Opinion | Falling inflation rates are great news — unless you’re a GOP politician

Opinion | Falling inflation rates are great news — unless you’re a GOP politician

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Has the worst of the pandemic-induced inflation already passed? The latest economic data released this week suggest so. That leaves Republicans in a quandary: After dedicating practically all of their midterm messaging of substance to President Biden’s supposed mishandling of the economy, they might have little left to stand on.

The Post reports: “Prices cooled again in November, rising 7.1 percent compared with last year, the smallest year-over-year increase since last December. They also climbed 0.1 percent over October, beating analysts’ expectations.” In addition, core inflation rose only 0.2 percent, “the smallest increase since August 2021, according to data released Tuesday morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

President Biden on Tuesday took the opportunity to boast about the data: “In a world where inflation is rising at double digits in many major economies around the world, inflation is coming down in America.” He argued that this served as proof that “our economic plan is working.”

Biden also highlighted the 10.5 million jobs added during his presidency, including 750,000 in manufacturing. And he laid out his goals for the economy, which now seem attainable: “Get price increases under control without choking off economic growth; bring inflation down while keeping our labor market resilient; build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Republicans might prefer to credit the Federal Reserve rather than Biden for the easing inflation numbers. Or they might say the economy was always going to steady itself once supply and demand returned to normal. But that’s not the story they have been telling for more than a year. According to GOP gospel, all of that pandemic spending was a mistake, and Biden was steering the U.S. economy into a recession. Oh, and according to Republicans, Biden was somehow to blame for skyrocketing gas prices.

So which is right: Is Biden responsible for the economy, or not? A more honest and accurate explanation would be that Biden’s spending packages (e.g., investments in infrastructure, semiconductor manufacturing and green energy) were not as inflationary as Republicans claimed, and Biden’s support for the independent Federal Reserve, including his renominating Jerome H. Powell as its chair, helped rein in prices. Meanwhile, gas prices are simply a function of the worldwide marketplace, and they are thankfully coming down as the global economy slows.

Alas, Republicans are not into that sort of measured approach these days. They prefer speaking in apocalyptical terms and painting a false image of the economy. (Everything was fine under Donald Trump!)

Should the economy continue to improve, the GOP would have few ideas left for its agenda. It could go back to advocating tax cuts for rich people, but that would be inflationary. It could attack Biden’s legislative achievements, such as limits on prescription drug prices, but those are popular. It could advocate for more drilling permits, but oil companies are not making use of the public leases already available to them.

Meanwhile, if the economy continues on this trajectory, any Democratic misgivings about a second Biden term might vanish. It might even dissuade some Republican alternatives to Trump from running. A relatively young candidate such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis might not want to endure a difficult primary battle with Trump, only to face a president credited with a strong economy.

For now, Biden and fellow Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief. Inflation is still high, but the outlook for 2023 looks sunnier than it has in quite some time.

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