Biden has no real answers to fighting inflation

By Matthew Gagnon

On Monday, President Joe Biden took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to boldly declare that he recognized the impact that inflation was having on the average American — he knows what we’re living with because he “grew up in a family where it mattered when the price of gas or groceries rose,” after all — and that he had a plan to fight it. 

Trying to discover that plan is pretty difficult, as the president’s column drones on for 500 words before he even bothers to talk about what he wants to do about it. In those first seven excruciating, interminable paragraphs, Biden vacillates between buck-passing and fictitious exercise in alternative history. 

He begins by, of course, trying to pin the blame for inflation on Vladimir Putin, hoping that you will forget that the price of a gallon of gasoline was $2.38 the week he was inaugurated and had already shot up to $3.61 by the time Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. He would probably also like you to forget that the overall inflation rate was spiking steadily and significantly from October through the end of February, already touching close to 8 percent in February, before the war had truly begun. Was inflation worse after Putin’s invasion? Barely, and it rose at the same rate it had been the prior five months, in any event. 

He then declares boldly that “the American people should have confidence that our economy faces these challenges from a position of strength.” To demonstrate how good we have it and how much we should thank our betters in Washington, Biden hilariously claims that he inherited a stalled recovery and a COVID crisis that was out of control. Nevermind the fact that there have been more COVID deaths since Biden took office (153,481 more during Biden’s time as president than during Trump’s to be exact, as of May 30), or the fact that Biden himself said during the campaign that “anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.” 

He then goes on to admit that his policies will dampen economic growth as the economy “transitions” to something more “sustainable,” moving from monthly job “creation” figures of 500,000 to perhaps 150,000. And he says this will be a good thing for the ever cliche “working families” he incessantly talks about. 

Finally, we get to hear about Biden’s “solution” to the inflation problem that he promised us. “First, the Federal Reserve has a primary responsibility to control inflation,” he writes without describing what the Fed will need to do to try to control it. This is understandable, as the Fed’s primary means of doing so will be through the manipulation of interest rates, which have already started to increase, and will continue to do so. Biden says only that he won’t seek to influence its decisions, and that he agrees “with their assessment that fighting inflation is our top economic challenge right now.”

As is so often the case, here Biden seeks to associate himself with “solutions” that he doesn’t even name, while abrogating any decision-making that might be deemed hard to sell politically. 

Biden then claims that as somebody else fixes his problems for him by using methods he refuses to describe, we need to “make things more affordable for families” at the same time. Once again he claims that gas is expensive because of Putin before bragging about releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, which has made virtually no impact. Left unsaid (of course) is his insistence on shutting down oil and gas permits in the midst of an energy crisis. 

Lastly, Biden once again repeats his most absurd claim of all, that his actions have led to a reduction in the federal deficit, something he wants to “continue” by raising taxes. In reality, the budget deficit for 2021 is only lower because of the combination of inflation-related revenue increases and the expiration of pandemic spending. It still remains, even “reduced,” at $2.3 trillion — an absolutely grotesque number — and it would have been lower had the Biden administration continued policies that he inherited from the Trump administration. 

Biden is right about one thing in his comical, alternative reality world: “the economic policy choices we make today,” he writes, “will determine whether a sustained recovery that benefits all Americans is possible.”

Unfortunately for him, and for America, his ideas (if you can call them that) will continue to set the country back for years to come.

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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