Biden’s bizarre “shrinkflation” nonsense

When President Joe Biden ran for office in 2020, he explicitly promised that putting him in the White House would mean “you’ll actually see your standard of living go up and your costs go down.”

This didn’t happen.

We don’t need to go through the entire economic history of the Biden administration in this space, but here’s a quick recap: Inflation has risen to its highest level in 40 years, peaking above 9% in June 2022. I Prices are now rising less rapidly, but inflation remains well above the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2%. (It was 3.4% for the 12 months ending in December. We’ll get January numbers Tuesday morning.) Biden’s policies — in particular, the $2 trillion spending package signed into law in March 2021 — have certainly contributed to that inflationary spiral. Economists will continue to debate how much of a factor this was, but voters tend to operate at a more superficial level, rewarding presidents for good economic times and punishing them for bad ones. And, rightly or only in part, Biden’s name is linked to this clash with inflation.

One might expect the president, now that he is in the midst of a re-election campaign, to try to avoid anything having to do with that topic. Don’t remind voters how tough the last few years have been, focus on the future, talk about the positive signals coming from the economy and above all don’t look like an old man shouting at a cloud.

In short, don’t do this:

Biden refused to do the traditional Super Bowl Sunday interview with the network hosting the game, and instead the White House released an economically illiterate and politically confusing video of Biden railing against “shrinkflation,” when in a bag there it’s a few chips or less ice cream. in a cartoon, as Biden claims.

Yes, this is a real phenomenon, which most Americans don’t like. This is, of course, a direct consequence of inflation. If the marginal cost of producing each chip increases (because potatoes, corn, or labor become more expensive), then a bag of 100 chips will cost slightly more or become a bag of 90 chips and cost the same.

Given this reality, Biden telling companies he wants them to stop downsizing their products is a little bizarre: If they did what he asked, prices would almost certainly rise. And this Truly What does the White House want?

A different version of this video might go even further in attempting to blame corporations for inflation and the resulting “shrinkflation.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been on that path for a while. This is also nonsense, because corporate greed does not rise and fall periodically, as Warren seems to believe.

But Biden doesn’t even try to take this path. He does not threaten to take any action against the companies involved in shrinkflation and does not mention any of them by name. All he does here is remind voters of the sneaky way inflation is still robbing their wallets.

From a political perspective, this video is effectively a flashing sign telling voters, “Hey, you thought inflation was less bad now? Actually, it’s still happening!” In what world does this help Biden? After all, when was the last time the president bought a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips, with his own money, in a real grocery store? The more you think about it, the less sense this video makes. The White House should probably stop taking messaging advice from Warren.

The time to correct inflation is before it starts. Once started, it is difficult to control and tends to make voters (understandably) quite irritable. There is nothing Biden can do at this point to solve shrinkflation, so the most powerful man in the world is reduced to looking like an out-of-touch old man shaking his fist at the sky. This is an accurate image, but probably not the one the White House intended to send.

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