The Paper Looks Great on The Economy

The Paper Looks Great on The Economy
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Biden and his supporters have been bragging about the state of the economy while touting what they call "Bidenomics."

His conservative critics are finally admitting what we've tried to say for years: the economy doesn't work for 80 percent of us. Of course, they're the ones who spent the last two decades giving tax breaks to billionaires while gaslighting young people about their Netflix and avocado toast.

Now they're suddenly on our side?


The truth is, Republicans have no plan to fix the economy. Democrats have no plan to fix the economy, either. It's all meaningless platitudes.

Americans are seeing it now.

They're fed up.

That's why we're seeing more strikes, and that's a good thing. The credit for any improvement in pay or work conditions should go to workers, not the politicians who either ignore or even undermine their movements. And yet, strikes won't be enough if corporations simply pass the cost of labor on to consumers. That just guarantees more spiraling inflation.

Let's dive in.

There's a huge disconnect between the reality we live in and the one our politicians and corporate media project. As Pulitzer-prize-winning economist Matthew Desmond writes, the wealth gap continues to grow at appalling rates. Democrats seem to have abandoned their promises and are now working overtime to appeal to white suburban upper-middle-class voters. We're watching billionaires consolidate their death grip on everything, while our planet burns to a crisp about 30-50 years sooner than predicted.

I'd say the economy looks great on paper, but maybe it's more accurate to say the wrapping paper looks great on the economy. All the talk about Bidenomics sounds great. It's just not actually true.

Rip off the wrapping paper.

You see a mess.

You see young people barely making 30,000 a year. You see them moving in with their parents in numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Only 28 percent of them are able to pay their bills on time. They're worse off than millennials were, and they're being blamed for it, just like we were.

It's getting tedious.

In reality, Americans are feeling more financial despair than ever. Homelessness and poverty are increasing, especially after the end of pandemic aid. About 70 percent of Americans feel stressed out over their finances, and more than half of them say it's worse than before the pandemic. Nearly 60 percent of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. They have no savings and no emergency funds. Consumer debt is going up, especially among young people who are forced to rely on credit cards for daily living expenses.

All of this is happening against a wider backdrop of soaring rentals and mortgages. The national average for rent has hovered around $2,000, 25 percent higher than before the pandemic.

It's breaking people.

The media reports that "a majority" of millennials own homes now, although it's a slim majority at 51 percent. It's largely because of a break in student loans and optimism over loan forgiveness. That hope has dried up. When student loan payments resume, we're going to see a lot of those millennials trapped in mortgages they can't afford. In reality land, only 19 percent of zoomers and millennials feel like they'll ever own a home.

They're not wrong.

Home prices have been rising for decades now. They dip every now and then, but the long-term trend is up. Like everything else, home prices are outpacing wages and salaries. As of this year, older affluent Americans are regaining their edge in the housing market, pushing out millennials.

Those of us under 50 have three options:

  1. Overthrow the system.
  2. Cheat our way to riches.
  3. Work until we drop dead.

Inflation has outpaced wage growth for the vast majority of the last two years. Wage growth is now slowing down. Meanwhile, inflation is starting to go up again. The media celebrates the slow in wage growth as "welcome news" for the Federal Reserve. They still want Americans to blame inflation on salary raises and stimulus checks. They completely ignore what's really going on.

Corporations have spent the last several years making up excuses in order to raise prices on basic goods like groceries. They've pointed their finger at wage growth, the war in Ukraine, supply chain glitches, and even bird flu. Economists have dismissed "greedflation" as a conspiracy theory.

Now they're starting to realize something.

Greedflation is real.

CEOs have taken every opportunity to brag about record profits to their shareholders. Oil companies spent all of 2022 attributing higher prices to geopolitical instability. Guess what?

That was their most profitable year in history.

Yeah, they lied.

The largest packaged food company in the world, Nestle, beat their quarterly earnings expectations by raising prices.

If they were truly forced to raise prices by higher input costs, they wouldn't be making record profits, would they?

(The answer is no.)

There's another reason for inflation that politicians and bankers won't touch. It's climate change. It's the depletion of resources. Some companies really are struggling, and they include food manufacturers like Tyson, who are laying off staff and shutting down plants. They're getting hit by high cattle and animal feed costs. You can cruise through the USDA's charts to see what's really happening. Over the long term, our food production is dropping. We're producing less of everything than we were just 10 years ago.

Climate change gave us the hottest summer in human history. It gave us a staggering number of heat waves, flash droughts, and floods. It's having a major impact on crops, and it's going to get worse. It's going to exert a constant upward pressure on prices. We can't solve that problem with an economic model that completely ignores the planet.

Corporations will take advantage of that, too. They won't do anything to address climate change. They'll certainly use the droughts and floods as an additional excuse to raise prices even higher.

Watch it happen.

Biden's supporters talk about job growth. We added 180,000 jobs last month. They don't talk about what kind of jobs. We're seeing the most growth in healthcare, construction, and hospitality and leisure.

Basically, we're adding essential workers.

That's mostly it.

Essential workers are the ones struggling the most in our economy. The average construction worker barely makes $40,000. The average hotel and restaurant worker barely makes $18 an hour. Hotel desk clerks make an average of $29,000 a year. The average registered nurse makes $81,000, but they deal with chronic understaffing and high stress, especially now. Healthcare companies can fine them thousands of dollars if they quit. They make them sign noncompete agreements that forbid them from finding better jobs.

Do you want one of those jobs?

Essential workers put in the longest hours under the harshest conditions, for the least pay. They're the ones who've had to strike for higher wages, and they're the ones who've seen their gains chewed up by greedflation. You can't exactly celebrate job growth in these sectors given what they put up with.

If all that wasn't enough, we're only beginning to understand the impact of Long Covid on the economy. It's going to cost us trillions, not to mention the fact that the majority of workplaces remain unsafe.

A large portion of Americans actually don't like having to choose between an income and constant exposure to a disabling virus.

That's not great for the economy, either.

Maybe it makes sense why ordinary Americans aren't thrilled with the economy right now. The current administration has done almost nothing to make their lives any better, but they're taking credit. They cheer about job growth and higher wages, while simultaneously letting the Federal Reserve continue to target those gains as the primary reason for inflation.

Americans hear the doublespeak.

It pisses us off.

We don't want to blame any single administration for all of this. On the other hand, it's irritating to constantly listen to politicians, economists, and affluent opinion writers tell us how great the economy is doing. It's even more irritating to watch conservative pundits try to capitalize on the economic despair for political gain when they're just as responsible.

That's what makes us angry. Everyone wants to politicize our financial hardships. Nobody wants to fix them.

The paper looks great on the economy.

Just don't unwrap it.

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