President Joe Biden released a statement on Thursday, blaming Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for catalyzing price inflation, which the most recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) report indicates is at its highest annual level in over forty years.
“Today’s inflation report is a reminder that Americans‘ budgets are being stretched by price increases and families are starting to feel the impacts of Putin’s price hike,” said Biden in the statement. “A large contributor to inflation this month was an increase in gas and energy prices as markets reacted to Putin’s aggressive actions. As I have said from the start, there will be costs at home as we impose crippling sanctions in response to Putin’s unprovoked war, but Americans can know this: the costs we are imposing on Putin and his cronies are far more devastating than the costs we are facing.”
The statement is a response to Thursday’s findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported 7.9 percent price inflation since February 2021 in the all items index of its monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) report (pdf)—the highest annual rate of inflation since the period ending January 1982.
In addition to the aforementioned 7.9 percent figure, the report specified that the gasoline index rose by 6.6 percent in February alone, contributing to a total rise of 38.0 percent since last year. Food prices were reported 7.9 percent higher than at the same time last year, with February contributing 1.0 percent to food price inflation, the fastest monthly gain since the beginning of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
“The pervasiveness of price increases continues, but it is most acute for necessities such as food, shelter, and energy which were the biggest contributors,” Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride told The Epoch Times. “Costs for food at home are up nearly 8% in the past year, energy costs are up over 25% in that time, and shelter with a comparatively benign increase of 4.4% is likely to put the biggest squeeze on household budgets for the remainder of the year.”
This price inflation presents a political problem for Biden: as Americans are feeling the burden of higher prices, they have given increasingly negative assessments of the president’s economic performance. A recent poll by ABC News and Ipsos saw only 42 percent of respondents give a positive assessment of Biden’s handling of the economic recovery, and 75 percent hold a negative assessment of the economy overall.
While it is true that the Russo-Ukrainian war has disrupted supply chains and sent ripple effects throughout the global economy, the inflation trend significantly predates the recent Russian invasion, and so cannot entirely be attributed to these events. In June 2021, long before the military buildup which presaged last month’s invasion, 12-month CPI inflation was measured at 5.4 percent, well above typical figures throughout the 2010s, suggesting a much deeper problem.
Furthermore, much of the fuel and food inflation is not the immediate consequence of Russia’s invasion, but rather of the sanctions imposed by policymakers such as Biden himself to punish and economically isolate the Russian Federation. For example, the global rise in fuel costs over the past month is partially attributable to the cutting off of Russian fossil fuel exports. However, this is not for want of willing Russian sellers, but because economic sanctions supported by NATO have effectively cut off Russian suppliers of fossil fuels, resulting in further scarcity throughout the NATO-aligned world.
Some have attempted to portray such inflation as a necessary cost of a foreign policy to isolate Russia. A letter was published by The New York Times on Tuesday, which praised Biden for his “moral courage” in imposing sanctions which would almost certainly lead to higher fuel prices for Americans. However, as prices continue to escalate and Americans increasingly feel the strain on their own wallets, it remains to be seen how long they will tolerate such prices in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
From The Epoch Times