Byron York: The Democrats’ Bidenflation disaster
Published 12:00 am Friday, April 15, 2022
The government says inflation rose 8.5% in March compared to last year — the worst it has been in 40 years, since the bad old days of 1981.
While inflation has infected virtually every area of the economy, the worst news concerns some very fundamental human activities: eating, finding warmth and shelter, and moving around. Look deep into the website at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you’ll see how bad inflation is in those basic areas.
Start with the price of food. BLS says the price of meat, poultry, fish and eggs rose 13.7% annually. The price of cereal and bakery products rose 9.4%. Fruits and vegetables, 8.5%. Nonalcoholic beverages, 8%. Dairy, 7%. And other foods that don’t fit into those categories, 10.3%. All of that adds up to the category of “Food at Home,” which BLS says went up 10% in March over last year.
Want to go out to eat? BLS says prices of full-service meals went up 8% in March, while limited-service meals went up 7.2%. There is simply no way to eat — at home or out — without paying more.
Move on to the subject of staying warm. It is hard to believe, but BLS reports the price of fuel oil, which millions of Americans use to heat their houses, was up 70.1% in March over last year. 70.1%! Then there is the price of what BLS calls “shelter” — that is, the rent you pay or its equivalent if you’re a homeowner — which increased 5%.
Now on to the price of moving around. The price of gas is up 48% from last year. Federal statistics show that the average American driver drives more than 1,000 miles each month. It does not take a Ph.D. in mathematics to know everyone’s gas bill has risen to an uncomfortable, and perhaps unpayable, level. Also, if you’ve tried to buy a used car or truck, you know there is something terribly wrong with the market right now. Indeed, BLS says the price of used cars and trucks rose 35.3% in March over last year. The situation was better, but still terrible, for new cars and trucks — they rose only 12.5% over last year.
Politically, the numbers are a disaster for the party in power. Democrats can talk about the complexity of price structures, or the limited ability of government to deal with the problem or “Putin’s price hike.” It won’t work. The fact is, voters are deeply unhappy with rising prices, and they blame the party in power, which today is the Democratic Party.
“Inflation is raging and getting worse,” said House Ways and Means Committee ranking Republican Kevin Brady in a characteristic GOP statement. “For President Biden, who mistakenly denied record-high inflation and later denied the crippling worker shortage, what does it take beyond today’s devastating inflation report to admit America is in a wage-price spiral that is worsening each month? Denial, as we’ve learned under this administration, is not an economic strategy.”
But denial is the strategy of the day at the White House. Before the inflation figures were released, spokeswoman Jen Psaki blamed high prices on … Russian leader Vladimir Putin. “Because of the actions we’ve taken to address the Putin price hike, we are in a better place than we were last month,” Psaki said.
She appeared to urge Americans not to pay attention to the big inflation totals in food, shelter and energy and instead support a Democratic bill to “cut the costs of child care, of health care, of elder care.” Not that that would be a bad thing, but those are not the stratospheric price increases currently burdening Americans.
A recent CBS poll asked respondents whether higher prices have been a “difficulty or a hardship” or “inconvenient” or have had “no effect.” A big majority — 66% — said inflation has been a “difficulty or a hardship,” while 26% called it “inconvenient.” Just 8% said it had no effect on their lives.
Voters also rate inflation as a more serious problem to them than, say, the war in Ukraine. An NBC News poll a few weeks ago asked this question about inflation and the economy versus Ukraine: “Although both of these are important, which ONE of the following would you prefer President Biden make his top priority?” Sixty-eight percent said they want Biden’s top priority to be reducing inflation and the cost of living, improving the economy, and creating jobs, while just 29% said they want Biden’s top priority to be working to end the war between Russia and Ukraine. It’s hard to get much clearer than that.
Finally, a number of polls have asked voters which party they feel can best handle the problem of inflation. Republicans came out ahead in all of them. For example, a recent Morning Consult poll found that 46% had more confidence in Republicans to handle inflation, versus 32% who had more confidence in Democrats.
Democratic strategists know a reckoning is on the way in the form of November’s midterm elections. They certainly wish they had a better answer than to call inflation “Putin’s price hike.” But so far, they don’t, and the elections are drawing nearer and nearer.
This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/democrats-bidenflation-disaster.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.