Biden’s Inaction on Dampening Record-High Gas Prices Will Be A Disaster for Democrats in the Midterm
President Joe Biden’s approval rating has sunk to his lowest ever during his presidency to 40% and Democrats as a party could pay the price during this year’s midterm. Republicans also enjoyed a 2-point lead in answering which party should control Congress ahead of November’s midterm elections.
What are Americans upset about? A NBC News poll shows two areas of major concern: low levels of confidence in President Biden’s ability to deal with the Russian invasion in Ukraine and his handling of the economy with regard to the current inflation, which has spiked to historic highs not seen in 40 years.
“What this poll says is that President Biden and Democrats are headed for a catastrophic election,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinions Strategy, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, told NBC News.McInturff could be right if Biden does not turn things around quickly.
Before the outbreak of the war, Americans were more forgiving of the rising inflation. Right-wing media had Biden as target and responsible for the increasing cost of living. However, most Americans back then saw inflation as a post-pandemic process and that issue was largely looked upon as a bipartisan failing with both Republicans and Democrats having had control of the presidency during the pandemic.
But what turned against Biden is his sanction on Russian oil, which really was symbolic unless other United Nation’s allies joined. With gasoline prices already soaring, Biden asking for Americans to make a sacrifice by supporting his sanction (while European leaders decided not to take on the Russian oil sanction) made him look out-of-touch with the average American, made him appear elitist.
And as gas prices soared even higher, and soon to increase prices on other basic goods from groceries to utilities, Americans just got their fall guy, a scapegoat, someone to blame in Biden. And all the politically motivated vitriol on right-wing media that connected Biden to rising inflation – suddenly is showing to have caught on to the masses as well that include independents and some Democrats, according to this latest bi-partisan polling by a mainstream media outlet, NBC.
Americans are right, Biden must act, starting with getting gasoline prices under control
While market forces are largely responsible for inflation and Biden is really the scapegoat here, his inaction to respond that is garnering criticism is in fact warranted.It’s not enough to say that oil prices are determined in the world market based off overall supply and demand of which the U.S. is only a part of and do not control.
Frankly, American voters do not care for details and only want to see results when it comes to pocketbook matters. This is political reality.
Gas prices are up about 24% over the past month alone. In the past year, prices at the pump have gone up 53%. A new survey found that more than half of Americans surveyed said they will adjust how much they drive now that gas is over $4 per gallon.
On the table to alleviate gas prices
White House officials have said they are looking at several options. Currently on the table as possible steps to take include: a gasoline tax holiday or gas cards that would provide rebates to consumers; possible relaxation of the Jones Act, a law requiring domestic cargo to be carried on American-made tankers using union labor; and lifting of sanctions on oil-producing nations.
Lifting even temporarily parts of the Jones Act will not be something unions (a Democrat-base faction) would accept.
Lifting of sanctions on oil-producing nations — some of them that produce enough oil to make an impact like Iran, Venezuela – would send mixed political messages to countries that the US currently do not have approved diplomatic relations with.
Pumping more gas also goes against decarbonization efforts, climate change, and undermines green energy. Again, this would not sit well with major sectors of the Democratic party. But this is still an option worth pursuing.
A Federal government gasoline tax holiday or gasoline excise tax holiday is a great idea but getting it to pass through Congress could be problematic with the two Democrat Senate moderates Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. The United States federal excise tax on gasoline is currently 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. But this suggestion still might be worth trying.
Gas cards to provide rebate on consumers – this also sounds like a great idea but like the gasoline tax holiday, it could be a hurdle in Congress. But such a proposal would be extremely popular and if Republicans do not throw their support behind it, then suddenly the gas price blame game becomes not just all on Biden as it currently stands. Democrats can point back a finger to Republicans if such a proposal was introduced and rejected by the GOP.
Not mentioned by WH, but could make an impact
Lessening demand. Consumers can work to close the supply-to-demand gap by reducing gasoline usage. Carpooling and driving less overall, if enough Americans make changes to their daily driving habits, this could have some impact in reducing gasoline prices.
Long term solution. Finally economic substitutes to oil-gasoline, in other words expanding alternative energy sources, must be pursued with vigor. The technology is already here, for example, electric cars. This will not have the immediate impact consumers as Americans are calling for during this inflationary crisis but consumers must set a new standard, new market demand and the industry will support consumer trends. Buying electric cars should be encouraged.
Lastly, but perhaps one of the best immediate actions Biden could take and something that would not take Congressional approval is using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to his advantage. Biden already has tapped the SPR (holds about 714 million barrels of oil) to release and this has had a temporary effect in reducing the cost of oil.
What he can do to leverage the SPR for a more durable price reduction, is to not only liquidate the reserves (714 million barrels of oil), but also pledge to fill it at a future date at the current fracking price of $60 a barrel. This would encourage frackers (concerned about price volatility and thus are holding onto their reserves) to ramp up production of oil because their oil would be guaranteed by pledge at a fair price by the federal government.
The federal government is powerful and has many tools to use at its disposal including subsidies and guarantees. There is no excuse for Biden to drag his feet on any one or a mix of all those viable options listed above.
Biden must act now or Democrats will pay the price of his inaction at the midterm and his own presidential reelection bid will be in jeopardy as well.