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A Biden anti-inflation plan

I’ve talked about it before but inflation’s a big political obstacle to everything else. There isn’t sufficient statutory authorization to deal with it, however. So I’d like Biden to dramatize the problem about absent legislation.

I’d tell Biden to go big time for price controls, with speeches, press releases, and sending top officials to talk with the press. Congress won’t pass price controls, but let’s stop negotiating with Manchin and put the heat on Republicans.

The Fed has no anti-inflation authority except by raising interest rates. So, with no other choice, it’s raising interest rates. But Fed Chairman Powell admitted, and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman concurs, raising interest rates won’t make food, gas and housing cheaper. It’s all they have for the short term, but higher rates will make buyers poorer. No decent public servant likes that.

Gas prices may be coming down, but it's worth talking about anyways. Energy revolutions will bring prices further down. Solar and wind are already much cheaper than fossil fuels and will reduce our electricity costs considerably unless capitalists are allowed to monopolize. Decreasing use of fossil fuels will also make gas much cheaper by reducing demand. Gas and oil companies object because they already have large investments in fossil fuels. But the faster we invest in new technologies, the faster and further gas prices will come down. Unfortunately, investment is a Republican no-no, so they’ve been blocking it, even though their big donors seem to know how to do it.

The gas price burden can also be addressed by shifting taxes from us poor slobs that pay double the percent of our taxable incomes that the absurdly rich pay. The tax burden should be switched. Then, without hurting us, higher gas prices could still push us to switch to cheaper fuels and forms of travel.

Increasing supply and making food cheaper generally takes more water, labor and land. Water requires investment in conservation and countering global warming, which Republicans also resist. A lot of the labor is provided by willing Latin-Americans except that many Americans don’t want to let them in. And land has problems of its own.

The Ukraine war has increased food supply problems, but standing with Ukraine is important to discourage Putin from taking bites out of our European allies – the oceans don’t protect us from foreign enemies as they once did, so we need our allies to see their mutual interest in standing with us.

Housing prices can be addressed by easing zoning rules, but that’s local – Biden has nothing to do with it – and the richer people are the less willing they are to have new or more neighbors. As Pogo aptly said, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.” But it’s more fun to blame Biden.

The snarls in shipping and trucking can also be addressed by improving infrastructure. But even productive investment that pays its cost back is a Republican no-no.

The upshot is that there are things we can do though they’ll take Congress, time and kick in gradually. For any of them, we’d have to get together for the good of the country. And if one of the parties continues to block whatever Democratic presidents propose because it might work, we’ll get nowhere.

So Biden should do a lot of public relations aimed at a high-profile anti-inflation plan to make the choices clear and show the nation who’s blocking them. The moral of this story is to give Biden a supportive Congress, and we can only do that by voting.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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