President Biden has gone through painstaking efforts to shirk responsibility for the state of the economy, blaming everyone from Russian President Vladimir Putin to meat conglomerates for record inflation that hit a new 40-year high last month.
The consumer price index rose 8.5% in March from a year ago, marking the fastest increase since January 1982, when inflation hit 8.4%, according to a new Labor Department report released Tuesday. In a speech addressing the dismal report, Biden blamed "Putin’s price hike" for the rising prices.
"Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world," Biden said. "So everything is going up. We saw it in today's inflation data. Seventy percent of the increase in prices in March came from Putin's price hike in gasoline."
Biden’s blame game has evolved over the past several months. When inflation started accelerating a year ago, the White House largely downplayed it as "transitory."
"The overwhelming consensus is it’s going to pop up a little bit and then go back down," Biden said in June 2021 after inflation increased to 5%.
"These disruptions are temporary," Biden said in July 2021 after inflation jumped another 5.4%.
"It’s the peak of the crisis," the president said in December, after inflation hit a whopping 6.8%. "You’ll see it change sooner, quicker, more rapidly than people think."
At the time, Biden was primarily blaming the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on global supply chains and corporate greed for the rising costs.
At a Dec. 13 press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pointed a finger at "the greed of meat conglomerates" for hiking prices on food during the pandemic. The North American Meat Institute later slammed the White House for distorting the "fundamentals of supply and demand."
Biden’s own economic advisers also reportedly objected to claims that corporate greed is the problem. In February, members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers pushed back against the administration’s claims tying inflation to corporate consolidation and monopoly power, the Washington Post reported.
Then on Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, presenting the White House with two new villains to blame for rising prices: Putin and the oil and gas industry.
Less than two weeks after the invasion, Biden coined the phrase "Putin price hike" to further cushion the blow from rising inflation and energy prices.
"I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home," he said in a March 8 speech announcing a ban on U.S. imports of Russian energy.
But gas prices at home were already soaring to levels not seen since the Great Recession before the Russian oil ban. Republicans have blamed the rising prices on Biden’s green energy agenda, including his axing of the Keystone XL pipeline, for bolstering America’s reliance on global oil markets.
After gas prices hit an all-time high in the country last month, Biden responded by tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and calling on Congress to force oil companies to pay fees for unused leases, accusing energy producers of "hoarding" wells on federal lands.
"For U.S oil companies that are recording their largest profits in years, they have a choice," the president said on March 31. "One, they can put those profits to productive use by producing more oil, restarting idle wells, or producing on the sites they already are leasing, giving the American people a break by passing some of the savings on to their customers and lowering the price at the pump. Or they can, as some of them are doing, exploit the situation, sit back, ship those profits to the investors while American families struggle to make ends meet."
In addition to his energy policies, critics have also blamed Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan for the inflation crisis, arguing that the $1,400 stimulus checks sent to Americans overheated the economy. Just before the legislation passed in March 2021, former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers warned the plan could "set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation."
Former Obama economic adviser Steven Rattner slammed the White House’s inflation messaging in a tweet last month, saying Biden needs to "own" his part in the crisis.
Biden fired back at his critics one day after Rattner’s tweet, denying that his policies have anything to do with inflation.
"So, I’m sick of this stuff. We have to talk about it because the American people think the reason for inflation is the government is spending more money. Simply not true," Biden said on March 11, The Associated Press reported.
"Make no mistake, the current spike in gas prices is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin – it has nothing to do with the American Rescue Plan," the president declared on March 14.
Months earlier, however, Biden appeared to acknowledge that his own legislation contributed to the crisis, saying the stimulus checks were partly to blame for consumer demand exceeding the supply of goods.
"The irony is people have more money now because of the first major piece of legislation I passed," Biden said in November. "It changes people’s lives. But what happens if there’s nothing to buy and you got more money to compete for getting [goods]? It creates a real problem."
Meanwhile, Democrats are still trying to advance portions of Biden's Build Back Better agenda and trillions of dollars in new government spending that they argue would actually reduce inflationary pressures.