U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, is juggling many of his Congressional duties, but finding solutions to reduce inflation may be the most urgent priority for the four-term representative.
A former banker and U.S. Treasury executive, Hill has a background in the arena where the most policy will play out to tame inflation. He said the roots for the current situation cut across two administrations.
“I think it’s been coming since the pandemic… it’s the classic definition of too much money chasing too few goods,” he said.
Hill cited stimulus programs for individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic as being too broad and not targeted enough, but that’s with the benefit of hindsight.
“No one knew what was going to happen to our economy. There was a lot of mystery in February and March and April of 2020. And so the Congress had an unprecedented amount of authorized and appropriated spending about $6 trillion that if we knew then what we know today, we would not have spent that much money. We could have much better targeted solutions in and around the pandemic,” Hill said.
The 2nd District Congressman also said the Federal Reserve Bank could have acted sooner to begin actions to curtail inflation, such as raising interest rates, which they’ve done recently.
“On the demand side, you’ve got a lax monetary policy of zero interest rates and the Fed buying $120 billion a month of government debt. They didn’t let their foot off the accelerator either in the fourth quarter of 2020, they’ve kept that up really literally until the last few weeks. So that’s the demand side,” Hill said “On the supply side, obviously the pandemic disrupted a lot of supply chain operations around the world and particularly here in the U.S. So we had shortages of a number of products due to people shutting down whole factories during the pandemic.”
He added that the unprovoked Russian war with Ukraine has also compounded supply shortages. Hill steered clear of saying oil and gas companies are price gouging, but he said supply was a key to correcting high gas prices.
“It’s important you bring up the energy situation because during 2020, a lot of upstream producers went out of business. They went bankrupt, refineries laid off thousands of workers. In fact, one of our major refineries closed and has not reopened during the pandemic due to labor constraints and other challenges. So you had a lot of production go offline during the pandemic. Just before the pandemic, we were producing 13 million barrels a day in the United States. We were energy independent. And as we came out of the pandemic, we were down to just over 11 million barrels a day, and that created a major supply demand issue as the economy reopened. And now you have this international crisis,” he said.
Hill was co-author of a bipartisan bill that overwhelmingly passed Congress last week dealing with opioid addiction and mental health funding. Between inflation hearings, the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and the Jan. 6th committee hearings, the success of that legislation’s passage was overshadowed.
A critic of the construction of the Jan. 6th committee, Hill said the information that has come to light in the run-up to the U.S. Capitol attacks isn’t new, but is still troublesome.
“I think the kinds of advice and the information flowing into the White House that we’ve known about for a long time, I think it’s been repackaged in this committee. I think this how I would describe it. The John Eastman memo and some of these people who were running around the White House with their suggestions that something different could happen on January 6th, you know, it wasn’t right. It was nuts to propose that. And I’m so glad that the President also had advisors saying, ‘This is crazy. I mean, this is not going to happen.’ And I think that’s just being born out in the packaging of this January 6th debate. But it wasn’t right when we first heard about it and it’s not right when we hear about it again, after the fact,” he said.
Hill is running for re-election in 2022. This fall, he faces Democratic challenger Quintessa Hathaway and Libertarian Michael White.
You can watch Rep. Hill’s full interview in the video below.