Alan Zendell, July 27, 2022
The news and social media tell us the Democrats’ prospects in the November elections look dismal, in large part because President Biden’s approval numbers can’t rise above 40%. The pundits say the primary reason is the economy, which is likely headed for a recession due to out-of-control inflation, which is somehow Biden’s fault. Let’s look at that.
The worst, most noticeable component of inflation is gasoline prices, which, by the way, have dropped from a national average of $5.03 per gallon last month, to $4.31 this week. That’s still an outrageous number, but will the 14% drop improve Biden’s approval rating the way the huge increase triggered by Russia extorting the world energy market hurt it?
Do you know why gas prices rose so much? According to the latest available data, 53.6% of the price of gasoline is the cost of crude oil. When Russia invaded Ukraine, oil cost $91.64 per barrel. At the end of June, it was $114.84, an increase of 25.3%, which should have increased the price of gasoline by 53.6% of 25.3%, or 13.6%. The comparable average prices of gasoline at those times were $3.61 and $5.03 per gallon, an increase of 39.3%, three times what the rise in the price of oil was responsible for. Gasoline taxes didn’t change, and distribution and refining costs rose only moderately. The huge difference between gas and oil price increases resulted from windfall corporate profits and stock buybacks.
That should surprise no one. Since the Arab oil embargo, fifty years ago, the oil companies have exacerbated every supply shortage to reap windfall profits. Each time, after secreting away billions of dollars, just as Congress began questioning the sky-high price of gasoline, it mysteriously dropped, taking the wind out of any threatened investigation.
What about the price of food? Remember when the country was locked down during the first COVID outbreak, and we saw farmers lamenting that they couldn’t feed their herds or tend their crops? Remember the warnings that the prices of everything from grains to produce to beef and pork would be very low in 2020 but would skyrocket when everything had to be replenished in the following years? That’s why food prices are so high.
Then there was China, where the American giants of industry moved their industrial production to increase profits. That included computer chips, critical parts for virtually every major product sold in the United States, clothing – you name it. When China shut down, re-opened, and shut down again it took our wholesale and retail markets with it. That’s why it takes six months for a new couch, a new refrigerator, or a new car to arrive. Our supply chains were screwed. A furniture salesman at Macy’s told me they’ve had to increase prices and extend delivery delays every month in 2022 because demand is so far ahead of supply.
Why is demand so high and the price of real estate rising so fast? Because the Biden administration has performed a miracle of economic recovery in eighteen months. There have been record job growth, record decreases in unemployment, and stronger financial markets than any economist predicted; yet, the polls say two thirds of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction.
Biden’s foreign policy had a dismal start when he fulfilled Trump’s commitment to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan. The optics were terrible. The Afghan army we had invested billions training turned out to be a paper tiger, a terrible intelligence failure for the United States. A suicide bomber killing thirteen of our soldiers made the withdrawal look like an incompetent mess, despite successfully evacuating well over 100,000 military and civilians.
The buck stopped in the White House, as it should have, but since then, Biden has directed a foreign policy that was able to re-inspire confidence in American leadership around the world. NATO was re-united and strengthened, and as a result, the European Union stood firm against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Imagine a world in which Putin’s military was allowed to run rampant over his neighbors, with the threat of nuclear war growing every day.
Finally, I’d ask which president placed the interests of our country first. Exhibit A is January 6, 2021 insurrection, which was entirely orchestrated and executed by Donald Trump. Joe Biden is a president who defends democracy, believes in our Constitution, in basic decency, and in defending us against enemies who seek only domination and the spread of their autocratic forms of government.
In spite of all that I, too, believe we’re headed in the wrong direction, but I wish pollsters would start asking the question properly. Are we moving in the wrong direction because of Biden? Might it be because of our dysfunctional, obstructionist Congress? Might it be because of the MAGA crowd who believe there are never enough guns and never too few restrictions on their use? Could it be the Supreme Court, whose Trump-appointed Justices perjured themselves to secure lifetime seats that control one third of what was supposed to be the nonpolitical branch of our government and now want to move us back to when women had no rights and only heterosexual, white Americans who adhere to some distorted version of Christian values have any say in how the country functions?
Most Americans know the right answer.