While Congress Dodges Accountability, Those Who Are Paying More Have More To Worry About

This week’s Courier Herald column:

My last column was about a renewed dedication to diet and fitness as part of an overall long term approach to personal health.  Naturally, this week I found myself traveling for leisure, and an odd craving came about that I decided was ok to indulge.  Vacation is vacation, after all

I wanted Whopper.  It’s literally been years since I’ve had one, and have been reading about the franchise parent company’s efforts to turn around the brand.  So at lunch time that day I found myself in a crowded restaurant filled with mostly blue collar workers.

The staffing level was a bit short as is now custom, but the long young lady working the front counter was efficient enough, and communicating when she had to stop taking orders to bag those that were ready for pickup.  She was friendly, and the food eventually arrived freshly cooked.

None of that is really newsworthy, but the price of my bargain fast food lunch did catch my attention.  A medium Whopper meal with onion rings and soft drink totaled $12.63 with tax.  The days of “$5 foot longs” and single-dollar value menus are now long behind us.

This stood out to me because that morning I got to hear yet another interview of Senator Elizabeth Warren simultaneously blame Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for his handling of the fight against inflation, while using the term “corporate greed” enough times that I lost count.  Senator Warren seems to have an amazing ability to give “interviews” that are actually one sided speeches, with little to no pushback on her often ludicrous statements. 

Senator Warren, talking about the Federal Reserve’s expected rate hike that was announced later that day, said Chairman Powell “was aiming to put people out of work.”  Ostensibly, these were the same people in front of me in line at the Burger King, as well as those already working short staffed.

She at least noted that the Fed was a “one trick pony” in that the main tool in their tool belt was interest rates.  The federal reserve is raising interest rates to curb demand by restricting the money supply, slowing the growth of the economy.  The result is usually that the unemployment rate increases during this time, which at least temporarily puts some people out of work.

Her position is that the Fed needs to stop its inflation fight, and that somehow these “greedy corporations” just need to quit raising prices.  I’m sure she knows that’s not how things work.  She just hopes that you don’t, or that you don’t care.  Burger King nor its franchisees are obligated to lose money selling hamburgers to solve a problem of Congress’ creation.

The Federal Reserve is not the main driver of excess money in our money supply.  It’s Congress, of which Senator Warren is a happily spending member.  On top of the various bipartisan Covid emergency spending measures, Congress piled on to ensure the emergency would not go to waste with Senator Warren’s party spending $1.9 trillion via a party line vote on the American Recovery Act, and then added the Inflation Reduction Act that officially scores as reducing the deficit. Waivers granted to rules set in that bill have the cost ballooning to $1.2 trillion per a Goldman Sachs estimate.

This isn’t a one party problem, however.  The earlier Covid emergency spending acts plus the “Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Act” added trillions to our annual deficit and thus the money supply to a country that was already addicted to deficit spending before the pandemic.  There’s plenty of blame to go around here.

What the Democrats didn’t do when they chose to embark on even more deficit spending alone, however, was also increase the debt ceiling to authorize the borrowing to pay for it.  This was a conscious and calculated decision, forcing the standoff we will enter over the next month or so to force Republicans to vote against the wishes of their base, or risk the country going into default. 

In most media outlets, Republicans get little to no credit for forming a coalition within their own disparate ranks to pass a debt ceiling bill which limits future spending.  President Biden, who has refused talks until now, has said he would veto any bill that passes a *checks notes* Democratically controlled Senate that isn’t a clean increase, yet the narrative is that it is Republicans who are being obstructionists.

While Congress tries to blame literally everyone else for the deficits, debt, and inflation, the prices at Burger King and other food establishments continue to increase.  Those who frequent them have to wonder if the pain of trying to afford food for themselves and their family will be replaced by the pain of trying to find work. 

They’re likely a lot less worried about the physical health from what their eating, as the fiscal health of their household.  They most likely know at least at some level that they’re just pawns in a much bigger battle from those who blame first and are last in line for accountability.

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