I suspect we’ll hear this term often in the months ahead as Dems grasp for a way out of their political dilemma. On the one hand, Americans want to see pain inflicted on Russia and are willing to pay more for gas to do it.
On the other hand, I’d be surprised if that willingness lasts a week before angry voters get fed up and start pointing their fingers at Biden for high gas prices.
Dems desperately need a way to shift blame. They can’t shift it to Republicans, who have no power in Washington at the moment. So they’re going to try to shift it to the fascist responsible for the war in Ukraine, a figure whom Americans already despise and might be primed to hold responsible for their misery.
And it’s a fair cop — to a degree. Putin does bear some blame for the spike in gas prices over the past two weeks. But it wasn’t Putin who spent $1.9 trillion on more COVID relief last year, igniting inflation. And it wasn’t Putin whose fear of climate-change activists on the American left has kept the country from maximizing its energy production.
Get used to “Putin spike,” though. Retconning inflation as some sort of Russian plot might be Democrats’ only play for managing the issue this year.
White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki:
"Americans are paying a higher price at the pump because of the actions of President Putin. This is a Putin spike at the gas pump." pic.twitter.com/sooAYaNekB
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) March 8, 2022
The president was asked about gas prices this afternoon. You know whom to blame, he told reporters, and it ain’t me:
Pres. Biden asked what can be done about skyrocketing gas prices: "Can’t do much right now. Russia is responsible." pic.twitter.com/kqqjx0A6YV
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) March 8, 2022
Didn’t they do this with COVID too, attempting to retcon inflation last fall by blaming the Delta surge for it? As if that COVID relief bill never happened?
There has been a Putin spike, but it lifted off from an elevated launchpad:
It’s convenient to blame Putin, but since Election Day 2020, you’ll see gas prices steadily and dramatically inclining before the spike 2 weeks ago. pic.twitter.com/t9vDNkizcB
— Corey Matelli (@BaconSnapple) March 8, 2022
Analysts told the LA Times that they could see gas reaching five bucks a gallon on average, which would mean seven bucks in California and parts of the northeast. Imagine paying a hundred dollars to fill up your tank.
Biden’s also going to try to shift blame to another traditional villain in American culture, the oil companies. Is there price gouging going on? Whether there is or not, it’d help him out politically if you were at least open to the possibility:
Pres. Biden commends oil and gas companies that have pulled out of Russia, warns them not to "exploit" American consumers.
"Russia's aggression is costing us all—and it's no time for profiteering or price gouging." https://t.co/ZwdF5mLC2a pic.twitter.com/kWtRX1r70g
— ABC News (@ABC) March 8, 2022
In a month he’ll be accusing Putin of being in league with Big Oil, which … just pulled out of Russia.
To add to Democrats’ political pain, one of the most powerful members of Pelosi’s caucus made a cringeworthy admission today:
The price for gas just reached an ALL-TIME high.
When asked about how House Democrats plan to address this issue House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told reporters "that issue hasn't come up." pic.twitter.com/GcNtgRxGio
— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) March 8, 2022
Republican Elise Stefanik, who’s made inflation a centerpiece of the Republican message, blasted Jeffries: “Americans across the country are feeling this pain daily. Hakeem Jeffries’ comments that this issue didn’t even come up during today’s House Democrats caucus meeting shows how out of touch they are with the crises facing the American people.”
In responding to Russia, it seems like the White House is forever one step behind doing what most Americans obviously want them to do. The public wants to see Putin punished, but it was European countries that moved first on drafting sanctions against Russia’s central bank and it was members of Congress from both parties who pushed for banning Russian oil imports before Biden reluctantly gave in. The obvious — obvious, obvious, obvious — next move is for Biden to announce new initiatives to boost energy production, the environmentalist lobby be damned. Some Democrats are already begging for it. There’s no way to manage this crisis by pointing your finger at Putin when the electorate understands very well that the U.S. isn’t doing as much as it could to increase supply.
And dismissing the idea on grounds that nothing will change in energy prices in the near term isn’t good enough. Increasing production today will ease the next crisis a decade from now. Kevin Williamson:
We could spare ourselves some of these calculations by maximizing our own output — not only of crude oil and natural gas but also of refined-petroleum products. That would also mean building the necessary pipeline infrastructure and reforming our antiquated maritime regulations to enable the transportation of those fuels. Doing so would offer many benefits that ought to appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike: lower prices, more strategic and economic flexibility, and a bunch of high-paying jobs for people who are not software engineers, investment bankers, or lawyers. But with the exception of waiving the Jones Act, none of that is work that can be done by next Monday.
And Biden needs a new energy strategy yesterday. Nuclear-power advocate Elon Musk can be three bowls deep and still offer a more coherent analysis of the energy situation than the Biden administration does at its soberest.
If the green lobby complains, announce a new initiative to build nuclear power plants as well. Zero emissions. France does it. Why can’t we?
It really is this simple for Democrats: They can either spearhead the push to boost production now and reap some political benefit from it this fall or they can hold back, get obliterated in November, and let the GOP spearhead it in the next Congress. Republicans will most definitely force this issue on Biden, and given how popular it’s destined to be, he’ll be reluctant to veto it. Do Dems want to seize the credit when they can still benefit politically by acting now or do they want to wait for the opposition party to claim it next year?
I’ll leave you with this cold comfort, evidence that while many aspects of Biden’s presidency are reminiscent of the Carter administration, we’re not back to that level of pain at the pump. Yet.
US gasoline costs, as consumer’s share of wallet:
(via @MikeZaccardi) #OOTT pic.twitter.com/WX6kTg5V1R
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) March 8, 2022
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