This month has been hard for many Americans, President Joe Biden coined a popular catch phrase to characterize the inflationary pressure on energy and food prices in the country. The term ‘Putin’s Price Hike’ has been widely used in the media and popular discussion over the past couple of weeks, alternatively to either defend or criticize the Biden Administration’s framing of the worst monetary crisis in the United States in four decades.
The Biden Administration has presided over one of the most tumultuous periods of economic recovery in human history. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, commodity prices began to spike all around the world, and the US followed suit with around 5% in 2021. The annualized inflation rate reached a historic 8 % just after the War in Ukraine began, which most experts believe will hopefully be the peak. The slowdown in inflation was adversely affected by the war and the ensuing sanctions on Russian food and energy exports, factors over which the White House cannot be reasonably expected to have a direct control. Recent steps by the Biden Administration to alleviate the worst effects of high fuel prices on the budgets of American families include a promise to enact the largest Strategic Oil Reserve release in history, and efforts to streamline ethanol gas production and sales to provide a healthier alternative to a growing reliance on fossil fuels. President Biden has defended his decision to impose sanctions on the Russian Federation in response to the gross violation of Ukraine’s national sovereignty, arguing that: “The costs we are imposing on Putin and his cronies are far more devastating than the costs we are facing”.
In this context, the Democrat leader made the conscious political decision to label the current inflationary process ‘Putin’s Price Hike’. Unfortunately, this is not a very apt description of the situation, and the previous supply-chain and COVID-recovery themes are considered much more accurate and helpful in favourably shaping public opinion. It would be remembered that this inflation had already reached historic levels long before the War in Ukraine made it worse. It is, therefore, no surprise that a recent NBC News poll found that only 6 % of American adults blame Putin for the rising prices. The phrase has been predictably labelled a ‘talking point’ and has been widely criticised in right-wing media circles, with the RNC chairperson Ronna McDaniel calling it an “Insult to every American”. This is, of course, a reactionary over-reading of the situation, but President Biden’s way of addressing the inflationary trend certainly did not help with the public opinion.