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Don’t Blame Putin Alone for Soaring Gas and Grocery Prices: Expert

  • Americans can’t blame Putin alone for soaring gas and grocery prices, a leading economist said.
  • Will Ruger told Insider the Ukraine war was being used as an “excuse” for problems already facing the US economy.
  • “The biggest part of the problem of our inflation is our own policies,” he said. 

Americans can’t blame Vladimir Putin alone for soaring gas and grocery prices, a leading economist has said.

“The biggest part of the problem of our inflation is our own policies, not just in the immediate term but over the last several years,” Will Ruger, president of the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian-leaning think tank, said in an interview with Insider.

A recent poll conducted by ABC News found that four in five Americans pinned “a great deal” of blame on Russia’s president for the economic challenges they’re facing, be they at the gas pump or in the grocery store.

Ruger said: “If American consumers blame Russia for increased costs at the grocery store, or in other parts of the economy, then that would be a hugely incomplete picture of what’s really going on.”

He said the US economy was struggling with skyrocketing inflation long before Russia invaded Ukraine – although the war had applied further pressure.

“We were having problems beforehand and even if there was peace tomorrow, we would be having some of these challenges ahead,” Ruger said. “A big part of that is that our monetary policy and our fiscal policy have been off the rails for some time.”

Prices for key commodities including gas, food, and cars have climbed further after Russia invaded Ukraine, and after the US, UK, European Union and other Western nations imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia. The US has banned imports of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal.

Gas prices reached record highs in early March, hitting almost $4.20 per gallon, according to figures from the US Energy Information Administration.

US President Joe Biden warned that the Russian energy ban would result in higher fuel prices in the US, labelling it “Putin’s price hike.” Biden has also sought to blame soaring inflation on Putin.

Ruger said the war and resulting sanctions were “added as an excuse” for existing problems within the US economy. “The American public should not buy it,” he said. 

Inflation was already running at a four-decade high before Russia invaded Ukraine. The consumer price index, a broad measure of inflation, surged 7.9% in the year through February, representing the fastest growth since January 1982.

Ruger said the Biden administration’s moves on spending and regulation were “partly to blame for feelings that we aren’t headed in the right direction economically.”

Jeff Currie, global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs, attributed high pre-war inflation to pandemic-era stimulus checks and the supply-chain strains of the past year. The stimulus checks, paired with pre-existing shortages of key commodities, drove up demand and subsequently, prices for consumer goods, Currie said.

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