World

President Donald Trump oversaw the implementation of COVID-19 lockdowns. President Joe Biden presided over the worst period of inflation in more than four decades. Those are the facts.

But they are both highly inconvenient facts for the two deeply unpopular old men running for president this year. Both would likely prefer the American public to believe that the office of the presidency was vacant from the start of the pandemic through the summer of 2022 when inflation peaked at an astonishing annualized rate of 9.1 percent.

Biden is now pushing that retconning of reality to new levels. On Tuesday, in an interview withYahoo Finance, Biden claimed that inflation was “at 9 percent when I came in, and it’s now down around 3 percent.” AsThe Washington Post notes, this is at least the third time in recent weeks that Biden has blatantly fibbed about the rate of inflation when he took office.

For the record, annual inflation was 1.4 percent in January 2021, when Biden’s term began. Data released by the Department of Labor on Wednesday shows inflation hit 3.4 percent in Apriland inflation hasn’t been below 3 percent on an annualized basis since March 2021.

The degree to which Biden is responsible for the recent run of rising prices is debatable, of course, but he’s certainly not blameless. Economists warned that another round of stimulus spending in early 2021 might “overheat” the economy and trigger inflation. But the Biden administration dismissed the risks and pursued an approach thatBloomberg described at the time as “run-it-hot economics.”

After inflation peaked in 2022, a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve found that “domestic stimulus” played a “sizable role” in driving prices to 40-year highs.

Of course, Trump signed the first two pandemic-era stimulus billsand urged Republican lawmakers to keep the federal printing press running at warp speed during 2020. Those helped ring up the record-setting federal budget deficits in 2020 and 2021, and his budget-busting four years as president likely contributed to the inflation that kicked in shortly after he left office.

Biden’s role in causing inflation shares a lot of similarities with the debate over Trump and the COVID lockdowns. Again, there is room for some disagreement. Governors and local officials mostly handled the nuts and bolts of school closures and other emergency orders, but they did so after Trump endorsed the disastrous “15 days to slow the spread” approach. As with Biden and inflation, there are certainly other factors at play, but both presidents were actively involved in setting those policiesand should be held accountable for the results.

Among Trump’s supporters, however, there seems to be a sense that his presidency ended a year early. AsThe New York Times recently noted, there’s a sense of amnesia about how Trump handled 2020including not only the pandemic but the election as well.

Perhaps Biden is hoping that same collective amnesia will erase the public’s memory of his first year-and-a-half in office. The other explanation, that he sincerely believes inflation was running at 9 percent when he took the oath of office, is actually a more worrying prospect.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first time the Biden administration has pushed inaccurate statistics to make a political point. During 2022, the White House adopted an official talking point about how far the federal budget deficit had supposedly fallen under Biden’s watchconveniently ignoring the fact that it was still running significantly higher than in any non-pandemic year.

It’s been said that success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. If that’s true, then the bipartisan attempt to pretend that no one was actually serving as America’s chief executive during the COVID-19 pandemic says a lot about how the public views the government’s handling of it.

Better leaders would take responsibility for their errors in addition to asking that others be held accountable for theirs. Unfortunately, we’ve only got the conveniently selective memories of Trump and Biden.

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