Published July 14, 2022
Economists point out that the 9.1 percent inflation rate for June compared with a year ago is the highest since 1981. But politicians should look even further back — to the Truman era — for lessons about responding to spiking prices.
The 1946 midterm elections were, like 2022, dominated by high inflation after a catastrophic event. Rationing and price controls, put in place during World War II, forced Americans to save much of their money. Once those controls were removed, prices predictably surged as people made up for years of suppressed demand. Inflation skyrocketed, peaking at more than 20 percent in 1947. Republicans, who had been out of power since 1932, gained 55 seats in the House and 12 in the Senate, taking control of Congress.
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Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.