Less than two years after President Joe Biden entered the White House, the United States has been crippled by record-high inflation and an energy crisis that has placed the economy in a functional recession. When he entered office, inflation was 1.4% — a metric that has since sextupled to 8.5%.
The situation will sound awfully familiar to those who were alive four decades ago. President Jimmy Carter ascended to the White House when inflation was 5.2%. When he left four years later, inflation reached 11.8% after approaching as much as 14.8% in early 1980.
Of course, the reason Carter ultimately left the Oval Office was the sweeping electoral victory of President Ronald Reagan. As the Great Communicator articulated during his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention, Carter had cooked up “a new and altogether indigestible economic stew” — the ingredients being “one part inflation, one part high unemployment, one part recession, one part runaway taxes, one part deficit spending and seasoned by an energy crisis.”
Indeed, Carter responded to the 1979 energy crisis by slashing dependence on oil and instead focusing on renewable sources — even pushing the goal of 20% nationwide solar power by the year 2000. Today, Biden is addressing fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine by pushing the goal of 50% electric vehicle adoption by 2030 — months after he nixed expansions to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Incompetence is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a characteristic that Carter and Biden share. Yet both administrations somehow blamed the American people for their own failures — a phenomenon that Reagan noticed.
“Ours are not problems of abstract economic theory,” he explained. “Those are problems of flesh and blood; problems that cause pain and destroy the moral fiber of real people who should not suffer the further indignity of being told by the government that it is all somehow their fault. We do not have inflation because — as Mr. Carter says — we have lived too well.”
Such examples from the Biden administration are manifold. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pinned supply chain bottlenecks on surging consumer demand, and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki mocked Americans facing these issues by quipping about the “tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”
Both administrations, however, had the audacity to increase spending even as inflation gripped the economy. Biden has signed into law a not-so-aptly-named bill called the Inflation Reduction Act, which posits that spending $740 billion and doubling the size of the IRS will help Americans more comfortably shoulder the burden of higher prices.
“The head of a government which has utterly refused to live within its means … dares to point the finger of blame at business and labor, both of which have been engaged in a losing struggle just trying to stay even,” Reagan said. “High taxes, we are told, are somehow good for us, as if, when government spends our money it isn’t inflationary, but when we spend it, it is.”
During his speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention, Reagan looked back on the first four years of his administration and warned the American people that if Democrats were permitted to regain power, they would once again implement a foolish economic agenda. Though the America of four decades ago had yet to witness so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion emerge as a governance philosophy, Reagan observed that blowout spending was conducted “in the name of compassion” as a “deliberate part of their official economic policy, needed, they said, to maintain prosperity.”
Likewise, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen entered her current post on a vow to battle the “crisis of systemic racism” in the economy. “Economics isn’t just something you find in a textbook,” she told her staff at the dawn of the Biden administration. “Nor is it simply a collection of theories. Indeed, the reason I went from academia to government is because I believe economic policy can be a potent tool to improve society.”
She also promised that any potential inflation “spurt” from Biden’s policies would fade away by 2022. When that promise failed to materialize, she had nothing better to offer than a meek “I was wrong.”
In the 2020s, Americans carry smartphones and enjoy a somewhat less-elevated threat of nuclear war — yet the economically-illiterate philosophies of the 1970s are as pervasive as ever. There remains a holier-than-thou ruling class that spends your money under the facade of kindness and inclusivity — then sticks you, your children, and your grandchildren with the bill.