When trying to get a read on “the economy,” there are a number of indicators that tell us what’s going on and which matter depends on who you’re asking.
For instance, it’s generally been agreed in the past that a “recession” was defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth in the Gross Domestic Product, something which occurred in the first and second quarters of last year. However, the Biden administration admonished us, we were not in a recession. The third quarter saw a bit of positive growth — 3.2 percent —which was good, and near the end of this month, we’ll see the fourth quarter results which will hopefully be better.
Now, that number, in and of itself gives us one indicator of the economy and the experts will debate what that number and others mean, but, as Bob Dylan famously sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” and you don’t need an expert to tell you there’s something much deeper and much more indicative of big problems going on these days.
I’m a pattern guy. It’s just what helps me to understand the world around me — patterns and anomalies.
So, when I say that, despite all the news and information which makes clear that we’re on shaky economic ground, I see other patterns emerging that indicate, at least to me in my non-expert capacity there’s some deeper and even more concerning things going on below the surface, trust me, I’m not saying it lightly.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of consideration and meditation on the matter to know that many prices are out of control in our country.
According to the bureau of labor statistics, everything’s more expensive than it was a year ago. For example, food has risen in price by 10.4 percent. Energy is up 7.3 percent. Every middle class and below household in the country can clearly see this.
However, the daily business news also sends a concerning signal. While these rising prices lower down the chain which affect those in lower tax brackets are one things, the business news reveals that those who are typically shielded from these kinds of fluctuations — wealthy individuals and large corporations — are feeling the pain.
Recent news includes companies like McDonald’s planning to cut the number of employees it has — not at the restaurant level, but at the corporate level. Wendy’s has announced will undergo “organizational redesign.” Companies including Bed Bath & Beyond have been warning of, and in some cases filing for, bankruptcy. On Jan. 12, it was announced that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. — one of the world’s most ubiquitous companies — is asking for a 40 percent cut in compensation.
Again, when those lower down the chain — a group of which I am solidly a part — suffer these things, it is not great, it’s standard operating procedure — we feel the pain first. When the upper crust starts pulling back and getting nervous, that’s when I get even more uneasy because ultimately that will filter down to us as well, further compounding the problems we face.
There’s clearly massive fault lines, both on the surface and under the surface of our economy. While President Biden’s administration may not bear all of the fault of what’s happening, the Democrats, without question, own what’s been occurring unabated over the last two years. A spate of policies intended to make wholesale changes in this country that are unfriendly to business and unfriendly to the average taxpayer have ensured that turning back hasn’t been on the agenda.
Now that the Republicans have control of the House, they have a chance to make a difference. Whether they will remains to be seen.
All this is a reminder of how vital it is to continue to support local businesses as much as possible and be cautious and aware of what’s going on. I would say we’re in for some bumpy roads ahead, but I’d estimate that we’re already “there.”
How long our trip on that road lasts, however, will be determined more by those at the wheel than by us. But we’re going to have to make decisions in the future that recruit better drivers.