Jan 13

inflation's a global dilemma — the press blames Biden

GOP talking points

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News that U.S. inflation inched up 0.5 percent last month set off another round of excited media reports, as news outlets pounded one of their favorite themes in recent months. Convinced that rising prices are the defining economic issue of the day — not huge job gains, record-setting GDP predictions, or boosted wages — the press continues to portray inflation as a uniquely American problem that’s hounding Democrats.

“President Joe Biden suffered a new blow to his economic agenda this week,” Politico announced, pointing to the new inflation figures. “That prompted the Biden White House to scramble to do damage control in the face of attacks by Republicans.” The Associated Press on Wednesday stressed that inflation is “heaping pressure on President Joe Biden and the Federal Reserve to address what has become the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.”

The New York Times: “A troubling development for President Biden.” The Washington Post headline: “Democrats Worry Biden Could Pay the Political Price For Rising Inflation.” (The first person quoted in the piece was a GOP pollster.)

What’s missing from the inflation coverage is the consistent acknowledgement that the trend of rising prices is a global phenomenon, fueled by the pandemic. The Politico report made no mention of worldwide inflation, neither did the Times or Post dispatches; the AP included just one sentence.

Dismissed or downplayed is the fact that systemic, record-setting inflation has taken hold in virtually every major economy:

• “Germany: Annual Inflation Hits Highest Rate Since 1993

• “Italian Inflation Hits Highest In More Than A Decade On Energy

• “Mexico Ends Year With Inflation At 7.36%, Most In 20 Years

• “Russian 2021 Inflation Accelerates To 8.39%, Preliminary Data Shows

• “Spain's Annual Inflation Jumps To 6.7% At End Of 2021, Highest Since 1989

“UK Inflation Hits 10-Year High Ahead Of Key Bank Of England Meeting

• “Canada's Annual Inflation Rate Matches 18-Year High, Set to Keep Rising

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Thanks to international reporting, we know inflation is on the rise around the world. But news consumers here have to search that information out because it’s rarely included in coverage of the U.S. economy. Most often, domestic inflation is presented in a silo, independent from the global economic trend that has been sparked by a worldwide virus.

Meanwhile, the press eagerly trumpets Republican claims that Biden’s agenda is responsible for inflation, while failing to point out that it wasn’t the infrastructure bill or Covid relief legislation that prompted inflation to jump to 4.7 percent in Canada, 5.1 percent in the U.K and and 6.7 percent in Spain. Inflation is occurring everywhere, so it’s not Biden’s policies that are to blame. The press prefers a more linear narrative, and seems to deliberately leave out the international context. That allows journalists to frame the story as a Dem vs. GOP one, as if policy adjustments from Biden would cure inflation.

Today’s unfortunate economic trend is clearly caused by the pandemic, which warped global supply and demand patterns, creating a mismatch that has driven prices higher. Energy costs and shipping bottlenecks are two major, driving factors.  One reason inflation sprouted so quickly in the U.S. is that consumer demand is booming as the economy has recovered from Covid faster and stronger under Biden than most people ever thought possible.

Still, Republicans claim Biden is driving up prices by passing large spending bills. Government spending is bad because it fuels inflation, the GOP claims over and over in the press.

Yet eager Republicans just helped pass a $768 billion Defense budget. When Trump was president, Senate Republicans supported pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in order to battle the effects of the pandemic shutdown. The GOP, with help from the press, is still able to frame inflation as a problem Biden created and must be penalized for. The Post: “Republicans argued the new inflation numbers were another sign that Biden’s policies are not working.”

There’s nothing subtle about what the GOP is doing. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) last year told the Wall Street Journal that rising prices were a “gold mine” for Republicans, suggesting the party hopes consumers will continue to have to pay higher prices this year.

The press trumpets that GOP message. Inflation is a “political nightmare for Biden,” CNN recently stressed. The Associated Press, while conceding that consumer spending is way up, claimed inflation was “casting a pall” and that upward prices, not plummeting unemployment, dominated water cooler talk in the U.S. When weekly jobless claims recently fell to a 52-year low, the New York Times ran yet another excited Biden inflation piece on the following day’s front page. News of the historic jobless numbers ran on page B3.

It was no surprise that a recent AP poll found consumers fixated on inflation: “Income Is Up, But Americans Focus on Inflation.” Why is that? Americans are inundated with the media’s constant inflation coverage, most of which omits the fact the trend is now happening all around the world.

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🎙 GOOD STUFF:

Yesterday I examined how Trump had spent the last year hiding from mainstream journalists. Right on cue he called into NPR. There were hopeful signs in terms of Trump being held to higher account these days.

From NPR’s “Pressed On His Election Lies, Former President Trump Cuts NPR Interview Short”:

The interview was six years in the making. Trump and his team have repeatedly declined interviews with NPR until Tuesday, when he called in from his home in Florida. It was scheduled for 15 minutes, but lasted just over nine. After being pressed about his repeated lies about the 2020 presidential election, Trump abruptly ended the interview.

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🎷 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, “Face Down in the Moment”

I wholeheartedly concur with Holler’s take on this glorious, new simmering rock track: “‘Face Down in the Moment’ ends amidst a triumphant wall of horns, while Rateliff’s voice crashes around you with palpable passion. It’s a real standout on the record; evidence of the band’s capability to produce soul-infused music.”

You were following blind
When they stole your name
You were planning a way out
When you lost your way
Bent to a hunch now
Like a broke down show
Face down in the moment just waiting to let go

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