President Joe Biden and his administration deserve a victory lap.
Wherever they look, there has been little but bad news lately for the working-class heroes of America.
Dealing with the ongoing trials of Covid19, and all its attendant disasters, has hit the working poor hardest. Many who are essential workers spent past two years putting themselves in harm’s ways while others worked remotely from home and ordered takeout.
Working-class, essential worker parents have had to scramble for two years as periodic and ongoing shut-downs have shuttered public schools for weeks and months at a time. Finding child care has been hard, especially during a pandemic. Coping with the educational and social losses their children have experienced is even harder.
Remote learning was an unqualified disaster. As might be expected, many K-12 students do not have the self-disciple, not to mention the attention span, to sit behind a computer for hours on end. Many working-class and economically disadvantaged families lacked even the most basic computer equipment required for their children to properly attend online classes in any case.
Working class parents struggled while wealthier families with the resources to do so sent their children to private and parochial schools, most of which remained largely open after the first two-weeks to slow the spread during the earliest days of the outbreak in 2020.
The 10 wealthiest men on the planet doubled their wealth during Covid19, widening an already abysmal wealth gap into unfathomable proportions. Large corporations were better able to immediately switch to a fully-online marketplace and so fared much better than Main Street, which had all but disappeared from the American landscape even before Covid19.
Small and mid-sized businesses didn’t fare as well by half. The data hasn’t all been crunched yet, but tax time approacheth. Soon, we will know exactly how many working-class, small business entrepreneurs shuttered the doors of their restaurant, or retail boutique, or hair salon- forever.
We already know the news isn’t likely to be good. In fact, we suspect it might be as bad as public school closures have proven for school-age children over the past two years, which is about as bad as it could have possibly been.
The belated conclusion, that public school teachers are essential workers who should probably have been working during the pandemic, is percolating in the media though it is unlikely to be heeded in many quarters politically dug in on the importance of school closures.
Whether or not schools should have been closed, or should be closed again and again during future variants, whether public school teachers are essential workers; while both these debates wax hot, one central premise cannot be denied:
Public school closures hurt the working-class poor and economically disadvantaged minority students and their families the most.
The hits just keep on coming for this demographic.
In the ebbing and flowing wake of Covid19 have come plenty of other challenges related to the pandemic.
Inflation has hit the big three very hard for the working class. Food, gas and rent have all increased sharply.
At the grocery store, consumers are seeing prices rise higher and higher. Again, large corporations have an advantage as their superior buying power helps them keep production costs low. They can also spread price increases throughout a wider array of products, making it less noticeable to consumers.
Small struggling organic farms in California won’t be so lucky. Having to raise the price for frozen organic spinach from $3.79 to $4.99 makes the Amazon-owned store brand that much more attractive to buyers.
Wealthier shoppers can probably, as one MSNBC anchor recently suggested, “afford it.”
Shoppers living paycheck to paycheck, families already struggling to meet basic needs are falling further and further behind. Food banks are already feeling the strain as more families struggle to put food on the table.
Rent is up; way up.
Worse, it isn’t likely to go down anytime soon. On the contrary.
The decision to essentially freeze the rental industry, making it impossible for property owners to collect residential rents for nearly two years, has fundamentally changed the rental market.
Buying a rental property to create a stream of supplemental income used to be a safe investment. It was a popular way for a pensioner or cottage landlord to supplement a fixed income.
While being unable to recoup rents, property owners have still been on the hook for maintaining insurance, maintenance costs, and taxes all this time. Other nations helped renters and property owners; the U.S. didn’t do as well.
While progressives are dismissive of these concerns, and the attitude that “well, investments have risk and nothing gives you the right to evict someone from their home during a pandemic,” is prevalent on the left, changing something from a safe investment to a risky one drives off risk-adverse investors and attracts sub-prime lenders.
Sub-prime lenders make risky loans by charging paying customers more for less, in order to make up for those who default. To manage their risk, property owners are also going to be a great deal more careful who they accept.
Going forward, renters should expect to fork over 6 months rent and a much larger deposit than in the past as property management companies try to hedge their bets.
A dearth of used cars, a relic of periodic factory shut-downs during the pandemic, is also afflicting the working class. The shut downs, coupled with worsening supply-line issues, have had a ripple effect throughout the entire auto industry.
New cars are harder to come by, so car rental companies are holding on their fleets longer. So are people who might have traded their older model in this year for a new one. As a result, the dependable flow of quality used cars into America’s car lots has slowed to the barest drip.
It is part of a larger supply line crisis which is only expected to get worse. Big box stores are busily placing their orders now…for Christmas 2022- that is how long corporate retailers expect it take. During the Christmas season of 2022, these same authorities expect the slow-downs to be 10x worse.
What they plan to do at that time about it is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, small and midsize businesses are getting squeezed worse than ever.
The Biden Administration has done all it can, and things would likely be much worse without a steady hand on the rudder; but the U.S. supply chain is a complex and many splendored thing reaching well beyond the borders and influence of the U.S. to manufacturing centers 20,000 miles away.
What the governments in those manufacturing hubs have and haven’t done to combat Covid19 has influenced every inch of the U.S. global supply line.
It is now occurring to even the most loyal proponents of globalism that a 10,000 mile petroleum dependent supply chain is definitely a downside.
Incidentally, eroding America’s manufacturing center might have been another. Without its own production capacity, lacking domestic suppliers for everything from medical masks to masking tape, and all the various components therein, the U.S. is at a disadvantage.
Well, that is to say; U.S. small and mid-size businesses, and the working-class people who own and operate them, are at a disadvantage.
Multinational corporations will survive.
Many locally-owned joints will not. Mom and Pops, franchisees, restauranteurs, niche-fillers; all may disappear from the landscape as corporate big business marches on, weeping when there are no more worlds for Amazon to conquer.
Into every nation, a little rain must fall. That it has been falling hardest on the heads of the working-class poor and economically disadvantaged classes is injustice at its harshest.
There may be some light at the end of the tunnel, however.
The Biden Administration just unveiled the January jobs report and it was a real blockbuster. The total of jobs added to the U.S. economy in the first month of 2022 wildly surpassed the predictions of economists.
“Payrolls show surprisingly powerful gain of 467,000 in January despite omicron surge,” reported CNBC today.
The good sign, coming as it does at the end, or probably during the middle, of a very volatile time on Wall Street was met with great relief. A wildly underperforming Meta, nee Facebook, is dragging down the entire Silicone Valley and fluctuations in the stock market are shaking investors large, small and medium.
The good economic indicator of lowering unemployment is excellent news for the working class in so many ways.
It’s a worker’s market right now; with plenty of organizations anxious to rebuild and desperate for qualified help. Now is a great time to be negotiating a higher salary or better benefits as smart companies are doing all they can to retain their top talent and attract new applicants.
As unemployment numbers tick lower, it is likely to have a positive net impact on the rising crime which is afflicting cities from Portland to Washington, D.C. Historically and worldwide, high unemployment is a major driver of crime.
This first year has been a difficult test for the new presidential administration; it would have been a difficult test for anyone.
Dealing with an ongoing pandemic, and its aftermath, was never going to be easy. But the January jobs report is a sure sign that something is beginning to go very right, and the seeds planted by the unprecedented government largesse doled out during the pandemic by committed legislators are beginning to bear fruit after a very long winter.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)