America the Whiney
Inflation? Boo hoo.
Things sure are tough these days.
Inflation is almost tragically noticeable to the economically comfortable. Gas prices are traumatizing, nearly distracting us from gas pump TV. Groceries can’t stock shelves fast enough so items we desperately prefer are missing as new Wegmans open. Bread lines are stretching 3–4 customers deep at Panera. Babies are wailing for reasons that few adults can fathom.
Worse, hoboes are eating shoes — not just their usual Ferragamo but now JCPenney discount Florsheim. Student loans are so burdensome that Smith College gender studies majors can no longer launch, thrive and be valued like Harvard MBAs. Affordable housing? Oxymoron alert!
Yep, Joe Biden has destroyed America’s beautiful Trump economy with his stupidity, Socialism and septuagenarianism.
But did he?
If gas and other prices are so outrageous, then why did Memorial Day and July 4th holiday weekend car and air travel reach near pre-pandemic peaks?
Why didn’t Americans just stay home and celebrate their gun freedom by grilling, beering and shooting with beloved family, friends and neighbors?
If the economy is so bad, then why is the job market so good?
Why are there two jobs for every unemployed worker? With 11.3 million unfilled jobs? And small businesses struggling to find workers even when they raise wages?
Why is this a worker’s market, where we get to demand better wages and terms? And quit at the slightest whiff of toxic workplace, like when asked to work hard, do a good job, and meet deadlines without constant praise?
If times are so tough, then why are Americans so flush with cash?
“According to Moody’s Analytics, by the end of 2021, U.S. households had built up $2.7 trillion in excess savings above what they would have had there been no pandemic,” conservative columnist Mark Thiessen griped in The Washington Post. He blamed the pandemic relief — which came from both Trump and Biden — that rescued the economy and millions of Americans from destitution.
Why, except for our selected frightening news feeds, do things seem not so bad for the vast majority of Americans?
No, I’m not talking about the poor, vulnerable, marginalized, medically bankrupted and discarded by the 21st century economy who were already struggling to make ends meet.
I’m asking the more privileged:
— How are U.S. retail sales dramatically up, at $587 billion this May compared to $550 billion last May, $442 billion in May 2020, and $448 billion in May 2019 before the pandemic?
— How can fortunate homeowners complain when rising home prices — driven by surging demand yet curbs on supply — make them “equity rich,” with over $200,000 in wealth per household on average?
— How are DoorDash, Uber Eats and other restaurant delivery services that pad the dinner bill still so hot? For market leader DoorDash, “Gross order volumes rose 25% year over year to $12.4 billion, which was also a 9% increase over the previous quarter,” Restaurant Business tallies.
— How is Starbucks — at $2.45 for a large cup of regular — the top selling coffee brand second only to Folger’s?
Even more confounding:
Why do comfortable Republicans complain about Biden and the Democrats when they enjoy every earthly pleasure they could ever humanly want?
For the GOP very rich, are the lavish vacation homes and private jets to get there not enough? Are $250/bottle wines too jejune? Do they suffer compassion fatigue from charity galas? Or trauma when the Dow falls?
Why do elite Republicans need to sucker poor MAGAs to believe and re-bleat how Democrats are to blame for their tragic plight? When the Biden economy is doing pretty much ok?
According even to Fox News, unemployment is down to 3.6 percent from the 6.3 percent when Biden took office, with nearly 8 million jobs added. U.S. GDP has grown by 5.7 percent (double the average since 1976). Wages are up 5.6 percent. The deficit is down $1.3 trillion, the most in any year.
Quibble if you’re a professional economist. Otherwise, blaming Biden for inflation is too easy.
It makes you sound like a puppet for the GOP and its official state media.
Fact is, Trump handed Biden a mess.
This is historically typical.
Post WWII, roughly speaking, Republican presidents tended to artificially goose the economy with tax and regulation breaks and laissez faire economics.
Then they left their Democratic successors to clean it up — like poor circus janitors following the elephants — and set things right again. They then handed their Republican successors a healthy economy to take credit for and ruin again.
(See most recently: GHW Bush to Clinton, Clinton to GW Bush, GW Bush to Obama, Obama to Trump, and Trump to Biden.)
Want to irritate a Republican? Point out this from Forbes last year: “Stock Performance And The Political Party In Power: An Historical Look At The Past 75 Years.”
Bottom line, “When Democrats occupied the White House, stocks averaged about 9.0% per year compared to 7.4% under Republicans.”
Other objective sources say the same thing.
But presidents — Republican or Democratic — are not ultimately to blame when the economy goes south.
Who is? We all are.
Beyond Russia’s war on Ukraine that’s boosting gas prices, today’s inflation comes down simply to our hot demand for goods and services, and the labor providing them, outrunning supply.
We all love capitalism. Except for a few ninnies, we all hate Socialism. (Except when we love it, like Medicare, which covers way more than we paid for.)
Capitalism is not immune from the laws of gravity. What goes up too high must come down and level out.
So, are things really so tough in America these days?
Ask anyone around the world who doesn’t have our privilege to complain.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.