President Biden on Monday blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin in large part for soaring U.S. inflation and rising gasoline prices, saying Moscow’s three-week-old invasion of Ukraine has hurt the global economy.
Speaking to a League of Cities meeting in Washington, Mr. Biden started by saying the COVID-19 pandemic and trillions in government stimulus did cause prices in the U.S. to rise last year. But then the president quickly turned his attention to Russia.
“The second big reason for inflation is Vladimir Putin and gas prices,” Mr. Biden said. “We’ve seen the price of gas go up over $1 just since he put his troops on the border of Ukraine…. then Putin invaded.
“The current spike in gas prices is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin. It has nothing to do with the [$1.9 trillion] American Rescue Plan.”
Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Biden had blamed rising prices partly on corporate greed, saying some companies were engaged in profiteering. Pump prices rose about 40% in the past year before Russia’s military attacked Ukraine.
The average price for regular gasoline at the pump soared 79 cents over the past two weeks in the U.S. to hit a record $4.43 per gallon on Sunday.
Mr. Biden said Monday that inflation and high gas prices aren’t going away anytime soon.
“Gasoline prices, home heating oil prices are going to continue to go up because of these embargoes on Russian oil and other things that he’s brought on,” the president said.
Mr. Biden reluctantly ordered an embargo on Russian oil this month, after lawmakers in both parties called for the action.
The president again insisted that Congress could reduce the pressure on struggling families by passing parts of his domestic agenda such as more aid for child care and prescription drugs.
“If you lower the cost of child care, it affects your standard of living,” he said. “None of this will increase inflation.”
The president did say that government spending during the worst of the pandemic contributed to higher prices in the U.S. He said families had lots of money to spend on things such as home-improvement projects, but lumber and other materials weren’t available because of supply chain problems.
“Prices went up significantly,” he said.
The government reported last week that inflation rose in February at an annual rate of 7.9%, a 40-year high.