Enough of one that they have decided it’s good policy, and better political optics, to bully gas station owners over how much they charge at the pump. The president’s Twitter team published this gem over the long holiday weekend:
My message to the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump is simple: this is a time of war and global peril.
Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.
Setting aside the notion that an American president feels the need to harangue the franchise owner on the corner…the economic illiteracy on display in Mr. Biden’s tweet is inexcusable.
It would be generous and kind to blame the communications staff for this. But the buck stops with Joe, so the blame is all his. As such Mr. Biden deserves the strong corrective he gets from, among others, The Wall Street Journal:
More than a quarter of gas stations have closed since the 1990s because they couldn’t make the economics work. If retailers were to sell fuel at cost, most would go out of business. Perhaps those owned by large refiners would survive, but they’d be accused of predatory pricing by Mr. Biden’s antitrust cops.
The President’s economic ignorance isn’t a one-off. In recent months he has accused oil and gas companies of price gouging and demanded that they increase production even while his Administration threatens to put them out of business. Mr. Biden doesn’t understand that businesses make long-term decisions based on demand expectations and policy signals. Jeff Bezos called the President’s weekend tweet “either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.” They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Indeed, the Biden team’s misdirection is just a manifestation of its misunderstanding…of market function, prices, incentives, regulation and so on.
And if you think the gas station episode was bad, buckle-up, because Team Biden is about to face a cascade of troubles thanks to one of his oldest political backers…Big Labor:
…the labor contract for 29 West Coast ports, which covers 22,000 dockworkers, lapsed over the weekend.
For now, talks continue; the two sides are reportedly fighting over port managers’ desire to automate more operations, as major ports in Europe and Asia have already done. But if a work stoppage or slowdown results, it could wreak havoc on the country’s already-fragile supply chains, with potentially catastrophic consequences for inflation and the economy.
Also, of course, for Democrats’ chances in the midterms.
This isn’t some remote risk. The last time this contract was being renegotiated, starting in 2014, talks broke down and work slowdowns led to expensive shipping delays. The Obama administration had to intervene. Labor disruptions (strikes, lockouts, slowdowns) also occurred during West Coast port contract negotiations in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
Does Biden side with his old allies in the labor movement? Or does his professed determination to fight inflation convince him to convince them to get back to work?
Given Biden’s grasp of economics, we should prepare for the worst.