Senate Democratic candidates in key swing states are trying to blame the Russia-Ukraine crisis and corporate greed for skyrocketing inflation that hit a new 40-year high last month, despite economists warning for months that massive government spending has overheated the economy.
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. The Biden administration continues to blame the price spike on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, price gouging and supply-chain issues, while Republicans have blamed Biden’s green energy agenda for fueling America’s dependence on foreign oil markets, as well as his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan for over-stimulating the economy with $1,400 stimulus checks sent to Americans.
Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, the state’s likely Democratic Senate nominee, on Friday slammed big corporations for making "record profits" while North Carolinians suffer from rising inflation.
"I think a couple things we need to keep in mind is that this pandemic certainly created a whole situation with us around supply chain issues," Beasley said during a campaign event in Hertford County. "We certainly know that corporations are making record profits at a time when a whole lot of folks in North Carolina are struggling. And then, of course, this war with Putin in Ukraine has created a whole sense of strain to also impact the rising costs."
Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat looking to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio, slammed "big corporations" for "squeezing" independent stores and food producers out of the marketplace.
"Meanwhile, corporate profiteers have taken advantage of the excuse to raise prices—not because they need to, or because they have a better product, but simply because they can. It’s wrong. They are making record profits while working families struggle," she said in a January press release. "It’s simple: corporate monopolies have caused prices to jump and shelves to stay empty."
Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators heading into the midterm elections, has repeatedly blamed inflation on COVID-19-related issues affecting supply chains while simultaneously pushing for trillions of dollars in new government spending under President Biden’s all but failed Build Back Better plan.
"At the end of the day, what we’re hearing from economists is this package, along with addressing some of the other needs in the president’s plans will actually help us lower inflation and grow the economy," Hassan said in August.
"As long as there is a pandemic, we’re going to see these disruptions in the supply chain, especially around manufacturing and transportation," Hassan said in December. "The economic plan that we are looking at right now, the House passed one, the Senate is not going to pass precisely what the House did. It’s a 10-year plan. It is paid for. It is paid for by making sure that billionaires and the largest corporations can’t avoid taxes."
Hassan recently joined other Democrats up for re-election this year, including Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, in trying to lower prices by proposing a temporary gas tax holiday that would suspend the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax through the midterms.
Warnock has similarly blamed rising prices on "the business practices of a few corporations with outsize influence over our economy," and Cortez Masto, like many other Democrats, has argued that more government spending would not add to inflation.
Meanwhile, the White House has coined the phrase "Putin’s Price Hike" in an attempt to further shift the blame from the Biden administration, even though inflation was soaring well before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Former Obama economic adviser Steven Rattner slammed the White House’s messaging in a tweet last month, saying Biden needs to "own" his part in the inflation crisis.
Economists have been warning for a year that Biden’s American Rescue Plan would over-stimulate the economy. In February of last year, former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers said the plan could "set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation."
Biden even appeared to acknowledge in November 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 at the time. "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."
Biden’s own economic advisers have 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.
The Labor Department reported Tuesday the so-called core prices, which exclude more volatile measurements of food and energy, climbed 6% in January from the previous year — a sharp increase from December, when it rose 5.5%.
The White House continued to blame the price hikes on Russia after the Labor Department report, authorizing E15 gasoline to be sold in the United States this summer in an effort to expand Americans’ access to affordable fuel supply.
"The President is committed to doing everything he can to address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump as a result of Putin’s Price Hike," the White House said Tuesday.