Americans are making their lists, checking them twice, and finding that Washington politicians have been naughty, not nice, when it comes to the U.S.’ growing inflation problem and its supply-chain chaos. Indeed, the November I&I/TIPP Poll shows Americans overwhelmingly blame our Potomac-based political class for the current problems.
The poll asked: “In general, how responsible are politicians in Washington for recent increases in gasoline and food prices?” The answer suggests coal (or perhaps tiny solar panels?) in many politicians’ stockings this year: 69% of those responding said politicians were responsible, while just 21% said they weren’t.
Perhaps the most surprising result comes from looking at the political breakdown. There is little, if any, difference between Democrats (71%), Republicans (73%) and independents/others (68%). Finally, something on which all the major parties can agree.
Meanwhile, a separate poll on who’s to blame for the current supply-chain mess, with more than 100 ships now sitting at sea waiting to be unloaded at the nation’s two busiest ports, finds that Americans also blame Washington.
The I&I/TIPP Poll asked respondents: “Who or what is primarily responsible for the supply-chain crisis?” They were then given five possible responses.
Among those queried, 36% blamed “President Joe Biden and his administration” for the monumental supply-chain disruption, while 27% pointed their fingers at “government regulations.” All told, 63% blamed government as the source of the problem, versus 15% who said the “private sector” and 14% who said “the workforce.” “Other” was selected by 7%.
Again, there was a surprising amount of bipartisan agreement. Among Democrats, 19% blamed Biden while 32% blamed regulations, for a majority of 51% citing government as the cause.
For Republicans, 61% blamed Biden, while 21% blamed regulations. Independents, once again, straddled the two major parties, with 37% blaming Biden and 25% blaming regs. Significantly, among all political groupings, a majority blamed government for the supply-chain problem.
The data come from the November I&I/TIPP Poll of 1,306 adults. The poll was conducted online from Oct. 27-29 by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, I&I’s polling partner. The margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points.
Not surprisingly, Washington pols recognize the danger to their livelihoods that the inflation and supply-chain problems pose. Most economists agree that the inflation and supply-chain crises are tightly linked. A number of politicians have worked hard to shift the blame from Washington to “greedy corporations” taking advantage of hapless consumers to raise their prices sharply.
“Prices at the pump have gone up,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted out on Nov. 20. “Why? Because giant oil companies like @Chevron and @ExxonMobil enjoy doubling their profits. This isn’t about inflation. This is about price gouging for these guys & we need to call them out.”
Warren also seeks a Justice Department antitrust investigation into the poultry industry. Why? The high cost of turkeys this year. “Warren said in a letter that consumers are paying higher prices because of excessive consolidation, price-fixing and ‘plain-old corporate greed,'” a Reuters report noted.
In the same mode, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki earlier this month claimed the $1.8 trillion Build Back Better bill wouldn’t add to inflationary pressures, saying “no economist out there is projecting that this will have a negative impact on inflation.”
But as Michael Boskin, a Stanford University economist at the Hoover Institution and former chairman of the President George H.W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors noted, such thinking is “economically illiterate.”
Washington political leaders got more bad news last week when the Fed reported that its favored measure of inflation, prices for core personal consumption spending (which excludes food and energy prices), jumped 4.1% in October from a year ago, the biggest gain since January 1991. That’s more than twice the 2% level that the Fed says is acceptable.
With food and energy prices added in, the index jumped 5%, the fastest pace since November of 1990.
As noted above, one major argument for the $1.8 trillion Build Back Better infrastructure bill was that it would ease inflation pressures by removing bottlenecks in the nation’s outdated infrastructure.
Some don’t see it that way. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation forecast that Build Back Better “would reduce long-run GDP by about 0.4% and long-run American incomes … by about 0.4%. The bill would also reduce the capital stock by about 0.8% and wages by 0.3%, while eliminating 107,000 full-time equivalent jobs.”
Other estimates likewise see declines, not gains, from the bill.
Why is that? The bill doesn’t actually spend the $1.8 trillion on infrastructure, as it was sold to the American public. In fact, less than 10% of the spending would go for infrastructure.
As inflation soars and supply chains malfunction, Americans seem to be fed up. But they’re not blaming “big business” for the problems. They’re blaming big government. For those in Washington worried about reelection next year, it might not be such a Merry Christmas.
I&I/TIPP will continue to provide timely and informative data from our monthly polls in the coming weeks and months on this topic and on others of interest to Americans. TIPP has distinguished itself by being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.