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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: global inflation

What Biden Hasn't Done (And What No President Can Do)

At Joe Biden's Wednesday press conference, a reporter cited a list of recent misfortunes before asking mournfully: "Did you overpromise to the American public what you could achieve in your first year in office?"

He might as well have asked Biden, "Have you been sitting at a desk in the Oval Office?" Overpromising is what presidential candidates do. You don't get 81 million votes, as Biden did, or even 74 million, as his opponent did, by informing people of all the problems you won't be able to solve.

Biden stoutly denied having led people to believe he would lead them to the land of milk and honey. "I didn't overpromise, but I have probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen," he insisted.

Judging from the polls, the president is a chorus of one in making that claim. Presidents rarely exceed expectations, particularly in their first year, and Biden has not smashed the template.

Ronald Reagan saw his approval rating sink steadily in his first year, and again in his second. In Barack Obama's first year, his approval rating dropped by 18 points. Donald Trump didn't suffer as big a decline in popularity only because he was so unpopular from the start.

The notable exception was George W. Bush, who had a gaudy 84 percent approval rating at the end of his first year. But that wasn't because of what he did; it was because of what Osama bin Laden did. The 9/11 attack instantly rallied the country behind Bush, who proceeded to spend the rest of his presidency squandering that support.

Biden's failure to live up to his own hype is not really in dispute. The website PolitiFact provides a list of his 100 most important campaign promises and determines that he has managed to keep just 16 of them — with 70 either "stalled" or "in the works."

Granted, he didn't say he would fulfill them all in his first year, but some promises have evaporated like the morning dew. Decriminalize marijuana? Amend the Constitution to ban private financing of political campaigns? Eliminate cash bail? Not gonna happen.

In some ways, though, Biden has been bolder than anticipated. The generous child tax credit in his American Rescue Plan went beyond anything he proposed as a candidate. His decision to withdraw from Afghanistan came as a surprise because it would have been politically safer to stay.

But presidents are judged less on what they do than on what happens while they happen to be in office. Biden gets blamed for inflation, which is mostly the product of policies fashioned by others, such as Trump and the Federal Reserve. He gets blamed for the persistence of the pandemic, which is equally persistent in countries where he wields no power. He gets blamed for not forging compromises with Republicans who damn him as a power-mad socialist election thief.

Biden is the latest victim of the unrealistic vision many people have of the office he occupies. Presidents don't guide the economy like a pilot flying a plane. Often, they have about as much control over it as a bull rider has over the bull.

Nor do presidents have the means to extinguish a highly contagious virus that has repeatedly confounded the world's most learned medical experts. Presidents can't effortlessly impose their will on Vladimir Putin, Central American migrants or oil-producing nations.

Nor do they command the obedience of Congress, particularly when they barely control either chamber. Biden may bestride the executive branch like a colossus, but it takes just one member of Congress — say, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — to thwart his legislative plans. The Supreme Court, which doesn't answer to voters or anyone else, has the power to upend his most treasured policies, as it did in striking down his vaccine mandate on large private employers.

Biden, of course, has inflicted some of his own wounds, as when he casually suggested that he could tolerate a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine. The Afghanistan pullout was no one's model of how to end a futile war. His conviction that he could sweet-talk Manchin into supporting his Build Back Better bill rested on fond hope and fairy dust.

But most of the things that have gone wrong in the past year are not Biden's doing — and the same is true of most of the things that have gone right. He's not Superman, Santa Claus or Satan. He's just a president.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Inflation Is A Global Dilemma -- So Why Does Press Blame Biden?

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

News that U.S. inflation inched up 0.5 percent last month set off another round of excited media reports, as news outlets pounded one of their favorite themes in recent months. Convinced that rising prices are the defining economic issue of the day — not huge job gains, record-setting GDP predictions, or boosted wages — the press continues to portray inflation as a uniquely American problem that’s hounding Democrats.

