Opinion | Biden must endeavor to counter inflation


Photo courtesy of Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS

President Joe Biden at the virtual summit on Oct. 26. Senior Columnist Andrew Prozorovsky believes that Biden will have trouble gaining supporters due to the inflation during his presidency.

By Andrew Prozorovsky, Senior Columnist

President Joe Biden’s honeymoon with the media has ended and his approval rating has sunk, according to reputable polls. Unlike his predecessor, he has not eschewed any negative poll result; President Biden himself has admitted his approval rating is currently low, though he has also insisted his low approval rating is not disconcerting and is simply part of the natural ebbs and flows of the presidency.

But unfortunately, after Republican Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory in Virginia, Democrats cannot ignore the reality of Biden’s unpopularity if they wish to avoid a Republican landslide in midterm elections next year.

So why has Biden’s approval rating sunk so far from where it once was a few months ago? 

Some of it can be explained by the low enthusiasm from Biden’s base supporters — moderate liberals and reliable supporters of the Democratic establishment — mixed with the high enthusiasm from conservative voters. Conservative messaging has worked much better than Democrats would like to admit. While concerns over critical race theory are overblown and misrepresent the academic lens of analysis, fears instilled by conservative media have successfully terrified Republican voters.

Not all of those who oppose the Biden administration would rather see another iteration of the Trump administration. Biden’s approval ratings also account for disillusioned progressives, who wish to see Biden follow through on promises such as canceling student loan debt or police reform.

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But Biden’s lackluster polling cannot simply be reduced to political messaging and centrist posturing. There is a common enemy across the political spectrum, a large elephant in the room, swaying voters against Biden’s governance: inflation.

Initially, inflation served as a GOP bogeyman and convenient economic tool used to stoke fear and inspire conservative turnout. But inflation has spiked 6.2% over the last year and nearly 1% over the last month alone, price increases not seen since 1990. It’s not as bad as inflation seen in the 1970s, though Biden would be wise to recall lessons from President Jimmy Carter’s failed re-election bid.

Inflation may be a product of too much stimulus injected into the economy, or it may simply be an inevitable step toward pandemic recovery. It also ought to be recognized that inflation is rising worldwide — not exclusively in the U.S. Regardless of its impetus, Biden must endeavor to counter the growing inflation crisis above all other topical political priorities.

Until the leviathan that is inflation is dealt with, the political victories Biden has secured so far in his first nine months — COVID-19 relief, the Afghanistan withdrawal and now the bipartisan infrastructure package — will not sway voters.

Although the Federal Reserve is mostly responsible for the stability of prices, there is action Biden can take to chasten inflation.

Given that much of the inflation can be accounted for by gas price increases (gas index rose 6.1% in October), Biden first needs to utilize American oil reserves to lower the price of gas domestically.

Second, Biden can increase incentives and works to reduce unemployment — slow wage growth and quicken the pace of recovery. Biden’s White House is correct: This economy is one in which workers have amassed more leverage over the employer. The empowered laborer is a positive change of pace for America. But that does not change its contribution toward price increases. Besides, inflation damages the hard-fought wage increases.

While the last two proposals sadly undercut progressive policy goals (to increase American energy independence after the Glasgow Climate Summit and strengthen the working class), this next one would be a win for Biden’s Democratic allies. Since inflation has largely resulted from supply chain shortages and the slowed production of goods, Biden must rescind Trump’s tariffs on raw materials, such as steel and lumber.

Finally, in the face of all the scrutiny, Biden must continue to increase vaccination rates to speed up recovery. This would not only serve to limit inflation but would also combat COVID-19 fatigue, another phenomenon responsible for the president’s low approval ratings.

The passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package was a strong start to combating inflation, as improved infrastructure will lubricate the supply chain, which will help stabilize prices.

But if inflation continues to fester, it will weaken the efficacy of Biden’s signature policies, like COVID-19 relief, as the value of money (and consequently government spending) will have fallen.

Progressives may not like the policies Biden has to embrace to avoid dangerous levels of inflation, but a quick resolution to the ballooning crisis will allow his administration to return to focusing on fulfilling the progressive policy goals that Biden campaigned on. Instead of Biden’s presidency being defined by a flood of inflation, these steps would allow the recentering of Biden’s legacy on his fulfilled promises.

On the horizon is another potential win for Biden — the reconciliation package. But Biden beware, until prices stabilize, voters won’t care.

Andrew is a senior in LAS.

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