BIDEN'S INFLATION FANTASY. The reason President Joe Biden delivered a speech on inflation on Tuesday was that he knew the government would release the latest statistics on inflation Wednesday morning and he knew the news would be bad. Might as well try to get ahead of things. And now that the numbers are out, the news is indeed bad.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports inflation rose at an annual rate of 8.3% in April — ever so slightly less than the 8.5% annual rate in March, but still above the painful 8% line, and also above the 8.1% that had been predicted. In any event, the numbers inside the numbers are terrible.
The price of fuel oil is up 85% on an annual basis. Gasoline up 43.6%. Natural gas up 22.7%. Electricity up 11%. The price of used cars and trucks up 22.7%. New vehicles up 13.2%. Clothing up 5.4%. Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs up 14.3%. Dairy up 9.1%. Cereals and bakery products up 10.3%. Nonalcoholic beverages up 9.8%.
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Biden's speech Tuesday was all politics. The midterm elections are now less than six months away, and largely because of inflation, the prospects for Democrats are dismal. In assessing the speech, a number of commentators pointed to all the president's usual word jumbles and weird locutions, such as when he said, "Look, I know you've got to be frustrated. I know. I can taste it." Even the crew at Morning Joe made fun of that one.
But there were two main themes in Biden's speech that were notable. The first is his desperate attempt to deflect blame for inflation. He blamed the coronavirus pandemic. He blamed Vladimir Putin. He blamed energy companies. He blamed Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) — yes, he really did. He tried to blame everyone except Joe Biden, president of the United States.
It's not that some of those actors, namely the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, don't bear some blame. They do. But the fact is, Joe Biden, president of the United States, bears some blame, too, and for at least two reasons. First, he, with the support of Democrats on Capitol Hill, has pushed astronomical spending measures that have overstimulated the economy and worsened inflation. And second, given the seriousness of inflation in the energy sector, he has pursued policies to lessen the production of U.S. fossil fuel energy, thus making the country more dependent on the rest of the world for energy.
What was striking in Biden's remarks was the degree to which he seemed intent on staying the course, on sticking with the policies that have made inflation worse. The nation needs more spending, he said — in fact, more spending will decrease inflation, in Biden's view. And the country needs less fossil fuel energy production because that will bring the U.S. closer to a glorious renewable energy future. That's what will cure inflation.
How can you tell the White House wants to increase spending? By the number of times it uses the word "invest." Democratic White Houses and Congresses do not spend. They "invest." And if you look at the fact sheet accompanying the president's remarks on Tuesday, you'll find some form of "invest" several times. Biden wants to "invest in lowering the cost of child care." He wants to "invest in building more than one million affordable homes." He wants to pass "clean energy and vehicle tax credits and investments." He wants a "historic investment in [electric vehicle] charging infrastructure." In his remarks, Biden said, "I'm working with Congress to pass landmark investments to help build a clean energy future." The president and his party are "investing" all over the place. By the way, one word that is not found at all in either the president's remarks or the White House fact sheet: "subsidy." And yet the plan is full of them.
Which leads to another notable fact about Biden's inflation strategy. With the midterm elections approaching, with Democrats in trouble and in need of all the support he can get, such as support from, say, environmental activists, Biden is standing by his climate agenda, even if it is contributing to inflation. He wants to impose "the strongest ever fuel economy standards for cars and trucks." And he wants to "set American on course to ensure that one of every two cars sold in 2030 burns no fossil fuels."
Remember that one of the ways Biden has encouraged inflation is to make the U.S. more dependent on foreign energy. Republicans protest the U.S. achieved energy independence under former President Donald Trump and that now Biden has thrown it all away with moves such as canceling the Keystone XL pipeline. But don't worry. The White House says that under Biden, the U.S. will achieve "real energy independence" — that is, it will reach a glorious renewable energy future in which it will no longer depend on foreign sources of energy. If that ever happens, it is a long way away — and it is certainly not the way to fight inflation at this moment. But it is the Democratic Party agenda, and Biden is sticking to it.
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