President Joe Biden has written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal detailing his plan to fight inflation.
Well, perhaps the word “detailing” is too generous. The preponderance of the column features Biden taking credit for economic growth that can be attributed to the reopening of the economy that was shuttered by the governing class during COVID. Biden, of course, not only championed those closings but was critical of Republican governors who opened their states before he deemed it appropriate.
But with midterms approaching, there’s been a concerted effort underway to exonerate the president, and thus Democrats, of any culpability for rising prices. Biden sycophant “Morning Joe,” for example, contends that anyone who blames the president for more than a “passing impact” on inflation is a “lying hack or an ignorant rube.” One wonders if that group includes former Obama adviser Steve Rattner, who argues that inflation has been driven by government putting “too much money in people’s pockets”? Or Obama’s onetime Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers, who had been warning for more than a year that cash infusions would exacerbate inflation? Or Jeff Bezos, who correctly pointed out that the “administration tried hard to inject even more stimulus into an already over-heated, inflationary economy”?
Even if we were to concede that there is no good way to quantify exactly how much recent spending helped propel inflation — which is outpacing other Western nations — it’s clear that the Biden administration completely mismanaged what should have been a slam-dunk recovery.
The Federal Reserve’s easy monetary policy may not be the president’s fault, but what about Washington’s showering the economy with cash during a recovering economy? Democrats threw $2 trillion in “stimulus” into the economy and continued expanding the terms of unemployment benefits (even as the job market was recovering). All of this after the $3 trillion bipartisan “COVID relief” bill had passed.
With an assist from some Republicans, Democrats then approved another trillion-plus-dollar infrastructure bill. The president says that “tackling inflation” is his top domestic priority, but for more than a year most of his efforts, witnessed in the near-constant media coverage, were used to try to pass progressive reforms. It was Republicans — with help of two often-vilified, moderate Democrats — who stood in the way of Biden pushing through another nearly $5 trillion in social spending. The president still wants more “relief.”
Biden can blame Vladimir Putin for creating disruptions in the energy market, but price spikes predate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And surely one of the jobs of the president is to put the United States in a stronger position for economic shocks. Instead, Biden signed a slew of executive orders pausing government leases on public lands, shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline, and stymieing drilling in the Gulf of Mexico over concocted “social cost of carbon” externalities. Despite the (extra) uncertainty that came with a post-pandemic economy, all of this was done in the first weeks of his administration.
Biden is now calling these energy spikes, embedded in essentially all economic activity, a needed “transition.” Virtually every action Biden has taken is conceived to make fossil fuels more expensive. That’s the president’s fault. Concerns over the availability of future energy production are baked into today’s prices.
As a political matter, Democrats, obsessed with the idea of historic expansion of the welfare state, spent a year dismissing and mocking apprehensions over spiking prices. “There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist,” Biden famously claimed.
As prices spiked and poll numbers dropped, Biden officials began to cynically use rising prices as a justification for more spending. Biden and his National Economic Council Director Brian Deese argued that Build Back Better — which you might recall costs “zero” dollars — would help combat inflation. The entire administration pushed the notion that the best prescription for alleviating inflation was more spending. Even today, as the president is poised to “forgive” student loans, pumping hundreds of billions into the economy to bail out rich kids, Deese maintains the impact “on inflation, in the near term, is likely to be quite small.” Sure.
In any event, I assume Ron Klain isn’t laughing off inflation as a “high-class problem” anymore.
So, while it’s true that inflation is a complex, multifaceted problem that isn’t entirely any one person’s or administration’s or event’s fault, it is fair to say that the Biden administration, from top to bottom, was as wrong as an administration could be on the issue. They ignored it. They weren’t prepared. They exacerbated it. At the very least, Biden deserves a lot more credit for inflation than he does economic growth. If you’re going to take credit for the latter, you deserve blame for the former.