By Joe Rector
Times are rough for Americans. As soon as we stick our heads out after two-plus years of Covid, other things knock us sideways. Right now, inflation is choking our economy and causing a great deal of worry for people here and abroad. While I’m not so sure that this is the fault of any one person or any political party, I am sure that decisions in board rooms carry tons of blame for the situation.
The first Covid relief package was necessary to help millions of unemployed folks get by. They welcomed the money so that they could pay rent or bills that kept them in their homes. It was a lifeline for so many.
The second round of money is a bit more suspect. Instead of indiscriminately passing out cash, the second outreach should have been for those most in need. Too many people saw the second check as a windfall that could help them buy things unrelated to getting by in a tough time. Spending the money heated up our economy and reversed the worst unemployment figures in decades. Some people were better off than they were when they were working, so they decided to sit at home or quit the jobs they had in hopes of finding a better one, maybe even one for which they had no qualifications.
The inability to move goods from ships to seaports to stores also helped create a rapid rise in prices. Covid kept workers at home, and the goods stacked up on docks or remained hostages of ships carrying them. Shortages of all sorts of items led to hoarding. Perhaps this epidemic that we faced will be best known for the fact that it led to a hoarding of toilet paper.
Several factors led to the shortage of gas. Refusing to buy oil from a country led by a war criminal has caused us to make sacrifices. However, the pain we feel over prices at the pump is not reflected in the earnings of the oil companies. Check out how many extra billions those companies have pocketed or passed along to their shareholders. Don’t get me wrong: companies should be able to make profits. Yet, when the country and the world work to defend another country from war and takeover, those oil companies might have considered reducing prices at the pumps instead of letting them rise by as much 75%. How is that doing their parts in trying to help?
The same thing goes for groceries. The cost of products might have risen due to shortages. We understand that, but when everything in the store skyrockets, something else is going on. Drinks used to be five six-packs for $11.00. Now, they can be as much as $6 or $7 for one sixpack. A week’s groceries have doubled for families. Many people have cut things from their diets simply because they can’t afford them at all. Although I never was a Nixon fan, I appreciated his concern for the people of the country or his own political future when he froze prices. At some point, our entire government must stop being beholding to corporate interests. Members of the House and Senate are in place to support and defend us, not big businesses that fill politicians’ pockets.
Yes, we in America are suffering through some economic problems that come from soaring prices. Companies whose greed is more important than their support of democracy or obligation to be “their brothers’ keepers” show that we have bigger problems than inflation with which to deal. This country has lost its way, and I’m afraid we might not discover it again. The choice is a simple one: Patriotism or Price Gouging.