The topic of inflation — a subject bubbling just below the surface since 2020 — finally boiled over on April 12, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the consumer price index had grown by 8.5% compared to the year prior, the highest rate in four decades.
Though President Joe Biden and his administration would prefer we simply pretend it’s not happening at all, inflation is increasingly becoming impossible to ignore. Rather than dismissing it out of hand, or referring to it as “transitory,” Biden has now opted to blame the war in Ukraine for the inflation he has presided over. Specifically, he’s taken to calling it “Putin’s price hike,” a claim that simply does not line up with the rise in inflation beginning well before the war began. Though gas prices have continued to rise since the war ramped up, I don’t think anyone honestly believes that the war is solely responsible for reducing the American consumer’s purchasing power.
Clearly, this ought to serve as evidence that the Biden Administration will point fingers at anyone but themselves. Before their latest claim regarding Russia, they blamed “corporate greed,” and even before that, either denied its existence or spun it as a positive, according to Newsweek. Thankfully, the administration’s sloppy attempts at spin have largely fallen flat in the public’s eyes. Biden’s efforts to repair his image have not made a dent in his poor polling numbers, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average of the president’s popularity. A survey released by Fox in late March indicated that 67% of voters blamed Biden for high gas prices, and 66% disapproved of Biden’s handling of inflation.
So if the blame can’t primarily be placed on Putin, who is to blame? As commander in chief, President Biden holds a great deal of culpability. Throughout his presidency, Biden has recklessly pursued a policy of debt spending under the guise of “infrastructure,” or “COVID-19 relief,” either ignorant or deliberately careless about the consequences. Beyond this, Biden has not even had the decency to come clean to the public regarding inflation, constantly shifting his narrative depending on political expediency. During this difficult time, Biden has certainly not been the steady hand Americans might hope to find at their country’s helm.
Though Biden exacerbated the problem, the Trump-era Congress, and yes, former President Donald Trump himself, deserve some of the blame. With seldom a voice of skepticism, Congress rushed to pass a half-baked pandemic relief bill that pumped historic amounts of taxpayer money into circulation. The bill was unprecedented in scale, with much of the money not even being distributed to locked-down businesses. Prescient legislators like Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, who Reuters reported to have voiced concerns about the bill early on, were bullied into submission.
Likewise, the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, deserve its share of the blame. As famed economist Milton Friedman aptly put it in his biography, “inflation is a monetary phenomenon. It is made by or stopped by the central bank.” This has arguably been the case with America’s most recent bout with inflation and the Federal Reserve’s hamfisted approach toward the pandemic.
It’s not as if this inflation was completely unpredictable; economists and laymen alike foresaw inflation arising from the massive sums of currency printed by the Fed. If Powell and our representatives had followed another nugget of wisdom from American Enterprise Institute’s quote of Friedman, “Inflation is caused by too much money chasing after too few goods,” we might find ourselves in a less precarious position today.