Joe Biden visited the battleground state of Nevada on Tuesday to crack down on corporate landlords who the White House says are keeping rents artificially high even as overall inflation has eased.

“My administration is cracking down on large corporations that violate antitrust laws by fixing prices to keep rents high,” Biden said in Las Vegas. “Landlords should be competing to get people the best deal, not conspiring to charge them more.”

Biden’s attack on what he calls “rent gouging” is part of his broader election-year effort to shift blame for the stubbornly high cost of living away from the president and his economic policies and onto companies with outsized pricing power.

“People are tired of being played for idiots, and I’m tired of making them play for idiots,” Biden said.

As public sentiment becomes increasingly positive about the economy, housing remains a major concern. The latest consumer price index, a key measure of inflation, showed that energy and housing costs were the main drivers of the 0.4% rise in consumer prices in February.

Housing costs were the second most important economic issue for respondents in a recent study Financial Times/Michigan Ross Poll of 1,010 registered voters, trailing only inflation overall.

As a result, housing is emerging as a major front in Biden’s war on corporate pricing power, in which he also targets high drug and food prices.

Biden, speaking in Nevada, also tightened housing regulations in his 2025 budget proposal and called on Congress to pass legislation to reduce housing costs.

Biden won Nevada in 2020, but recent polls show him trailing presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the Silver State.

Housing in Biden’s broader agenda

“This is a president who is always willing to take on powerful interests to reduce costs for families,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday. “This housing agenda is just another example.”

Last week, that National Association of Realtors announced a $418 million settlement to resolve antitrust lawsuits by home sellers who alleged that the industry’s longstanding commission structure amounted to collusion between the NAR and its member brokers. In a statement, the trade group denied any wrongdoing.

“The National Association of Realtors’ recent agreement is an important step toward increasing competition” in the real estate market, Lael Brainard, director of the National Economic Council, said in a call with reporters on Monday.

Under the Biden administration, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s antitrust division have been particularly aggressive in challenging large mergers in court.

It’s all part of Biden’s broader fight against conglomerates and corporations that he sees as overly powerful, as well as companies that he believes have used anti-competitive practices to distort free markets.

Biden’s push to restore what he calls a “fair, open and competitive market” has become a cornerstone of the president’s economic platform.

On the campaign trail, that often means convincing voters that giant corporations are more responsible for the financial woes of average Americans than his policies.

Here’s the latest Financial Times poll suggested that Biden’s efforts may have paid off.

The proportion of respondents who believe that “large corporations are taking advantage of inflation” are partly responsible for the price increases increased by 9% from November to March and reached 63%. The survey had a margin of error of +/-3.1%.

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