For Joe Biden, the buck stops with small independent business owners trying to make ends meet.
Over the holiday weekend, the president slammed gas stations for the purported sin of not passing along declining oil prices to motorists.
Biden took to Twitter to urge “the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump” to heed his message: “Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product.”
Yes, sir, whatever you say, Mr. President!
The United States Oil and Gas Association mockingly recommended that the intern who posted the tweet should sign up for Econ 101, but it’s worse than that. Biden has hit the gas stations before on the same grounds. It’s hard to know where the economic illiteracy ends and the shameless demagoguery begins. Regardless, it’s another indication that the president’s approach to inflation is to cast about for scapegoats and villains, no matter how implausible.
So-called jawboning, or stern rhetoric directed at industries to get them to bend to the presidential will, is nothing new. The most famous example is from John F. Kennedy, who blasted U.S. Steel for raising prices in 1962. JFK’s tack was questionable, but at least he was targeting an enormously influential industry that had breached an agreement to hold the line on prices brokered by his administration.
Biden, by contrast, is going after the proverbial Liberty Gas Station and Uni-Mart down on Route 134 started by an immigrant couple hoping to send their children to college for the first time. These small-time entrepreneurs have done nothing wrong, except remain in business at a time when the president’s anti-oil-and-gas policy has backfired spectacularly.
As the business newsletter The Hustle explains, the majority of owners operate a single gas station, either as a branded location of a big famous company or on their own. Given that there are more than 100,000 gas stations in the United States, many clustered at the same busy intersections in direct competition with one another, a proprietor hardly has monopoly power to determine prices.
Indeed, when Biden says gas stations set prices, he’s technically correct in the sense that they post the prices on their iconic signs down to the tenth of a cent. They aren’t doing it arbitrarily, though. They all know that if