Kathy Barnette largely correct on course of inflation under Joe Biden

Late in Pennsylvania’s hotly contested Republican Senate primary, Kathy Barnette emerged from seemingly nowhere to challenge the two far better-known and better-funded candidates: celebrity surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick.

Barnette, a conservative activist and military veteran, posted portions of an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham to her Facebook page in which the candidate criticized President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy, especially the rise in inflation.

Biden, she said, “inherited inflation of 1.7%. Now we’re well over 8% and growing.”

This is basically accurate, though what she indicated about inflation still “growing” is speculative.

The benchmark inflation measurement, known as the consumer price index, is often calculated by how much the basket of measured goods cost compared to the same month one year earlier.

In Biden’s first full month in office, February 2021, prices were 1.7% higher than they were in February 2020. That’s the figure Barnette cited.

Prices have risen consistently ever since. The peak so far came in March 2021, when prices stood 8.5% higher than they were in March 2022. This also tracks with Barnette’s statement.


That said, after hitting 8.5% in March, the year-over-year figure for April was 8.3%, which was a decrease, albeit a slight one.

Barnette may eventually be proven right to say that inflation will keep growing, but to say so now runs counter to the most recent month and amounts to speculation.

While no one knows how inflation will look over the next few months, it’s possible that the rate of increase could slow somewhat, just based on how the figure is calculated. In May 2020, inflation was 5%, which was significantly higher than the previous year-ago baseline that has been used for the calculation in recent months.

So is Biden to blame? Economists say his policies have played a role, but that they are one factor among many. 

Economists estimate that the money circulated by Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has driven half or less of the inflation bump. The rest of the factors include COVID-19’s impact on labor markets and supply chains and, most recently, Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has driven a price shock for gasoline.

Our ruling

Barnette said Biden “inherited inflation of 1.7%. Now we’re well over 8% and growing.”

She is right on the numbers: Inflation has spiked significantly on Biden’s watch, partially though not entirely due to his policies, according to analysts.

However, the year-over-year increase in inflation dropped slightly between March 2022 and April 2022, so to say it’s still “growing” is premature.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

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