Letter to the Editor: Inflation and Politics

5 mins read

Inflation’s certainly been tough this time. Before we can talk about that honesty, though, we need to understand a bit about it.

First, no matter what anyone may say, Democrats didn’t cause inflation. Costs double about every 15 years; they always have. Sometimes this happens slowly, more evenly, allowing us to barely notice; other times it happens in leaps – if, say, The Fed artificially manipulates rates for many years, over both Democratic and Republican administrations, lulling us to sleep. Either way, it happens. In 1970 my wife’s first car – a ’71 canary yellow Mustang – cost $3,000. Today it’d be nine times that.

This time around, economists have been cautioning us for a long while, their warnings strengthening through the Trump administration, citing the effects of such things as interest rate manipulations and the exorbitant Republican tax cuts for the wealthy. All we needed was a catalyst. Covid struck, and, well, we know the rest, Still, there’s disagreement as to how prices themselves got so far out of hand.

Speaking before congress, Katie Porter recently explained the primary forces behind price increases during inflationary periods. Ordinarily, recent wages lead the way. In this case, though, they played a much smaller role. Instead, the central driving force behind the increasing prices we’re all paying results from a concentration of power among large corporations, allowing for the expansion of their profit margins – what you and I call price gouging. This kind of activity usually accounts for about 11% of such increases; here it’s about 54%, or around half our increased costs.

Enabled by America’s right, conglomerates like ExxonMobile have hid behind the very real concerns of COVID, supply chain disruptions, deficit spending, Putin’s war and fuel costs, using them as cover to jack up their prices by extraordinary margins, four times normal nets, knowing that the Republican Party and its right wing media had their backs. The only thing left to do? Sabotage stimulus packages, then simply blame it all on the “socialist” Democrats.

Here’s an example, using oil. In 2022, as the world struggles with fuel to drive and to heat homes, the oil/gas producers are doubling their net profits – doubling – taking them to an all time high of $4 trillion. That’s in one year. As the world suffers. If the folks misleading us were telling the truth, such profits would be impossible.

Here’s one way it plays out in Maine. Bruce Poliquin, with a history of beholding to these industries and to voting with climate deniers and against the welfare of his own constituents, runs ads blaming (of course) the Democrats, labeling Jared Golden, a fairly conservative guy, as some sort of “radical.” All that’s left is for Poliquin to hold out his hand to the fossil fuel folks as we pay their higher prices.

So what might we do to feel less helpless, to begin to protect ourselves and one another from both the basic inflation itself and from the gouging and the lies? Here’s my opinion:

First, understand that inflation doesn’t happen in a year or two, so we can’t ever blame a president – from either party – who only recently took over.

Second, consider which party is taking positive steps, trying to address the issues, at least presenting plans – beyond finger-pointing, that is.

Third, don’t panic with any savings or portfolios you may have. Since my wife bought that Mustang in 1970 there have been eight recessions and nine periods of rising inflation. We’re still here.

Fourth, look at the big, deep picture. Realize that the two greatest threats to our entire well being, including our family pocketbooks and our global economies – for today, tomorrow and decades to come–are the effects of climate change and the dismantling of democracies.

Fifth, know that corporate greed tags along with both of them.

Sixth, vote accordingly.

Kevin Howley
Wilton, Maine

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