Biden Blames Putin for Soaring Prices

But who and what really ignited the inflation?

Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for massacring innocent Ukrainians. Putin’s war machine is destroying civilian facilities and infrastructure in Ukraine, including schools and hospitals. And Putin’s military forces are laying siege to Ukrainian cities in order to force the people in those cities into submission. All these war crimes and crimes against humanity are on the evil Russian tyrant’s blood-thirsty hands. However, President Joe Biden’s attempt to shift the blame from his own reckless policies to Vladimir Putin for the soaring inflation that troubles Americans the most in their daily lives is pure spin.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced on March 10th that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 7.9 percent year-over-year between February 2021 and February 2022, continuing a long string of monthly CPI increases on President Biden’s watch.

The CPI increase for February 2022 alone was 0.8 percent from the month before, meaning that 7.1 percent of the year-to-year CPI increase between February 2021 and February 2022 occurred during the months prior to the month that Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24th. 

Yet during remarks that President Biden delivered to the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia on March 11th, Biden did all he could to shirk any responsibility for the inflation disaster that has plagued Americans for nearly a year.  President Biden is using disinformation to try and convince Americans that “inflation is largely the fault of Putin.”

Last year, Biden and his team offered other excuses for the soaring inflation that began within three months after he took office. When trying to assure Americans that rising prices were only “transitory” did not work, Biden and his team proceeded to blame the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate greed, and supply chain bottlenecks.

Biden again brought up COVID-19, corporate greed, and supply chain problems during his March 11th remarks as causes for inflation. But now he is blaming Putin most of all.

Not so, Joe. You and your fellow Democrats in Congress have brought about the out-of-control spike in prices all by yourselves as a result of your spend-and-borrow policies and your war on fossil fuels.

Even the former head of the Obama Auto Task Force and Obama-Biden administration economic adviser, Steven Rattner, sought to remind President Biden that the inflation buck stops with him. “Well, no,” Rattner tweeted. “These are Feb #'s and only include small Russia effect. This is Biden's inflation and he needs to own it."

Putin’s war is making things worse now than they would have been if the Russian dictator had not invaded Ukraine, but Bidenflation was already in full swing well before the invasion.

“The 12-month increase has been steadily rising and is now the largest since the period ending January 1982,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted. (Emphasis added)

Indeed, the consumer price index rose 4.2 percent from April 2020  (the month after the passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion so-called “COVID relief” spending package) to April 2021. The CPI continued its steep climb thereafter. For example, it rose 5.4 percent for the year ending in September 2021. The CPI spiked further to 6.8 percent from November 2020 to November 2021, 7 percent from December 2020 to December 2021, and 7.5% from January 2021 to January 2022.

President Biden was especially emphatic during his March 11th remarks to the House Democratic caucus conference that he had absolutely nothing to do with the rise in gasoline prices. “It wasn’t anything we did,” Biden exclaimed.  He cited the leftwing New York Times and Washington Post to support his denial of any responsibility for the shockingly high gasoline prices at the pump.

The gasoline price index did rise 6.6 percent in February 2022, according to the BLS. But the price index for gasoline rose 38.0 percent over the last year from February 2021 to February 2022. This means that more than 80 percent of the surge in retail gasoline prices during the last year occurred prior to February 2022 - the month when Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24th.

Looking back at 2021, the average U.S. retail gasoline price began the year at $2.25 per gallon. By midway through 2021 – months before Putin had gathered 150,000 troops on the Ukrainian border - the retail price for a gallon of gas had risen to $2.97 a gallon. Americans were already paying on average 32 percent more for gasoline to fill their tanks than they had just six months earlier before President Biden took office.

The average U.S. retail gasoline price per gallon was $3.28 by the end of 2021 -  nearly two months before Putin invaded Ukraine. Americans were paying on average $1.03 more for a gallon of gas at the end of 2021 than they had been paying at the start of 2021 - a whopping 45 percent increase. 

A large reason for this increase, according to the U.S. energy Information Agency, was the steep rise in the price of crude oil.  The average price of one barrel of Brent crude oil in January 2021 was $54.77. By the end of 2021, the average price for one barrel of Brent crude oil was $74.17 – a 35 percent increase overall for the year.

