Well, Joe Biden wanted to be president.
Now that he assumes the awesome power of the office, he has the privilege of getting blamed for just about everything. Gas prices are rising? It was Biden who shut down the Keystone oil pipeline.
Sometimes, this kind of criticism is unfair. In truth, not one drop of petroleum had made its way down this particular stretch of pipeline when Biden pulled the plug, so the immediate impact on supply was zilch. It doesn’t matter. If you’re the guy in the Oval Office, you’re the one who absorbs the blame.
But don’t feel too bad for the chief executive. Recently, Biden rebranded his Build Back Better social spending plan as something that would ease inflationary pressure on the economy, despite a price tag of $1.75 trillion.
This is laughable. Surely Biden knows that it’s the Federal Reserve, not the White House, that controls many of the levers that influence monetary policy and inflation. But he also knows that Americans are becoming increasingly worried about the impact of rising prices, so it’s best to say something even if it’s not true.
But there is one thing that Biden could do that would have an immediate impact on a wide range of prices. He doesn’t even have to go through Congress.
He could end or modify the Donald Trump-era tariffs that cost the average American household $1,300 in 2020. That’s almost a stimulus check.
Trump, in an effort to get China to play fair on trade, levied $370 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. It could be said that this tough stance produced a change in tone — the Chinese promised to increase purchases of U.S. agricultural products in a “Phase One” agreement — if not in actual adherence to those promises.
So plenty of work needs to be done. But that doesn’t change the reality that U.S. businesses and consumers pay almost 100% of the cost of additional levies on steel and aluminum from various countries — materials that will be in great demand because of the infrastructure bill. Americans also pay for tariffs on Chinese consumer goods and intermediate goods that businesses use to make finished products.
This is something that Biden, who has taken a political beating on inflation, has the power to change. But he’s decided a trade war is the one aspect of the Trump presidency that he’s going to retain.