“Mailbag” gives you an insight into the comments I get from my readers — good, bad or in-between — and my thoughts about the feedback.
Recent columns on inflation running at a pace not seen in four decades ago apparently have rubbed some of my readers the wrong way.
To their mind, there are simple and obvious fixes that I refuse to acknowledge. As one reader put it, “You are either very ignorant or a paid liar.”
The consensus in my inbox is that inflation is almost completely President Joe Biden’s fault. Quick reversals of anything he’s done would swiftly cool the surging cost of living.
Yet, one of my cost-of-living columns noted that U.S. inflation since World War II has averaged 3.69% when Democrats were in command vs. 3.59% for Republicans. Not much of a difference, politically speaking.
As one commentator stated, “The president is irrelevant to inflation. It’s created by the market, scarcity, and demand.”
Nevertheless, here are inflation fixes suggested by my audience …
Reader: “We must not ever be in a place that we do not have the capacity to power our needs without buying energy from anyone.”
Me: Energy imports are required to serve the niche production needs of various U.S. regions and manufacturers.
For instance, how do Florida drivers get their gasoline? The state has no oil production or gasoline refining. So, gasoline is shipped in from other states or imported from primarily from Caribbean nations.
Reader: “Sanctions against Russia have upset the world’s supply chain for energy and food.”
Me: Can’t argue with that statement. But there’s a cost for doing the right thing — unless you agree with Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Reader: “Putin made the price of meat and bread go up? LOL.”
Me: The Russian leader took Ukraine — one of the world’s “bread baskets” as a major producer of grains — off the market.
So minus Ukrainian supply, the world sees pricier chow for cattle and ingredients for baked goods. Plus, a Russian oil embargo translates to pricier fuel upping food production and transport costs around the globe.
Reader: “Federal spending on stimulus must be stopped.”
Me: The nation’s federal budget deficit — how much Uncle Sam is adding to the economy — declined dramatically this year to pre-pandemic levels.
Gosh, you’d think conservatives would be cheering this!
Reader: “Rescue plans poured money into the economy and gave incentives for people not to work and produce.”
Me: The days of unemployment gifts are over — with little evidence that they were contributing to worker shortages.
The number of people working is shrinking mainly because they’ve retired. Remember, we’re an aging nation. The pandemic just quickened the pace of workplace exits.
Reader: “We must stop the open borders policy.”
Me: The strongest economy in the world has always been a people magnet, even more so in 2022!
Plus, the economy needs immigrants to do the jobs Americans don’t want to do! (Not to mention high-skill work foreigners have mastered.)
Why not see immigrants as inflation fighters. If nothing else, they could lower the wages paid for such low-skill work.
Reader: “The supply chain is broken. Cargo ships are anchored off the coast of Southern California.”
Me: Southern California’s ports continue to do record-shattering work, taking in far more containers than pre-pandemic levels.
Much of the supply chain’s struggles in mid-2022 are byproducts of Americans buying so much stuff that it’s overwhelming ports, trucking firms, warehouses and the like. That’s a problem of riches, not economic mismanagement.
Reader: “Why don’t you tell the real truth. Socialism and liberalism don’t work.”
The world’s major economies with the lowest inflation rates — Saudi Arabia (2.3%) and China (2.5%) — ain’t socialist, liberal or democracies.
Hope you’re not suggesting dictatorships are inflation’s cure?
“There are inflationary pressures from manipulation by certain businesses.”
Me: I am shocked — shocked — a reader would suggest any business might take advantage of the current pricing climate and raise its prices simply to fatten its bottom line.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org