Selling the Joe Biden-Bernie Sanders era of scarcity won’t be easy. And it’s going to get much harder if the President and his legislative co-author enact their massive new plan to discourage productive labor.
Examining the House version of the plan, economist Casey Mulligan estimates that by reducing the incentives to work, the bill’s planned expansions of federal benefits will cost nine million jobs.
Already, the Covid-era combination of astronomical government spending and money creation plus tightly regulated human interaction has resulted in too many dollars chasing too few goods.
Businesspeople who tend to think the customer is always right are trying to end the disturbing phenomenon of empty shelves. But some political pundits on the left prefer to blame the customer instead.
“Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes,” instructs a headline in the Washington Post. In the text below this headline, columnist Micheline Maynard doesn’t quite tell Post readers that they’ll get nothing and like it. But she scolds them for not welcoming mediocrity:
American consumers, their expectations pampered and catered to for decades, are not accustomed to inconvenience.
“For generations, American shoppers have been trained to be nightmares,” Amanda Mull wrote in August in the Atlantic, before the supply chain problem turned truly ugly. “The pandemic has shown just how desperately the consumer class clings to the feeling of being served.”
Customers’ persistent whine, “Why don’t they just hire more people?,” sounds feeble in this era of the Great Resignation, especially in industries, such as food service, with reputations for being tough places to work.
Rather than living constantly on the verge of throwing a fit, and risking taking it out on overwhelmed servers, struggling shop owners or late-arriving delivery people, we’d do ourselves a favor by consciously lowering expectations.
No, Americans should rhetorically take it out on the Washington politicians who are on the verge of making the problem much worse. Ask any struggling shop owner desperate to find workers and you’re more likely to hear a plea for the government to avoid paying people to stay home than a call for lowered expectations.
Ms. Maynard, who can’t seem to resist insulting people who simply want to engage in reliable commerce, adds:
American consumers might have been spoiled, but generations of them have also dealt with shortages of some kind… Now it’s our turn to make adjustments.
They were not spoiled. Generations of them built the largest economy in the world by freely engaging in mutually-beneficial transactions. And along the way they pulled millions of people around the world out of poverty as the huge demand from the prosperous United States created endless opportunities to produce more goods.
If Ms. Maynard means it’s “our turn” to accept less economic vitality because Americans made the decision to elect Mr. Biden and enough Democrats to make Mr. Sanders the Senate’s first socialist budget committee chairman, then perhaps she has a point.
But there’s no reason voters should simply accept Washington failures without exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. Voters are permitted to have regrets and to try to persuade politicians to avoid huge, obvious mistakes.
On the other hand, if voters really think it’s high time that Washington punished them for wanting plentiful goods and services, various online commenters have suggested a slogan for Democrats running in 2022:
In Other News
Now MIT’s Loss Is Berkeley’s Loss, Too
This column recently noted the appalling decision by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to cancel a science lecture because of the lecturer’s unrelated political views. Now it seems the University of California, Berkeley has chosen to share MIT’s shame. Berkeley professor and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist David Romps tweets:
I am resigning as Director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC) @BerkeleyAtmo. To reduce the odds of being mischaracterized, I want to explain my decision here.
Last month, the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences @eapsMIT canceled a science lecture because of the invited scientist’s political views. That scientist does excellent work in areas of interest to BASC (he visited us at our invitation in 2014).
Therefore, I asked the BASC faculty if we might invite that scientist to speak to us in the coming months to hear the science talk he had prepared and, by extending the invitation now, reaffirm that BASC is a purely scientific organization, not a political one.
In the ensuing discussion among the BASC faculty, it became unclear to me whether we could invite that scientist ever again, let alone now…
The stated mission of BASC is to serve as “the hub for UC Berkeley’s research on the science of the atmosphere, its interactions with Earth systems, and the future of Earth’s climate.”
I believe that mission has its greatest chance of success when the tent is made as big as possible, including with respect to ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, family status, and political ideas.
Excluding people because of their political and social views diminishes the pool of scientists with which members of BASC can interact and reduces the opportunities for learning and collaboration.
More broadly, such exclusion signals that some opinions — even well-intentioned ones — are forbidden, thereby increasing self-censorship, degrading public discourse, and contributing to our nation’s political balkanization.
This column is now unsure whether we should expect less of university faculty or elected officials. Perhaps readers will share their opinions.
Our Turn for Inflation?
“Facebook Factcheck Fail,” GonzoEcon, October 18
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
Follow James Freeman on Twitter.
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