When it comes to pointing fingers about what’s caused rising prices over the past few months, both Democrats and Republicans have proven themselves quite willing.
But Catherine Rampell, a columnist for The Washington Post website, wrote recently that while members of both parties are eager to assign blame, their aim tends to miss the mark.
Her recent column, cleverly titled, “Every time I think the inflation discourse can’t get dumber, I’m proven wrong,” contends that politicians are intentionally offering half-baked ideas to explain inflation rather than acknowledging that the real reasons behind this year’s price increases.
Liberals, she noted, have contended that corporate greed is responsible for the problem — “implying that corporations have only just remembered they’re supposed to be greedy after having been very altruistic for several decades, and especially last year,” when inflation was extremely low due to the pandemic.
Republicans, meanwhile, see inflation as good politics — as either party would do when it’s seeking to reclaim power in Washington.
Conservatives contend that the Biden administration has driven up oil prices because of his “war on fossil fuels,” which includes the president’s decision several months ago to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. The problem with this argument is that the pipeline was only 8% complete when work stopped, so it could not have affected the current supply of oil.
Another complaint is that Biden has halted oil and gas drilling on public lands. But Rampell cited The Associated Press, which reported that the administration is on track to approve the most drilling permits this year since 2008. It also recently held the largest sale of offshore oil and gas leases in U.S. history.
The silliest theory Rampell mentioned came from Lara Trump, who claimed on TV that inflation is part of a plot to force families to give up cherished traditions like Halloween and Thanksgiving.
A better argument about the roots of inflation involves both parties. For the past 18 months, both Democrats and Republicans have shoveled trillions of dollars at American citizens and businesses in an effort to provide stability and security during the pandemic.
Now the recipients are spending that money, and the result is that demand is exceeding supply. Worker shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks also have contributed to the increase in prices.
Rampell believes, with good reason, that neither party is willing to point to the stimulus money as a key contributor to inflation. One reason is that many of the gifts, especially last year and this past spring, were appreciated by a lot of Americans — both conservative and liberal.
Democrats may fear that acknowledging the stimulus impact would hurt President Biden politically. Republicans probably reason that criticism won’t help them in 2022, since they were in power when the first assistance to individuals and businesses arrived in 2020.