Last month, President Biden rejected the argument that his administration’s policies had caused the runaway inflation now plaguing the economy. In general, holding a president accountable for economic setbacks is unfair. Inflation reflects an imbalance between supply and demand—excessively restricting the former or stimulating the latter will inevitably push prices higher—and it has many causes beyond the designs of any given president.
Consider Jimmy Carter, the contemporary standard for failed presidencies. Carter presided over an America ravaged by the First Great Inflation , but the domestic sources of that inflation preceded his term and foreign crises exceeded his abilities. Unfortunately for America, Biden’s failure is unique: He created the conditions for 8.5 percent inflation with a single policy.
One month after taking office, Biden outlined his foreign-policy agenda. Notably, Biden asserted that the dividing line between foreign and domestic policy had faded. Accordingly, Biden vowed to undertake a “foreign policy for the middle class” in which a domestic economic revival would provide the foundation for success abroad. In this two-part formulation were the seeds of the current crisis.
To achieve this revival, Biden embraced the 80-year-old tenets of New Deal liberal Keynesianism and proposed an economic-stimulus package for nearly $6 trillion in new government spending. The package comprised three major components: pandemic relief, infrastructure spending, and family-oriented programs.
This was ambitious but unnecessary, because the Trump administration had already passed relief legislation the year before. The 2020 CARES Act totaled $2.2 trillion, nearly 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and the largest such stimulus package in American history. And it succeeded—the economy grew by an estimated 33 percent the next quarter.
Trump opposed additional spending later in the year and only yielded after faced with the prospect of his veto being overridden. In December 2020, Congress injected an additional $900 billion into […]
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