That’s the comparison being made by Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators as the Biden administration confronted a series of familiar crises last week – specifically, gas shortages and rising consumer good prices.
Following the revelation that Colonial Pipeline – the largest gas distributor on the East Coast – videos and images surfaced of cars sitting bumper to bumper, waiting to fill up before gas stations ran out of fuel. The gas shortage had a domino effect, too. It even prompted a shortage of a fast-food favorite: Chick-fil-A sauce.
The gas shortage was just one crisis the Biden administration was forced to confront, though. Less than one week after a devastating jobs report, the U.S. Labor Department revealed that the prices of basic goods and services spiked 0.8% in April alone. That’s the largest monthly increase the country has experienced in more than a decade.
These crisis prompted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to say that Biden is “well on his way to creating another Jimmy Carter economy.”
But is comparing Biden to President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s a fair comparison?
Here’s a look at what life in America was like during the Carter administration.
In 1977, the year Carter took office, the average price of gas in the U.S. was $0.62. When Carter left office in 1981, the average price of gas had more than doubled to $1.31. By 1988, the last full year of the Ronald Reagan administration, the average price of gas had steadily declined to $0.90.
In a televised speech on Oct. 24, 1978, Carter noted that inflation had continually risen over the past decade by an average of 6.5%. In the years before Carter took office, the average rate of inflation had increased to 8%.
“Inflation has, therefore, been a serious problem for me ever since I became president. We’ve tried to control it, but we have not been successful,” Carter admitted.
But Carter’s efforts to control inflation failed. The year he took office, the U.S. inflation rate was 6.5%. The last full year of the Carter presidency, the inflation rate, like the price of gas during his administration, had more than doubled to 13.5%. The rate of inflation steadily decreased each year of the Reagan administration beginning in 1981. By 1988, the last full year of Reagan’s presidency, the inflation rate had dropped to just 4.1%.
During the Carter years, American consumers were not only forced to pay more for the price of basic goods as well as gas, but also had to wait in lines to buy gas. Pictures from the late 1970s show cars lined up at gas stations. Those images are eerily reminiscent of the recent photographs showing Americans waiting to buy gas during the Biden administration more than 40 years later.
Inflation during the Biden administration, like during the Carter administration, is a top concern. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the administration takes “the possibility of inflation quite seriously.”
“Most economic analysts believe that it will have a temporary transitory impact,” Psaki added.
In the first full year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, the rate of inflation was 2.1%. It increased to 2.4% during Trump’s second year in office. For the remainder of Trump’s presidency, the rate of inflation in the U.S. declined each year, dropping to just 1.2% in 2020.
However, like during the Carter presidency, the first full year of the Biden administration is on track to see a 0.70% increase. Based on first quarter data, the Federal Reserve estimates the rate of inflation in 2021 so far to be 1.9%.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warned of a “Vietnam inflation scenario.”
“Policymakers at the Fed and in the [White House] need to recognize that the risk of a Vietnam inflation scenario is now greater than the deflation risks on which they were originally focused,” Summers said, according to CNN. “Whatever was the case a few months ago, it should now be clear that overheating — not excess slack — is the dominant economic risk facing the US over the next year or two.”
FOX Business anchor and former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow has also warned against rising inflation but noted he’s not convinced of inflation “just yet.”
Kudlow noted that the prices of goods always spike following a severe economic downturn, such as the one that occurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t see the dollar collapsing yet,” Kudlow said on May 5. However, he added that those who believe the inflation threat is real are “probably going to be right.”
“But I’m going to withhold judgment on it right now.”