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Biden admin may issue gas rebate cards

Joe Biden. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
June 17, 2022

As Americans continue to face record-high gas prices with no relief in sight, President Joe Biden’s administration is once considering sending millions of rebate cards to American drivers months after ruling out the idea. The idea is reminiscent of ration cards issued in 20th-century communist Poland.

According to the Washington Post on Friday, Biden officials had scrapped the idea for gas cards earlier this year over concerns that the U.S. chip shortage would make producing rebate cards difficult, people familiar with the discussions said. The White House also worried that Americans would use the cards for purchases other than fuel. Now officials are revisiting the idea, however, but it would need approval from Congress.

An official familiar with the matter told CNN that while the administration is again weighing options to help ease the pain at the pump, the White House is unlikely to push for gas rebate cards.

“I’m doing everything in my power to blunt Putin’s gas price hike,” Biden said on Wednesday, casting blame for Americans’ economic woes on Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We’re going to work to bring down gas and food prices. We can save families money and other items.”

News of the possible gas card move comes days after gas prices in the U.S. hit a nationwide average of $5 per gallon for the first time ever.

Ration Cards in Communist Poland

The rebate card to combat significant gas prices and inflation is reminiscent of rationing measures in communist countries, such as in Poland after World War II.

In the wake of World War II, Poland’s new communist authorities created a rationing system for common goods, including fuel, bread, flour, groats, potatoes, vegetables, vinegar, kerosene, matches, meat, butter, fats, sugar, sweets, milk, coffee, tea, and salt, according to Polish History.

When authorities began rationing gas in 1982, the system typically involved a special card held by each vehicle owner, which was stamped after they received part of their gas ration for a given month. The Polish rationing policies usually allowed vehicle owners to fill their tanks just three times each month.

“The rations depended on the profession and place of residence of the entitled person. And again, as in previous years, peasants were deprived of cards. The countryside was left to feed itself,” Polish History explained.

By 1970, Communist Poland’s economy “was on the brink of collapse” due to “artificially set prices, arbitrarily regulated wages, and development based solely on loans from the West” that had “led the country to the edge of the abyss.”

“From the mid 1970s, the queues in front of stores were getting longer and the number of goods on the shelves was getting smaller,” Polish History continued. “When the authorities wanted to raise prices in June 1976 – people first protested and then went to do the shopping. The race began – the winners were not only those who could buy something at the current price, but also those who were able to still find something on the nearly empty shop shelves.”