Opinions | Biden wants us to blame Putin for inflation but the facts back a different story

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Opinions | Biden wants us to blame Putin for inflation but the facts back a different story


President Biden is now eager to blame inflation — which continues to accelerate — on Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the right and proper sanctions the West has slammed on Russia. In trying to foist the blame for inflation onto Putin, Biden has gone not one, but many bridges too far.

Americans aren’t stupid. They know what inflation was doing to their purchasing power before Putin’s tanks rolled into Ukraine, and they will correctly assess a of blame for further price hikes portion on Putin. But when the president tries – brazenly and repeatedly – to argue that pump prices are Putin’s fault, he loses ground with the American public, and he doesn’t have a lot of ground to lose.

Here are some truths held by the center right. They are contested by various folks on the left. What matters is that they are common-sense observations that likely cannot be turned around by economists, analysts or pundits.

First, the “covid relief” bill that Biden pushed through in early 2021 was unnecessary and inflationary. Supply chain problems did indeed make it much harder to produce more goods for the new money to chase and thus contributed to the inflationary surge, but it was new money created by deficit spending that exacerbated the inflation.

Second, the infrastructure bill was bipartisan but also contributes to inflation because the market doesn’t care what you are buying commodities for; it just cares about demand for commodities. You can be buying steel for a bridge or steel for a yacht, but it’s all just steel and demand drives prices. Adding an infrastructure spending splurge in an inflationary environment had Republican and Democratic support, but it still contributed to inflation.

Third, killing the Keystone XL pipeline was the sort of sonic-boom signal the oil market hears and reacts to. That was a Day 1 priority for Biden. Once he canceled it, the global market for oil guessed that less petroleum would be forthcoming from North America. Markets are forward-looking. Telegraph a tightening of production and prices go up.

Hikes in the cost of oil affect far more than the cost of gas in cars; it boosts the price of everything oil is used to produce — though American voters see the “jump at the pump” first and most often. They know what they paid for gas in 2020. Blaming Putin for the enormous jump over two years is certain to boomerang on Biden’s already low standing in the polls. You can’t lie to the American public on a subject so near and dear to their pocketbooks and expect to get away with it just because you repeat the lie often.

“Biden Inflation” is real. It had arrived even before Putin began massing forces adjacent to Ukraine. It will continue even if Putin declares victory and withdraws from Ukraine. It is simply the product of too much money chasing too few goods. And it will crush Democrats at the polls in November. But it will crush them even worse than it ordinarily would if Biden continues to insist “I didn’t do it.” That’s what children declare when anything goes awry. But it’s not what voters expect of elected officials.

House Democrats are retiring in droves. It’s easier to look for a new job when you have one than after you have been bounced out unceremoniously. The elections in November will be about inflation and schools.

My suggested stump speech for Republicans running this cycle: “The Democrats believe in five things: inflation at home, appeasement abroad, teachers unions first and parents and students last, an open southern border and closed police precincts everywhere.” That’s rhetorical excess, of course, but it is the sort that sticks during campaigns, because it’s rooted in the daily experiences of many voters.

Campaigns are about repeating themes culminating in a set of results. Biden’s impossible task – the impossible task of every Democrat on every ballot – is to persuade 50 percent plus one in every election that nothing is their fault. But they have dictated the agenda of the federal government since January 2021.

Biden’s protestations to the contrary are just more reason to rebuke him in the fall.

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