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Pelosi blames inflation on wrong conflict

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi claimed on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic and the “war in Iraq” were responsible for the soaring cost of living in the US. Pelosi’s own office corrected her statement to read “Ukraine,” in keeping with the rhetoric of her fellow Democrats.

The annual inflation rate in the US hit 8.6% in May, the highest level since 1981. Food and fuel costs have soared, with the national average gas price passing $5 per gallon this week. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, 83% of Americans rate the country’s economic state as poor or “not so good.”

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Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pelosi described inflation as a problem of supply and shipping bottlenecks.

“Look we have the war in Iraq, we have Covid which has, uh … really deterred more product coming into our country,” she told reporters.

A transcript of the speech was posted on Pelosi’s website shortly afterwards, with “Iraq” replaced by “[Ukraine].” 

Pelosi is not the first political figure to confuse the conflict in Ukraine with the US’ combat mission in Iraq, which began with a full-scale invasion in 2003 and formally concluded with the withdrawal of combat troops last December. Former President George W. Bush infamously referred to Russia’s operation in Ukraine last month as the “unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq – I mean of Ukraine.”

Nor is Pelosi the first Democrat to blame the US’ cratering economy on the situation in Ukraine. The House Speaker has previously used the phrase “Putin’s price hike” in a bid to pin inflation on the Russian president, mirroring the rhetoric of President Joe Biden. Like Biden, she has also blamed rising food costs on meat packing and shipping monopolies, and high gas prices on the energy industry.

However, conservatives argue that the buck stops in Washington, and have accused Biden of strangling domestic energy production with executive orders shutting pipelines and forbidding drilling. They also argue that by hiking the US budget to nearly $6 trillion and passing spending bills like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Biden has devalued the dollar and passed the cost onto consumers.

Pelosi argued earlier this year that increased government spending would do “the exact reverse” of increasing debt and inflation. Larry Summers, an economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, by contrast, called the American Rescue Plan “the least responsible macroeconomic policy we’ve had in the last 40 years.”

The US inflation rate has risen sharply since Biden took office last January, soaring from an average of 1.4% in December 2020 to 7% in December 2021, two months before Russia’s military operation in Ukraine began. Gas prices also rose from an average of $2.28 per gallon in December 2020 to $3.40 a year later.

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