President Joe Biden’s administration announced Thursday that it planned to combat rising energy prices by releasing 1 million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the next 180 days. This, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said with unmistakable self-admiration, was “HISTORIC.” The administration’s maneuver and the terrible events that precipitated it are, indeed, historic, but it’s unclear why the White House thinks they warrant applause.
The circumstances we are living through are historic in the worst possible sense.
The circumstances we are living through are historic in the worst possible sense. The best one can say about the administration’s decision to release about 30 percent of America’s petroleum reserve is that it is a necessary contingency amid the worst military crisis in Europe since World War II.
Russia is a brutal population war of conquest against its neighbor, Ukraine, unleashing untold horrors on the it is attempting to bomb, starve and freeze into submission. Millions have been displaced, and central Europe is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The United States and its Western allies have fully committed to a proxy war against Moscow, with all the risks that it entails. People in America understand the stakes of this conflict, and they are willing to do what it takes to meet the Russian threat as best they can. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, much less that they’re inclined to celebrate the hardships the country must endure to meet this moment.
The Biden administration has developed a habit of describing its own actions as “historic.” It is not always wrong. But so much of what the White House touts as “historic” are landmark events only insofar as they are historically bad.
The petroleum reserve is being utilized for its intended purpose: to provide relief during an energy supply shock resulting from a foreign crisis. However, the last two times the Biden administration tapped into it, it was a gimmicky effort to relieve the pain of inflation’s effects on consumer prices across the board.
That inflation — a byproduct of supply chain breakdowns, resulting in increased overhead costs and labor shortages — is not entirely attributable to the Biden administration’s policies. But the contributions this administration did to the problem of inflation were also praised as “historic” by this White House.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle class folks, people who built the country, a fighting chance,” Biden said last March as he signed a mammoth $1.9 trillion economic relief package into law. Layering this relief financing atop the already nearly $4 trillion in Covid-related aid Congress had already passed —with roughly $900 billion going directly into the pockets of American consumers — contributing to inflation’s primary cause: too much money chasing after too few goods.
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco concluded that by subsidizing public demand in this way, the American Rescue Plan alone would add three-tenths of a percent to the core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index in 2021 and “a bit more” than two-tenths of a percent this year. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, one of many who correctly anticipated the American Rescue Plan’s inflationary effects, has said that policymakers who moved heaven and earth to prevent a Covid-related recession have now ensured that there’ll be one.
Policymakers who moved heaven and earth to prevent a Covid-related recession have now ensured that there’ll be one.
“I think the likelihood is that we will not return to 2 percent inflation without having at least a mild recession,” the economist recently told New York Times columnist Ezra Klein. He added that “we will not get inflation down without running a recession.” Only that, Summers appears to believe, can break the back of “excess demand” and curb genuinely historic consumer price hikes.
Maybe the Biden White House’s most craven claim to having assumed the mantle of history followed its bloody rush to get out of Afghanistan.
As the Taliban closed in Kabul, Biden’s White House organized what Klain deemed “a historic airlift” out of Afghanistan. White House press secretary Jen Psaki touted it as “the largest airlift in US history.” “There is no other country in the world who could pull something like this off,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan crawed, “bar none.” Indeed, the escape from Afghanistan was historic: a historic debacle.
The Biden administration presided over the renegotiation of a Trump-era withdrawal date and stuck with it even as the security situation in the country deteriorated, drew down the US military footprint even as civilians remained, abandoned the defensible Bagram Airfield in favor of Kabul’s indefensible civilian airport, and relied on the Taliban to provide security for that position, which cost the lives of 13 US service personnel.
Despite exfiltrating more than 100,000 US citizens, dual nationals and Afghan partners, Biden did not honor his pledge to leave a presence on the ground until every American had been delivered to safety. Thousands were left behind, and even today, more than seven months after the fall of Kabul, Americans remain trapped behind enemy lines, hostages of the Taliban.
It’s understandable that Biden administration officials feel the need to pretend that objectively atrocious circumstances are actually wondrous if looked at the proper light. If we were only being subjected to spin, we’d be witnessing nothing more remarkable than a few acts of elementary political hygiene. But this is not spin. We are being asked to ignore the evidence of our own eyes, internalize an untruth and regurgitate it in service to the White House’s political fortunes.
That’s insulting, and it saps the administration of credibility, a valuable commodity that isn’t easily recouped. The Biden White House will miss that credibility when it’s gone, which, given the rate at which they’re setting it on fire, won’t be long.