Letter 2 America for January 31, 2022

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Dear America,

There's all this wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth going on in our political and financial systems over inflation.  And I understand it; we buy food and clothes and all kinds of other things in our house, so it effects us just like it does everyone else in real terms.  But the hand wringing and tooth gnashing isn't by ordinary people like us for the most part.  Ninety-nine percent of us all have to watch our money all the time, so we're used to it.  It's the one percent in the first two groups I mentioned--politicians and financiers--who are so worked up about it, which wouldn't be so bad if they just understood the problem.  Sure, the snarled chains of supply of things we need in part, and definitely the increased demand for higher wages contribute, but those are consequences of the problem, not the problem itself.  The problem itself is this: American capitalism, and perhaps even world-wide capitalism, is getting a large dose of reality therapy.  People want to be paid what their labor is worth, and that drives up the cost of everything.

For example, truck drivers work all kinds of hours, and most of us see delivery drivers from Amazon and UPS at our doors at all hours of the day and night.  I have lately gotten packages as late as 10:00 p.m. on Sundays, and in the evenings, like at seven or eight at night, regularly...a few days every week.  Let's say that those delivery drivers make $20 per hour.  That's $800 per week or about $40,000 per year.  Try supporting a family of four on that.  Yet, that poor driver is working himself or herself into an early grave, and alienating his or her spouse and kids all the while.  Or let's say you are one of the lucky few who can afford to have someone come in to clean your house and scrub your toilet for you.  You're doing fine and while inflation is an annoyance for you, it is far worse for that housekeeper making $100 a day if he or she is lucky to feed and house a family on $20,000 a year.  And then there's the problem of finding people to do those crumby (and crumby is a euphemism for what I'd really like to say) jobs because no one wants to do that work and live that way.  And when you finally find someone desperate enough to take the job, you can't keep them...not truck drivers, delivery people or housekeepers.  They go as quickly as they came, and no one shows up to replace them when you put out signs or rummage through the internet.  After all, who wants to take care of a bunch of other people's spoiled kids at a daycare center for twelve bucks an hour.

So, businesses are offering more in compensation and some are offering perquisites that should be routine: day care for the workers' kids, health insurance, retirement...though still not enough, and that's the problem.  That's what is happening and what is causing inflation.  It's not interest rates or demand exceeding supply.  It's people finding out, largely because of the last two years of the pandemic, that they are indispensable, and they are waiting for someone to recognize that and offer them enough to support a decent life.  What is happening isn't a business phenomenon.  It's a labor phenomenon.  It's people demanding more...demanding a decent life...and all the while, we have billionaires vying for the distinction of being the first to ride a glorified limosine to the edge of space.  Children are going hungry and sleeping with three blankets because there isn't enough money in the house to feed them and keep them warm, and Bezos, Branson and Musk are making trips to the end of the stratosphere and plans to be first in space because they have so much money--made on the backs of working people who have to keep their thermostats at 60 and feed their kids more pasta than meat and vegetables--that they can't find enough frivolous ways in which to spend it.   Rumor has it that Bezos is building a four to five hundred million dollar yacht.  The problem is that the people who really do the work have said enough is enough.  Clean your own toilet.  Find someone else to deliver what others like them make for nickels and dimes.  It isn't communism.  It's capitalism at its best.  As far as labor is concerned, it is finally a sellers market.

Right now, even workers are having trouble keeping up with the inflation that labor's selectivity is causing.  Workers can still afford to be coy about taking jobs now, and at least for a while will continue to be.  The real question is when will Bezos, Branson and Musk, along with the executive class in general at GM, Ford, U.S. Steel, the Walton businesses, the big hotel chains and all the rest get wise and recognize that the CEO earning $50,000 for having meetings on the golf course isn't as important as all the people who put the lug nuts on their limos and drive them to the golf course...who are getting $25.00 an hour.   What we are seeing is the leveling of our income inequality.

What we're seeing is, if you've got something you find unpleasant to do, or you're just too lazy to do it for yourself, pay me to do it.  Pay me enough that, even though I don't want to do it either, I will...just for you.

Your friend,


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on January 31, 2022 2:45 PM.

Letters 2 America for January 18 and 20, 2022 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for February 15, 2022 is the next entry in this blog.

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