“President Joe Biden suffered a new blow to his economic agenda this week,” Politico announced, pointing to the new inflation figures. “That prompted the Biden White House to scramble to do damage control in the face of attacks by Republicans.” The Associated Press on Wednesday stressed that inflation is “heaping pressure on President Joe Biden and the Federal Reserve to address what has become the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.”

The New York Times: “A troubling development for President Biden.” The Washington Post headline: “Democrats Worry Biden Could Pay the Political Price For Rising Inflation.” (The first person quoted in the piece was a GOP pollster.)

What’s missing from the inflation coverage is the consistent acknowledgement that the trend of rising prices is a global phenomenon, fueled by the pandemic. The Politico report made no mention of worldwide inflation, neither did the Times or Post dispatches; the AP included just one sentence.

Dismissed or downplayed is the fact that systemic, record-setting inflation has taken hold in virtually every major economy:

• “Germany: Annual Inflation Hits Highest Rate Since 1993

• “Italian Inflation Hits Highest In More Than A Decade On Energy

• “Mexico Ends Year With Inflation At 7.36%, Most In 20 Years

• “Russian 2021 Inflation Accelerates To 8.39%, Preliminary Data Shows

• “Spain's Annual Inflation Jumps To 6.7% At End Of 2021, Highest Since 1989

“UK Inflation Hits 10-Year High Ahead Of Key Bank Of England Meeting

• “Canada's Annual Inflation Rate Matches 18-Year High, Set to Keep Rising"

Thanks to international reporting, we know inflation is on the rise around the world. But news consumers here have to search that information out because it’s rarely included in coverage of the U.S. economy. Most often, domestic inflation is presented in a silo, independent from the global economic trend that has been sparked by a worldwide virus.

Meanwhile, the press eagerly trumpets Republican claims that Biden’s agenda is responsible for inflation, while failing to point out that it wasn’t the infrastructure bill or Covid relief legislation that prompted inflation to jump to 4.7 percent in Canada, 5.1 percent in the U.K and and 6.7 percent in Spain. Inflation is occurring everywhere, so it’s not Biden’s policies that are to blame. The press prefers a more linear narrative, and seems to deliberately leave out the international context. That allows journalists to frame the story as a Dem vs. GOP one, as if policy adjustments from Biden would cure inflation.

Today’s unfortunate economic trend is clearly caused by the pandemic, which warped global supply and demand patterns, creating a mismatch that has driven prices higher. Energy costs and shipping bottlenecks are two major, driving factors. One reason inflation sprouted so quickly in the U.S. is that consumer demand is booming as the economy has recovered from Covid faster and stronger under Biden than most people ever thought possible.

Still, Republicans claim Biden is driving up prices by passing large spending bills. Government spending is bad because it fuels inflation, the GOP claims over and over in the press.

Yet eager Republicans just helped pass a $768 billion defense budget. When Trump was president, Senate Republicans supported pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in order to battle the effects of the pandemic shutdown. The GOP, with help from the press, is still able to frame inflation as a problem Biden created and must be penalized for. The Post: “Republicans argued the new inflation numbers were another sign that Biden’s policies are not working.”

There’s nothing subtle about what the GOP is doing. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) last year told the Wall Street Journal that rising prices were a “gold mine” for Republicans, suggesting the party hopes consumers will continue to have to pay higher prices this year.

The press trumpets that GOP message. Inflation is a “political nightmare for Biden,” CNN recently stressed. The Associated Press, while conceding that consumer spending is way up, claimed inflation was “casting a pall” and that upward prices, not plummeting unemployment, dominated water cooler talk in the U.S. When weekly jobless claims recently fell to a 52-year low, the New York Times ran yet another excited Biden inflation piece on the following day’s front page. News of the historic jobless numbers ran on page B3.

It was no surprise that a recent AP poll found consumers fixated on inflation: “Income Is Up, But Americans Focus on Inflation.” Why is that? Americans are inundated with the media’s constant inflation coverage, most of which omits the fact the trend is now happening all around the world.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun