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Inflation, economy concern voters the most

Groceries, cars, and gasoline are just a few indispensables that are getting more expensive every day. Inflation has been a recurring problem in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked supply chains, triggered labor shortages, altered consumer demands, and shocked the world’s economy overall. And now, voters are looking for solutions ahead of the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.

High gas prices are on display in Los Angeles May 24, 2022. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

What’s causing higher prices?

The causes behind higher prices and economic instability have come in waves, according to Alyssa Flowers in a July 2022 article she wrote for The Washington Post. The first wave was the initial coronavirus pandemic and quarantine period in late-2020 that caused spikes in demand for home essentials like groceries and toilet paper as well as supply shortages. Gas prices plummeted during that time because no one was going anywhere and demand was at historic lows. 

The next wave came at the beginning of 2021 when gas prices hit record-highs. According to U.S Inflation Calculator, gasoline inflation saw a 49.6% increase in 2021, up from a 15.2% decrease the year prior. This was due to sudden increases in demand for fuel at a time when energy supply was still low due to the pandemic. 

These sudden increases in demand were tied to the coronavirus vaccine becoming available to the adult population, which meant more people were able to travel and go out to eat. This caused price inflation in used vehicles, too, along with travel, dining, and other related goods and services. According to economic research provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, used car inflation saw a 45.3% increase in June 2021, which remains the peak-high since the pandemic began. These demands would eventually shrink when the Delta variant led to a new rise in COVID cases.

After President Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in November 2021, gas prices finally began to fall. However, the beginning of 2022 saw dramatic price increases in gasoline following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But why is this conflict affecting gas prices? It is because Russia is a top oil producer, and financial sanctions placed against Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine reduced Russian oil trading, which led to supply decreases and increased existing supply-demand gaps around the world. 

Although inflation has slowly been dwindling as 2022 comes to an end, the state of the economy remains at the top of the list of what voters are worried about.

What worries voters the most?

According to Emma Kinery, White House Reporter for CNBC, “Overall, 82% of Americans ranked inflation as an extremely or very important issue.”

Various polls reveal that inflation and economic uncertainty are the main concerns for Republicans throughout the country, while Democrats are more focused on human rights advocacy and climate change as the midterm elections get closer. Independents say they are more concerned about inflation over human rights as well.

Most voters say they prefer economic problems be handled by the Republican party rather than the Democratic party, which could explain why Kinery found that “only 30% of voters approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of inflation.” This includes President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

The majority of Americans have not only been affected by inflation, but are also looking for solutions and candidates they believe can best solve these problems. 

How is each candidate for New Mexico prepared to solve economic problems ahead of the 2022 midterms?

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, right, and Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti square off in a live debate on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican)

Democratic candidate, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is all for President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. In a press release issued by the governor’s office, the incumbent stated that “the Inflation Reduction Act will change lives across the country for generations to come: lowering drug prices for seniors, investing in the future of our climate and planet, reducing pollution, and driving down the national deficit, and beyond.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham sees this act as an opportunity to combat high drug prices, high energy prices and climate change. She stressed this in the press release when she said, “I have been a champion of lowering prescription drug costs throughout my career, and the Inflation Reduction Act finally allows Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs … [the Inflation Reduction Act] puts America on track to meet our climate goals by cutting air pollution, reducing energy costs and making it easier for every family to buy electric vehicles, install solar panels in their homes and buy energy-saving home appliances.”

Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti, in his response to concerns about the economy, has outlined an 8-part economic recovery and inflation relief plan to help New Mexicans recover from the economy’s recent struggles.

Ronchetti issued a press release in which he proposes cutting taxes as a primary means to combat inflation. “We want to provide real, sustained relief so that workers keep more of what [they] earn and [their] families benefit,” Ronchetti said. “We will also cut the tax you pay when you’re shopping. We’ll cut it every year I’m in office. We won’t try to fool you like this governor did, with a tiny reduction in an election year.”

In addition to tax cuts, Ronchetti’s plan proposes providing more money for New Mexican families in the form of an annual oil and gas rebate, a small business rescue plan, attracting more job competition in the state, a spending growth regulator, an infrastructure initiative, and getting New Mexicans back to work.

All voters are encouraged to consult votesmart.org in order to research candidates’ biographies, voting records, policy positions, ratings, speeches and funding. Votesmart.org is a nonpartisan organization. Its stated mission is “to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to all Americans.”

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