The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 8.6% between May 2021 and May 2022 — meaning that inflation reached its highest level in four decades, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed on Friday morning. The new figure was worse than the Dow Jones estimate of 8.3% year-over-year inflation, according to CNBC.
President Biden characterized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as the main factor behind the higher prices.
“Putin’s Price Hike hit hard in May here and around the world: high gas prices at the pump, energy, and food prices accounted for around half of the monthly price increases, and gas pump prices are up by $2 a gallon in many places since Russian troops began to threaten Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement. “Even as we continue our work to defend freedom in Ukraine, we must do more — and quickly — to get prices down here in the United States.”
On the day of Biden’s inauguration, gas cost $2.39 per gallon — a figure that doubled to $4.82 last week before hitting $5 per gallon on Thursday. The White House, which nixed expansions to the Keystone XL Pipeline last year and is dragging its feet on issuing oil and gas permits, claims that higher fuel costs may help the United States transition more quickly to renewable energy.
“Prices at the pump are a major part of inflation, and the war in Ukraine is a major cause of that. The United States is on track to produce a record amount of oil next year, and I am working with the industry to accelerate this output,” Biden continued in his statement. “But it is also important that the oil and gas and refining industries in this country not use the challenge created by the war in Ukraine as a reason to make things worse for families with excessive profit taking or price hikes.”
Biden also called on Congress to pass bills meant to reduce costs for energy, prescription drugs, and overseas shipping. Indeed, many Democratic officials have repeatedly proposed price control bills and blamed alleged corporate price-gouging for high inflation. He then exhorted lawmakers to “make the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay their fair share” and thereby “reduce this inflationary pressure even more.”
Biden, however, took credit for the budget deficit decreasing “more under my watch as President than at any time in history” — ignoring the fact that the previous two fiscal years were marked by large stimulus measures, including Biden’s own $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was intended to combat COVID-19 and lockdown-induced economic issues.
The White House has thus far struggled to connect with Americans on the economy. One recent poll showed that 83% of Americans believe economic conditions are “poor or not so good.” Meanwhile, 35% said they are not “satisfied at all with their financial situation” — the highest level since the poll began in 1972.
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal released last month, Biden again put much of the blame for inflation on the Ukraine conflict — yet made an attempt to sympathize with Americans.
“Americans are anxious. I know that feeling. I grew up in a family where it mattered when the price of gas or groceries rose,” Biden wrote. “We felt it around the kitchen table. But the American people should have confidence that our economy faces these challenges from a position of strength.”
Nevertheless, another recent poll revealed that a plurality of voters — 47% — said that the Biden administration is to blame for inflation. A third poll released in March showed that Biden had a 70% disapproval rating with respect to inflation and gas prices.