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Opinion Biden gets the blame for U.S. inflation staying higher for longer, but he shouldn’t

It’s human nature to focus on bad news and ignore the good U.S. inflation has come down, but not enough for voters to stop complaining about high prices.

Since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, the economy has recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and is now advancing, just as economists expected in 2019 before the pandemic was on the horizon.

The rub is that prices have jumped 18% on Biden’s watch, and inflation continues well above 2% a year. During former President Donald Trump’s first three years in office, U.S. inflation was about 2%.

On inflation, Biden gets all the blame. That’s unreasonable, and reflects many people’s unwillingness to appreciate how markets work and prices are determined.

During the pandemic and early recovery, domestic and global supply chains broke down — recall shortages of computer chips and West Coast ports backing up. Ultimately, lockdowns in China curtailed imports of components and finished manufactures.

With more Americans working from home and many service establishments closed, consumers spent more heavily on some goods than services, stressing limited supplies.

Studies at the U.S. Federal Reserve indicate about half of the runup in prices could be attributed to supply constraints, which the Biden administration had little role in creating.

The U.S. government poured about $4.6 trillion into unemployment benefits, aid to states and local governments and other stimulus spending. This was enabled by the Fed expanding its balance sheet to monetize much of the resulting new federal debt.

The Fed printed money, but the inflation economists would expect didn’t happen right away for good reasons. First, money must get out into the markets for goods and services to have an impact. But other than buying more electronics and primping up home offices and family rooms, Americans hardly spent all their pandemic-relief checks.

Household savings surged above trend by about $2.1 trillion and did not start to fall significantly until late 2021 and decline rapidly before early 2022. Similarly, state and local governments couldn’t spend the COVID aid as fast as it arrived.