Cal Thomas commentary: Whipping inflation — then and now
Summary: What we saw in the Biden speech and the White House statement is another attempt to fool the public into believing that the failed policies of the past can be made to succeed if the president repeatedly declares his faith in them.
In 1974, when the inflation rate was 11.04 percent, President Gerald Ford came up with a slogan: "Whip Inflation Now." WIN buttons were manufactured by the millions and people were asked to wear them to demonstrate grassroots solidarity to combat the economic scourge. The campaign was later described by Martin Crutsinger in an Associated Press story titled "Ford's WIN buttons remembered" as "one of the biggest government public relations blunders ever."
Today the inflation rate is 8.5 percent, up from 7.9 percent in February and the largest year-over-year rise since 1982. The biggest difference, though, is in the price of goods. In 1974, gas prices averaged 53 cents a gallon and a gallon of milk cost $1.34. Who needs to be reminded of the soaring cost of these and other necessities today, even when adjusted in 2022 dollars?
On Tuesday, President Biden was in Ohio to announce his plan to fight inflation. His remarks were like blaming your credit card for excessive spending.
The president claimed his administration has reduced the deficit (but not the $30 trillion debt). That claim has been fact-checked by several news organizations and the Congressional Budget Office and found to be mostly untrue. As Daniel Dale writes for CNN's politics website: "...some experts on fiscal policy say Biden is distorting reality when he claims that he is personally responsible for the deficit going down."
Prior to Biden's speech, the White House issued a "fact sheet" that contained the usual blame of others and disingenuous assertions that the president's policies are working, or would work if Congress approved them, which it won't. Republicans are blamed for allegedly having no plan to lower energy costs. In reality, the president has little or no direct influence on gas prices. Republicans are quick to claim that under Donald Trump gas averaged $2.17 a gallon, but that was in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic when for more than a year practically no one was on the road.
The White House statement again attempts to pressure us into buying electric cars, which are currently too expensive for many Americans. It also engages in economic sleight of hand by claiming some congressional Republicans want to raise taxes on individuals and small business owners when, in fact, the president and congressional Democrats want to raise taxes on "the rich" and "wealthy corporations" who they claim are not paying their "fair share." Sound familiar? It should because this has been the Democrats' mantra since the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt.
For Biden and his fellow Democrats there is literally nothing new under the sun. It isn't that we don't have experience with what produces a healthy economy. It is lower taxes, smaller government, loosening federal controls on businesses and tax incentives that allow people to save more to take care of themselves, especially in retirement. It's the difference between relying on yourself as a first resource and government as a last resort. Democrats want it the other way around because big government is addictive and enhances their careers and power.
What we saw in the Biden speech and the White House statement is another attempt to fool the public into believing that the failed policies of the past can be made to succeed if the president repeatedly declares his faith in them.
If you still have your WIN button stored away, or can find one in an antique store, pin it on your clothing. It will be a great conversation starter and you can explain what it meant, why it didn't work and why the current administration's updated version also won't achieve this president's stated goals.
Cal Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.