WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday the American people are “really, really down” after a tumultuous two years with the coronavirus pandemic, volatility in the economy and now surging gasoline prices that are slamming family budgets. But he stressed that a recession was “not inevitable” and held out hope of giving the country a greater sense of confidence.Speaking to The Associated Press in a 30-minute Oval Office interview, the president emphasized the battered economy that he inherited and the lingering psychological scars caused by a pandemic that disrupted people’s sense of identity. He bristled at claims by Republican lawmakers that last year’s COVID-19 aid plan was fully to blame for inflation reaching a 40-year high, calling that argument “bizarre.”As for the overall American mindset, Biden said, “People are really, really down.”“Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset,” Biden said. “Everything they’ve counted on upset. But most of it’s the consequence of what happened, what happened as a consequence of the, the COVID crisis.”That pessimism has carried over into the economy as record prices at the pump and persistent inflation have jeopardized Democrats’ ability to hold on to the House and Senate


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