"Inflation isn’t a ‘Putin Problem.’”
It’s made in America.
4 MAY—Inflation is soaring again, dominating the economic headlines in a manner that evokes the aftermath of the OPEC oil shocks of the 1970s. Ever eager to invoke the Russian bogeyman—which Democrats have been reflexively doing since the days of Russiagate—President Biden has sought to characterize this phenomenon as “Putin’s price hikes,” even though the cost-of-living increases now besetting Americans were in evidence well before Russia’s intervention in Ukraine on 24 February.
At the same time, the Ukrainian crisis has complicated efforts to reduce inflation in a variety of ways and forced uncomfortable tradeoffs in the process—tradeoffs policymakers in Washington and the European capitals have steadfastly refused to confront as they continue to arm Ukraine and perpetuate these very contradictions. All of which means slowing growth, rising interest rates, falling financial returns, and possible stagflation, all against the backdrop of a war that increasingly looks as if it could expand into a much more dangerous global conflict—potentially the most dangerous since the Cuban missile crisis.
Despite these pressures, there is no clear endgame in sight in Ukraine. However, the ongoing conflict should not allow us to lose sight of the fact that the sticker shock we are all experiencing in the grocery store or at the gas pump has a lot more to do with preëxisting pressures and the ongoing weaponization of trade via sanctions and the politicization of the SWIFT clearing system than it does with Russia’s “special military operation.”
Domestically, this means the Democrats’ political fortunes—including the Biden administration’s in 2024—will remain dire as we approach the American midterm elections later this year and beyond. Internationally, a competitor to U.S. dollar hegemony will continue to expand, with China featuring as the emerging economic locus, enveloping Russia, and India to a lesser degree, as a key junior partner, while Europe continues to be squeezed in an unsustainable economic vice of its own making.
Domestic price concerns have been evident for several months. They remain one of the main causes of Biden’s plummeting approval ratings, a trend well-established since last summer. Less discussed is how the Biden administration's geopolitical goals and positioning in Ukraine—sanctions, funneling extravagant amounts of weaponry to the Zelensky government, pressuring countries to join the coalition sanctioning Russia—are exacerbating the current economic volatility, as well as undermining efforts to address other problems, chief among these the effects of climate change, as NATO countries scramble to rid themselves of Russian oil and gas, opting for other fuel sources, no matter how dirty.
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