As tensions began to mount over the Ukraine crisis in January 2022, the average price of one barrel of Brent crude oil rose to $86.51, and then to $97 per barrel in February 2022. The retail price for a gallon of gas in turn rose to about $3.46 on January 31, 2022, and to about $3.70 on February 28, 2022.

Putin’s military buildup and subsequent invasion of Ukraine have undoubtedly helped to accelerate the rise in crude oil and retail gasoline prices since the start of 2022. However, the Biden administration’s simplistic “#PutinPriceHike” hashtag is meant to divert attention from the significant Biden price hikes that have already been baked into oil and gas prices due to the U.S. president’s own policy failures.

President Biden’s other culprit for the high price of gasoline besides Putin is the domestic oil and gas industry. He claimed that there is nothing stopping them from producing more fossil fuel but their own inaction and greed.

Biden claimed that “the oil companies and executives, they don’t want to pump more oil, although they have every capacity to do so.  Nothing is slowing them up from doing it if they want to.”

Then President Biden accused U.S. oil producers of deliberately holding back from producing more oil in order to wring more profits from high gasoline prices. He said that instead of using their profits from the increased prices to invest in pumping new oil in the United States “they would rather take those profits and buy back stock… So don’t tell me gas prices rose because I’ve slowed down the American energy production.”

That is exactly what many Americans are telling you, Mr. President. You have done everything that you can, by word and by deed, to disincentivize the fossil fuel industry from drilling for and producing more oil.

“We are going to get rid of fossil fuels,” Biden said back in February 2020, for example, while he was trying to demonstrate his progressive credentials during the Democratic presidential primary campaign.

Here is what Biden told his campaign supporters in New Hampshire what he thought should happen to fossil fuel executives for polluting the environment: “We should put them in jail. I'm not joking about this.”

On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order cancelling the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have transported 830,000 barrels per day of oil from Canada to the United States. Biden’s move eliminated more than 10,000 jobs and stranded over $1 billion dollars of investment. No big deal, according to Biden’s climate czar John Kerry. The laid-off workers “can be the people to go to work to make the solar panels,” Kerry said.

President Biden claimed that the Keystone XL Pipeline was two years away from being competed when he cancelled the permit, arguing that his decision had no effect on current gasoline prices. But oil investors saw what Biden had done and bet correctly on future oil shortages and increasing fuel prices, which became self-fulfilling prophecies. The same was true with Biden’s freezing of leases for drilling on federal lands and waters.

President Biden said that oil executives already have over 7000 permits to drill oil if their companies wish to do so. His Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed there are about 9,000 unused oil drilling permits. But with the Biden administration’s open hostility to the fossil fuel industry, including its stifling regulations and lease suspensions, potential investors are nervous. High prices today are not enough to attract the amount of forward-looking capital investments necessary to finance expensive exploration, drilling, transport, and refinement of oil even from lands for which federal permits have been issued.

Moreover, the Biden administration is discouraging financial institutions from investing capital in the fossil fuel industry. The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), led by President Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, issued a report last October that "[v]iews climate-related financial risks as an emerging threat to the financial stability of the United States." A White House report also released last October concluded that "U.S. financial markets and institutions face systemic risks from climate change."

The Biden administration is aiming to phase out the production and use of fossil fuels as soon as possible and switch over to renewable energy. Labeling climate change as a “systemic risk” to financial institutions is the pretext for imposing more stringent regulations on financial institutions’ investments in any industries connected to fossil fuels. The regulations could range anywhere from requiring detailed calculations and disclosures of all adverse effects the investments might possibly have on climate change to outright curtailments of such investments. 

Energy Workforce and Technology Council CEO Leslie Beyer summed up the plight that the Biden administration’s hostility has created for the energy industry. "The moratorium on leasing certainly adds an additional… block to American energy production, so that is the opposite of what we need to be doing right now," she said. "We need to stop the rhetoric that's anti-fossil fuel and we need some clarity just in the regulatory sense that this administration is behind domestic energy production."

President Biden should stop using Putin, COVID-19, supply chain problems, and fossil fuel executives as red herrings. He should stop disseminating disinformation to divert attention from his  administration’s own failed policies that are largely responsible for the months-old soaring inflation wreaking havoc on the lives of everyday Americans. It is about time that President Biden and his senior administration officials focused on trying to solve the real life problems of the American people, not making them worse.

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