I was afraid to go to the grocery store two years ago lest I find COVID-19 lurking among the bananas or swirling around some unmasked dudehead coughing deliberately under a MAGA cap. That fear has since vanished. remains ever-presentUnfortunately, the aisle-by-aisle sticker surprise has arrived: It costs How much, now? As the Cambridge band Morphine once warned us, it’s murder out there, murder out there, sharks patrol these waters.
On cue, Republicans have fanned to all points along the compass. Their sole purpose was to blame the Biden administration in the inflation crisis that erupted after the COVID stimulus package saved the country from falling apart at the economic seams back in the dark times many don’t remember. The Republicans see this economic crisis as a triumphant ending, just in the time needed to prepare for the November midterm elections.
I remember: Millions of people were out of work, or couldn’t work, and thanks to the magic of capitalism, most of those millions had been living paycheck to paycheck with no savings to speak of. Without the stimulus bills, and the child credit the GOP let die last summer, well … we think we live in a dystopia now. While it definitely sucks, this right here is a long, luxurious back rub compared to where we’d be without that rescue money. The post-stimulus inflation burst feels like a dirty trick, true, but it’s certainly better than the Scroogy alternative.
However, this does not mean that the Biden administration is completely free from culpability. Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary, recently appeared on the same show as Wolf Blitzer. CNNshe was asked to speak about the dire state of the economy and she did so. “I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” she said. “There have been unanticipated and large shocks that have boosted energy and food prices, and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly that I … at the time, didn’t fully understand.”
It’s fair enough. It’s quite possible. Is a deeply weird economy we’re dealing with right now. “Employers are adding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month,” reports The New York Times, “and would hire even more people if they could find them. Consumers are spending, businesses are investing, and wages are rising at their fastest pace in decades.” Yet because of inflation and the more-than-occasional dearth in necessary items (like baby formula, hey thanks, Abbott LabsMany people believe that the economy is starving itself. Maybe it is. The old metrics don’t seem to be applicable anymore.
Russia’s putrid war in Ukraine owns a substantial slice of blame for this mess, to be sure. With one fell swoop, Vladimir Putin’s invasion And the subsequent sanctions against his country kicked the struts out from under the global food andGlobal petroleum networks. Prices for everything, from grain to gasoline, are on the rise. This is causing hunger and desire to increase both locally and internationally.
Lucky people can experience the existential economic angst at paying five dollars per gallon at the gas station and then driving to a grocery store selling ground meat for ten dollars a pound. Interesting fact: The reason everything is so damn expensive is quasi-subterranean. diesel fuel is more expensive than gasBy a significant margin. It means that the cost of running the trucks transporting the food all around the world is a major expense for the transport companies. This expense is passed on to those who then pass it to us.
It’s important to pass it on. No discussion of the current inflation crisis is complete without a spotlight shining on corporate price-gouging. CBS News reports:
Over the past year, despite the extreme economic upheaval of the pandemic, after-tax corporate profits have soared to record levels as a share of economic output, according to the U.S. Commerce Department…
Some corporate leaders have been blunt about their plans to pass companies’ higher supply-chain prices to consumers. For example, consumer goods giants Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Unilever have been able to raise prices without losing sales. According to Wall Street Journal, nearly two-thirds (63%) of publicly traded companies report higher profit margins after the pandemic.
Russia-gas-food, Russia-gas-food… flip on the news networks and you’ll hear about this unholy trinity until your flatscreen cracks, but there has been a hole in the reporting wider than Jupiter, one that the Biden administration has also comprehensively failed to mention enough: COVID.
COVID! COVID! COVID fouled global supply lines way back in 2020 and they have not recovered, so that’s nothing new. After the initial lull, then after the spike that inevitably follows when we let our guard down, people were wildly extravagant with their spending. Steak at the restaurant! Whiskey at a Bar! Music at a concert Stuff! Things! It felt like life was back in my face when I put that shit in my face.
How To Have Inflation 101 is simple: Increased demand and lowered supply (due COVID-caused shipping problems). People ran out and giddyly cleared the shelves, but there weren’t enough ships to replenish them. COVID has almost completely shut down China, which is still the world’s manufacturing hub, regardless of whether it likes it or not. Empty factories don’t feed empty ships, which leads to empty stores on the other side of the ocean and people faced with spending way more than they’re used to for basic needs.
This doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. “After months of rolling lockdowns in scores of Chinese cities that have forced hundreds of millions of people to remain in their homes, it is clear that President Xi Jinping is prepared to pursue his policy of zero-Covid at the expense of all other concerns,” reports The Financial Times. “That includes the widespread damage the policy is wreaking on the world’s second-biggest economy and most important manufacturing engine, and the political risks it is creating by further limiting the freedom of 1.4bn people.”
When I step back, I can’t help but be amazed at how much effort is going into keeping COVID out of the inflation conversation, even as it shuts down massive nations like China and stillGlobal supply lines are impacted. The Financial TimesIt covers them because they kind of have to, but it doesn’t cover the other? It’s all Russia’s fault, no it’s all Biden’s fault, no it was the free money you guys!
It was, is and will remain COVID. It turned the entire world upside down, killed a million people and is still not over. Capitalism does not help at all. There may be. a way out of thisWithout facing an economic catastrophe, but when all is said and doneIt is possible to look back on the good times and complain about the high price of gasoline or ground chuck. We must be open with ourselves about the reasons.
These waters are patrolled daily by sharks. Don’t forget it.