Is it corporations raising prices and reaping huge profits as a result?
Is it a result of the various economic and supply chain disruptions, all around the world, from an unprecedented pandemic?
Is it because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
Or was it a result of the stimulus actions taken early in the pandemic, both in the last year of the Trump Administration and the first year of the Joe Biden presidency?
The Inflation Challenge: Blame Joe Biden?
A new op-ed in The Hill takes the latter tack, arguing that Biden is to blame for both inflation and the upcoming fight over the debt ceiling.
“President Biden tossed trillions in unnecessary COVID-19 relief onto a fast-recovering economy, punching up inflation to 40-year highs as too many dollars chased too few goods,” Liz Peek writes. “Meanwhile, no one – including many Republicans – has been minding the store.”
She goes on to preview the upcoming debt ceiling fight.
“Prepare for a massive public relations fight. Biden and his Democratic colleagues are already portraying GOP House members as rabble rousers and agents of chaos — ready to sabotage our economy, torch markets, and bring on a financial crisis. The liberal media will broadcast that Social Security payments will cease and veterans will go hungry,” Peek writes.
As a result, Republicans are calling for spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling – something that did not happen during the Trump presidency, when the debt ceiling was raised three times without much controversy or rancor.
But once again: These arguments about debts and deficits seem to only ever come up in one scenario: When a Democrat is president and Republicans are in control of at least one house of Congress. The issue, during Republican presidencies in particular, is all but absent from either media or political conversations. During four years of Trump, the issue was practically nonexistent.
“Kevin McCarthy must craft a compelling argument and keep his caucus united in the fight for spending cuts. It will be tough and ugly. But someone who survived 15 votes to become Speaker has grit. Let us hope he uses it wisely,” Peek writes.
He’ll have his work cut out for him. The Joe Biden Administration is saying that it will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. And the Republican caucus remains divided over whether to make any cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which are popular programs. And Republicans maintain a thin majority in the House, and any debt ceiling brinksmanship would be done with little wiggle room for McCarthy.
“Let’s start calling the debt ceiling exactly what it is: paying Donald Trump’s bills. It’s not allowing for new spending, it’s paying for much of what Trump and @SpeakerMcCarthy recently spent,” Rep. Eric Swalwell tweeted last week.
Biden last fall touted the largest single-year deficit drop in history, although that was mostly a function of temporary COVID spending from 2021 having lapsed.
There have also been arguments that Biden’s policies are not, in fact, to blame for inflation.
“Inflation is global. There’s been an acceleration of core inflation across every advanced economy, even the ones that did very, very little fiscal relief,” Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute told NPR last year. “And so I think the evidence linking specific Biden-era policies to the surge in inflation is just really, really weak,” Steven Greenhouse wrote for The Guardian last fall that Biden is not to blame for inflation.
“For any American who is thinking of voting Republican out of anger about inflation, here’s some advice: look before you leap,” he wrote. “Republicans won’t do anything more than Biden has done to slow inflation. Indeed, they’ll probably do less. Despite the flood of GOP ads attacking Biden over inflation, Republicans haven’t put forward any proposals about how they would slow inflation.”
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.