By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House and Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos squared off on Monday over the Biden administration's handling of U.S. inflation and its plans to tax the rich.
Starting over the weekend, Bezos has been slamming President Joe Biden, accusing him of misleading the public on inflation by arguing that hiking taxes on corporations and the rich would lower consumer costs.
The administration responded with an unusually personal jab that suggested Bezos was trying to protect his wealth and undermine unions.
"It doesn't require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the president is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share," White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.
"It's also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees."
Bezos responded that the administration was trying to distract from stimulus policies that stoked inflation.
"They understandably want to muddy the topic," he said on Twitter. "They know inflation hurts the neediest the most. But unions aren't causing inflation and neither are wealthy people."
The back-and-forth escalated the war of words between the White House and one of the world's richest men after Biden attacked Amazon for paying too little in federal taxes and appeared to side with workers seeking to unionize some of the company's employees.
Biden has been under growing pressure to stem inflation, which has risen to near 40-year highs, and some economists think that raising certain taxes could ease price pressures in the economy.
Inflation has increased globally since the pandemic, but some economists attribute the particularly strong bout in the United States to stimulus including last year's Biden-backed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Many economists also think that spending helped the U.S. economy avoid an economic slowdown.
The president wants corporations and billionaires like Bezos to pay more, but his tax and spending plans have fallen short of securing the necessary support in Congress.
"Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss," Bezos wrote earlier on Twitter. "Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection."
(This story refiles to remove redundant White House reference from 4th paragraph)
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis)