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Each year at the holidays, agricultural organizations report on how much a turkey dinner and all the fixings will cost. This year, that price tag ballooned as supply-chain breakdowns and other factors have caused inflation.
Republicans have been eager to blame rising prices on Democratic President Joe Biden, and an animated video tweeted Nov. 23 by U.S. Joni Ernst of Iowa does just that.
“Let’s tally up the cost of your Thanksgiving trip,” Ernst narrates as we see a cartoon Biden using a bike pump to inflate the words “Thanksgiving trip” until the words explode.
Claims are peppered through the video like bits of celery in your favorite stuffing:
“Gas is at a seven-year high,” Ernst says, as the screen says “$63.08 to fill the tank.”
“Heating bills this winter are jumping up by 54 percent,” Ernst says.
“The price for turkeys this year has nearly doubled,” she says as we see a label saying “$55.20 for a 16-pound turkey.“
For sourcing on the claim about gas prices, Ernst’s staff sent us to AAA’s online gas price calculator, which last week said the average price of a gallon of gas in Iowa was $3.17. Using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (seriously, this site is amazing), we could tell the national average gas price on Nov. 22 — the day before the video was posted — was $3.41 per gallon.
AAA reported Oct. 4 the national average gas price was $3.20, the highest seen since 2014, which was seven years ago.
As for the price tag of $63.08 to fill the tank, that is accurate for an 18-gallon tank at $3.40 per gallon. At the Iowa average price last week, filling up would cost $57.06.
We give Ernst an A on this claim.
The senator says “heating bills this winter are jumping up by 54 percent.” Her team pointed to an Oct. 13 Associated Press article that says heating costs could “jump as much as 54 percent” compared to last winter. The AP attributes those numbers to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which released a report Oct. 13.
However, that report says the highest increase of 54 percent is for homes heated with propane, which, when combined with heating oil, is only about 10 percent of residential heat in the nation, Vox reported in 2018.
Natural gas, the nation’s predominant residential heat source, is expected to cost 30 percent more this winter compared with last, the government report states.
We give Ernst a B on this claim. It’s more true than false, but she — like the AP — keyed in on the largest increase rather than the one that will affect most Americans.
Now back to turkey. Ernst’s video says the cost has nearly doubled.
Wells Fargo predicted the cost of whole birds would be 25 percent higher this year than last year and “nearly 50 percent higher than a prior five-year average.” The report goes on to say: “In other words, a whole turkey for this holiday season is going to cost you nearly double what it did just a couple of years ago.”
But the prices Wells Fargo includes on an accompanying line graph don’t match the “nearly double” statement. The company says the cost per pound of whole turkeys in September was $1.42. If you compare this with September 2019 — two years earlier — when the cost was about 95 cents per pound, the increase is 49 percent higher.
The Fact Checker asked Wells Fargo to explain this. Spokeswoman Sarah Hatch said the analyst was comparing the September 2021 price not with the same period two year earlier but with the January 2019 price — after the holidays — which was 80 cents per pound.
If you give them the lower number from earlier in 2019, the cost of turkey went up about 75 percent.
“The price trajectory was nearly straight up at that time, which he projected a potential for another price gain of perhaps $ .10 to $ .15, which would make it ‘nearly double’,” Hatch wrote in her explanation.
Not only is the “nearly doubled” claim in Ernst’s video exaggerated — for which Wells Fargo is to blame — but the video also says the cost of a 16-pound turkey was $55.20, when the cost was actually about $23. That misstatement seems to lie with Ernst because the Quartz article lists the price as $21.76.
We give Ernst a D on this claim because while the cost of a turkey has increased, she’s so far off on the price of a 16-pound turkey it swings the claim to mostly false.
Inflation is a big concern in the United States. It was supposed to be “transitory” but it went up 6 percent in October, the largest increase in 30 years, the Washington Post reported.
This inflation is caused, in part, by the backlog in the supply chain and companies having to pay more to get goods. To make a profit, they have to raise prices for consumers. But Biden’s pandemic stimulus payments also may have caused inflation to spike, the Federal Reserve Bank said in October, according to a New York Times report.
"And the president’s response?,“ Ernst asks at the end of her video. ”Let them eat pumpkin pie.“
Pretty sure Biden didn’t say that.
While U.S. presidents — Biden included — don’t have much power over inflation, Biden said in October two of the nation’s largest ports, in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., would operate 24/7 in an attempt to reduce the supply chain backlog, CNN reported.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed this fall also includes $17 billion to improve infrastructure at coastal ports, inland ports and waterways, and land ports of entry along the border, the White House reported.
The claims in Ernst’s video garnered an A, B and D, which averages a C. The overall tone of the video matches the half-true grade because it shows Biden in nearly every frame — check him out eating dollar bills at the end — and implies that if he’s not to blame for inflation, he’s at least not going to do anything about it. This is, at best, half true.
The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.
Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.
If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at email@example.com.
Members of the Fact Checker team are Erin Jordan, Michaela Ramm and Marissa Payne. This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.