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EDITORIAL: Biden seeks to turn back clock to the Carter years

Whatever President Joe Biden is paying his spin doctors, it’s not enough. They have so little to work with.

On Wednesday, the Department of Labor announced that prices rose 0.5 percent in December, putting inflation at 7 percent over the past 12 months. That’s a level not seen since 1982, when Ronald Reagan was trying to drag the country out of the Jimmy Carter malaise.

The White House responded by claiming victory, crowing that the December number wasn’t as bad as the previous two months — when prices soared by 0.8 percent — and indicated the administration was “making progress in slowing the rate of price increases.”

Yet who could take the observation seriously given that Mr. Biden has been so wrong on so many things during his one year in office? Let’s rewind to July when Mr. Biden insisted, “There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist.” (This was the same month the president said “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning (Afghanistan) is highly unlikely.”)

In fact, plenty of economic observers — including “serious” economists — warned for months that dumping virus stimulus checks into a U.S. economy that was recovering nicely after COVID disruptions was a recipe for driving up prices. Now that such predictions have come to fruition, Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats point fingers in every direction other than inward.

The response from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who last week said greedy capitalists were responsible for inflation, was typical. She blamed rising food costs on Big Grocery raking in “record profits” and urged an antitrust probe. Good luck with that.

Other Democrats, including the president, make the absurd argument that another spending binge — Build Back Better — will bring down soaring prices.

Inflation effectively helps reduce the actual value of the skyrocketing national debt, so perhaps that’s why the White House and congressional big spenders seem so blase about its return. But Americans who live in the real world have seen their buying power and wage gains erased by higher costs for daily, weekly and monthly staples — a stealth tax on the poor and middle class, in other words.

The problem will grow only worse if the Biden agenda — with its beefed-up regulatory state and higher taxes — stunts economic growth, leading to another Carter-era phenomenon, stagflation.

Mr. Biden was a Washington mainstay during the Carter years, having earned his second Senate term in 1978. The ’70s were memorable for many reasons — disco, shag carpet, “Jaws,” the pet rock — but it’s doubtful, that American voters harbor the same affinity for the decade’s economic doldrums that Mr. Biden appears to have.

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