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Biden, cars, and inflation

The brutal Consumer Price Index report that dropped on Wednesday morning is not without a few bright spots, but they are blotted out by the evidence that inflation is still rising.

When it comes to inflation, the Biden White House likes to have it both ways. To hear administration officials tell it, the slightest decline in the rise of prices affecting this or the other sector of the economy is a direct result of their diligent stewardship of the economy. Price hikes, by contrast, are attributable to a vast array of cosmic forces over which the president has no control.

It’s not entirely inaccurate to claim that the executive branch is limited in its ability to put downward pressure on, for example, energy prices, transportation services, and even food costs. But there is one area of the economy that is reeling and for which Biden bears much of the blame: cars.

“It’s hard to overstate what a crisis the surge in car insurance and car repair is,” Washington Post columnist Heather Long said. Insuring a vehicle costs 22 percent more today than it did one year ago — “the largest jump since 1976,” she observed. Car repairs cost almost 12 percent more now than they did at this point in 2023.

Newer vehicles are becoming more expensive to repair due, in part, to consumer preferences. Car buyers want increased safety features, better performance, more digital sensors, and the like. It all adds up. But electric vehicles are far more expensive to repair than their gasoline-powered cousins. “Data from Mitchell shows that in 2022 electric vehicles cost about $6,800 on average to fix after accidents, about $2,400 more than the average for all cars,” the New York Times reported.

With more EVs on the roads, they experience more wear and tear and require more work involving “expensive parts” and “specialist mechanics.” Thus, the overall repair market has gotten pricier. But given the Biden White House’s obsessive effort to get more Americans into electric cars, we can conclude that the administration wouldn’t have it any other way.

Biden is not directly to blame for the spike in insurance costs, but, to hear Vox tell it, the unintended consequences of the progressive policies he once mouthed support for are. “While drivers were getting more dangerous, law enforcement in many parts of the country began pulling back on traffic safety enforcement,” Vox’s Marin Cogan wrote. That is due, in part, to “criticisms over racial biases following the murder of George Floyd.”

“Ultimately, without traffic violation data, insurers aren’t able to accurately assess and underwrite a driver’s risk,” one insurance expert told Cogan. “With the compounding cost from accidents, carriers are now increasing rates for everyone, meaning we are all paying for this problem.”

These are aggravating factors, not the cause of inflation in the car repair and insurance industries. But they contribute to making a bad situation worse. And neither Joe Biden nor his fellow Democrats can do much about it unless they’re willing to admit their errors. Don’t hold your breath.

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