Trump allies attack Biden on inflation with an old Cheesecake Factory menu. No, seriously.

The economy, especially inflation, looks to be one of the most significant factors this year as voters consider whether to stick with President Joe Biden or return to former President Donald Trump.

And some of Trump's most loyal supporters were willing to play shady this week with Cheesecake Factory menu prices to beat up on Biden about inflation.

Make America Great Again, a pro-Trump super PAC known as MAGA Inc., has raised millions to support his attempt to retake the White House and to pay his legal fees in four criminal cases.

MAGA Inc. on Monday drew attention to a social media parody post Sunday that mocked Trump during a speech he made in Las Vegas. The post falsely suggested that Trump claimed the "warm crab dip" at The Cheesecake Factory now costs $47 under "Biden prices."

MAGA Inc. acknowledged the parody but then also played loosey-goosey with reality, declaring that "prices at the Cheesecake Factory have ballooned under Joe Biden."

That messaging directly aligns with Trump's campaign, which blamed Biden for inflation and the economy Wednesday while touting his speech next Tuesday in Wisconsin.

A deep dive into Cheesecake Factory prices

The super political action committee selected seven Cheesecake Factory menu items and compared how much they cost in December 2020, a month after Trump had lost the presidential election to Biden, to what it called the "latest" prices, showing increases that ranged from 21.3% to 51.1%.

One glaring problem here – MAGA Inc.'s "latest" prices are dated Nov. 23. That's nearly seven months ago. Inflation is not some static economic indicator that sits still for more than half a year.

MAGA Inc. told me they used archived menu prices from 2020 and 2023 from the website

Want more up-to-date information? The Cheesecake Factory operates 338 restaurants in the United States and Canada and publishes online menus with latest prices.

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The menu at The Cheesecake Factory closest to me in Philadelphia this week showed that prices in six of the seven items highlighted by MAGA Inc. have dropped significantly since the super PAC's "latest" prices from more than 200 days ago. And the Crusted Chicken Romano even costs the same now – $16.95 – as it did on the MAGA Inc. menu from 2020.

The only item that still costs the same today as in November was the warm crab dip at $14.50, up from $11.95 in December 2020. Maybe that elevated the dish to be a social media parody star?

Explanation for inflation argument doesn't make sense

MAGA Inc. spokesperson Alex Pfeiffer told me the super PAC used archived menus from 2020 and 2023 to have an "apples to apples comparison," because prices at Cheesecake Factory restaurants vary by location.

He noted that his PAC is located in West Palm Beach, where the prices at the local Cheesecake Factory for the seven selected items were up by less than $1 to $7 this week compared with the prices at the chain's location in Philadelphia.

President Joe Biden on June 11, 2024.
President Joe Biden on June 11, 2024.

MAGA Inc. had to rely on data, Pfieffer said, because Cheesecake Factory's previous menu prices are not available through internet archive searches.

OK. But the numbers from 2020 and 2023 were not pegged to any one location. So MAGA Inc.'s slam on Biden is still based on data that was fresh on the day when Americans last celebrated Thanksgiving.

Sounds like a turkey to me.

Republicans in Congress also wielding Cheesecake Factory prices

It's not just MAGA Inc. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Trump adulator Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, posted Monday on the website formerly known as Twitter about inflation in New York, lamenting that visitors to that city could once "dine at the Cheesecake Factory without spending your whole paycheck."

That prompted at least three questions:

  • What does this have to do with the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal courts, administrative bodies and law enforcement agencies?

  • Why would you eat at a Cheesecake Factory – no offense, big fan of the fried chicken club salad – in one of the best restaurant towns on the planet?

  • How hungry are you that you just devoured "your whole paycheck"?

Maybe Jordan's problem is impulse control, not inflation.

What's the truth about inflation and restaurant prices?

Biden is keenly aware of the political danger he faces from voters frustrated by inflation and the economy. His campaign on Wednesday circulated media reports about inflation easing in May.

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The Associated Press noted that some chain restaurants are cutting prices. Forbes, citing Labor Department data, said inflation fell to the lowest levels since April 2021. Reuters reported that an anticipated increase in the consumer price index for May did not come to pass.

Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer, in a news release, said the president "inherited an economy on the brink from Donald Trump and is now leading the great American comeback."

As for The Cheesecake Factory, the publicly traded company last month reported total revenues for the first three months of 2024 at $891.2 million compared with $866.1 million for the first three months of last year.

That's a lot of warm crab dip.

Inflation remains a challenge for Biden

Inflation is still a problem to many voters. As I wrote in January, it is a lagging indicator in elections, with consumers unsure if improving conditions are real and will last.

That can be good news for Trump, who hammers away at Biden on the economy in every speech. It's a continuing challenge for Biden, who needs to entice the full political spectrum of voter support that helped him prevail four years ago if he's going to win again.

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Biden's camp is promoting every scrap of good economic news as it comes along, hoping that voters start hearing something positive about the prices they're paying.

Voters should consider the issue when they vote for president. That consideration should come from a clear-eyed view of the economy in real time, not as it was more than six months ago. And probably not from a Cheesecake Factory menu.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Chris Brennan on X, formerly known as Twitter: @ByChrisBrennan

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What does inflation have to do with the Cheesecake Factory? Nothing