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Opinion

With surging inflation comes the blame game and terrible advice


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Mar. 28, 2022 - 11:49 AM

With surging inflation comes the blame game and terrible advice

Marc Hyden is the director of state government affairs at the R Street Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.

Faced with surging prices, the Georgia General Assembly fast-tracked a bill with bipartisan support to suspend the state’s gas tax temporarily, which in theory could save Georgians 29 cents per gallon.

Just days ago, the measure made it to Gov. Brian Kemp who signed it into law. While this promises to provide some relief to weary Georgians, it will not fix the broader issues that have led to mounting inflation.

That would require the federal government to foster competition, reduce regulatory barriers and spend taxpayer money responsibly. Unfortunately, federal officials’ responses to inflation and many pundits’ hot takes are tone-deaf and unhelpful—including urging Americans to buy more expensive electric cars and forgo medical care for sick and dying pets. This highlights the need for officials—both Republican and Democrat—and experts to take inflation more seriously.

Last I checked, the United States’ inflation rate stood at 7.9 percent, which is the highest in some 40 years, but this didn’t happen overnight. The signs were all there as inflation ticked ever higher, but the White House’s reactions and spin have been mind-boggling.

In early 2021, White House officials first dismissed the risk of inflation, but it didn’t take long before they couldn’t ignore mounting prices. A few months later, they claimed it was a good sign. By July 2021, it was obvious that it wasn’t so good for consumers after all. So, the White House urged Americans not to worry because it was allegedly only transitory inflation. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t.

Last year, officials blamed increased demand, labor shortages and supply chain issues for rising prices. In December 2021, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki assigned partial responsibility for inflation on greedy companies. Starting a month or so ago, many officials began to say surging prices were Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fault.

In fairness, the White House is not entirely wrong. Global markets and inflation are complex issues, and I have no doubt that supply chain interruptions, staffing shortages and increased demand have influenced consumer prices. Likewise, the conflict in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions have riled oil markets, but there’s more to it than this.

As I’ve pointed out before, years of poorly conceived decisions stemming from both sides of the aisle in our nation’s capital have helped drive inflation. These include actions that are restricting competition, limiting the workforce and infusing the economy with trillions of dollars that the government doesn’t have.

Regardless of its cause, inflation—whether on gas, food or houses—is taking its toll on Americans, and if they are anything like me, they’re tiring of the White House’s changing excuses and ridiculous responses to it.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested that Americans should buy electric cars so that the rising gas prices won’t impact them. His advice seems eerily reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s who supposedly said “let them eat cake” in response to news of peasants running out of bread. The average price of an electric car is over $56,000. Families that struggle to afford $4.24 a gallon for gas—the national average—can’t afford such an investment. Buttigieg’s suggestion is even sillier considering that electric prices are soaring too.

Others have seemed to suggest that we should consider the perceived benefits of inflation or as one CNBC article was ridiculously titled before being abruptly changed: “The upside to inflation: rising wages.” Sure, some wages may rise during periods of inflation, but inflation devalues those very wages. Never mind that increased pay may not keep pace with the inflation rate. The CNBC title was roundly mocked on social media, including this gem: “Earthquake's silver lining: more construction jobs.”

Perhaps the most disturbing advice came from Bloomberg News. In a recent article, its author advised Americans struggling with rising prices to take some drastic measures, including: consider selling your car, eat lentils instead of meat, and if your pets have cancer, don’t give them chemotherapy. Sorry, Rover, but it looks like it is the end of the line.

I am pleased that Gov. Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly are taking inflation more seriously and have taken action by approving the temporary gas tax suspension, while still maintaining a balanced budget. However, I wish the feds and so-called experts would do more. Instead of spending time blaming others for inflation or giving us horrible advice for coping with it, how about working to curtail anti-competitive regulations, frivolous government spending and laws that hobble the workforce?

That would certainly be a start, but sadly D.C. has been curiously quiet on these topics.

Marc Hyden is the director of state government affairs at the R Street Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.