Op-Ed: President Biden is blaming everyone else for surging inflation

James Carter,  January 11, 2022

By Jim Carter and Jeffrey Schmidt in The Hill

Americans paid more for everything this Christmas, from toys to turkeys. But this “Bah, humbug” reality didn’t start with the Christmas season. Only 1.4 percent when Joe Biden took the presidential oath last January, year-over-year inflation has come in at 5 percent or more for 7 consecutive months. We know inflation is a growing problem because President Biden has repeatedly gone out of his way to shift the blame away from his administration.

Anyone who fills up at a gas pump, for example, knows what a big bite increasing gas prices are taking. President Biden blames higher energy prices on oil and gas producers. As reported in November: “In a letter to FTC chairman Lina Kahn, Biden claimed ‘there is mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies.’”

Having pledged during the campaign to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy future, the president’s hostility to conventional energy was obvious on Inauguration Day. That was before he axed the Keystone XL pipeline and took no fewer than 24 other actions that raised energy prices. And yet, President Biden won’t fess up about the effect his policies have had on energy prices.

Affordable, plentiful energy — a hallmark of President Trump’s tenure — is fundamental to American prosperity. But President Biden isn’t just pointing the finger at energy producers. Meat producers have also been singled out as grinches.

At a press briefing on Dec. 13, 2021, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accused “meat conglomerates” of succumbing to “corporate greed.” Psaki then charged meat companies with profiteering off COVID, saying, “You could call it jacking up prices during a pandemic.”

But the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) was having none of it. NAMI fired back at the President’s National Economic Council for attacking its members — an attack that Psaki echoed — and pointed out that the Biden Administration conveniently ignored “data on rising input costs, rising fuel costs, supply chain difficulties and labor shortages that impact the price of meat on the retail shelf.”

America’s meat producers seem to have a legitimate beef of their own with this White House.

If “corporate greed” is driving prices higher, as Psaki claims, why was inflation tame until March 2021?

Supply-chain troubles started with the pandemic, but the Biden administration hasn’t made things better. In fact, their incompetence has made matters worse. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s recent two-month paternity leave amounted to more than bad optics. Buttigieg was AWOL while West Coast ports struggled with daunting bottlenecks. Despite a Biden Administration effort to break the logjam shortly after Buttigieg’s return, the problem remains.

The labor shortages NAMI mentioned aren’t only plaguing the meat industry, of course, but every sector of the economy. All those “help wanted” signs at retail and fast-food outlets are merely the tip of the iceberg.

A report issued last month found that policies enacted to maintain household incomes during the pandemic, which expanded during the Biden administration, are incentivizing workers to stay home. The result? Ongoing labor shortages have elevated tensions — the growing friction between livestock producers and meat processors is one prominent example — and are hamstringing the U.S. economy.

Never one to run out of blame, President Biden also points the finger at the economy itself, claiming that surging inflation is the natural result of the economy rebounding from the pandemic. As the President said last July, “The reality is you can’t flip the global economics light back [on] and not expect this to happen.”

But if inflation is the inevitable result of a rebounding world economy, why is the U.S. inflation rate among the highest of the G-20 nations? In fact, at 6.8 percent last month—the highest since June 1982 — the U.S. inflation rate is higher than inflation rates in 130 other countries.

Is U.S. inflation higher because the U.S. economy is growing rapidly? Actually, third-quarter GDP — the latest quarter for which there is an official estimate — was only 1.4 percent larger in real terms than the last pre-pandemic quarter (Q4 2019).

Then there’s President Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar binge spending, which has only begun if the president, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) get their ways.

As Jennifer Stefano wrote for The Hill on November 23: “None of their [Democrats] tax-and-spend proposals will solve the root causes of price increases and shortages — they will only make them go from bad to worse. If Congress wants to continue devaluing the dollar and making Americans poorer, lawmakers should simply stay the course and do what the White House and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are calling for — spend trillions of dollars in an already overheated economy.”

The bottom line is this: Don’t expect President Biden, his administration, or liberals in Congress to take any blame for the nation’s mounting economic woes. Then again, perhaps Psaki is right, and “people’s psychology” is to blame. (No, not really.)

James Carter is Director of the America First Policy Institute’s Center for American Prosperity. Previously, he served as Deputy Undersecretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and as Chief Minority Economist on the staff of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. Jeffrey Schmidt is a principal at Engage Direct, a community-engaged marketing firm.

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