Biden is blind to the recession |

A dollar is a dollar and I don’t blame anyone in business who is trying, legally, to shore up their balance sheet. This week, after a month of turmoil in financial markets, panic buttons are lighting up the skies more fiercely than the ubiquitous helicopters flying over cities, presumably on the lookout for fraudsters and potential smash & grab bad men and women who serve as broad daylight luxuries as passers-by barely notice, distracted by their cellphones or simply ignored as The Way We Live Today. A week ago, after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell (putting on his Paul Volcker mask, hoping to take credit for an eventual economic recovery, but if anyone at this point really believes that he knows what he’s doing, I’d love to have an explanation) , The New York Times published an article about the 75bp interest rate hike, with the headline “After sharp rate hike, markets fear recession.”

Like most—in Time style – as ‘ordinary’ Americans know, the recession started six or seven months ago, regardless of the ‘rules’ for officially declaring it as such. I am now in disbelief that I typed in the word ‘rules’ as this quaint idea became quaint many years ago, not just in finance – hard to believe now, but not too long ago, for example, that positive employment reports at the start of a month have been cheered by the markets and financial “pundits”, but that is also out the window, but also in education, popular culture, politics and transportation. Another problem: Despite so many election statisticians warning that the ever-increasing number of polls released today might not be accurate — no shit — the polls are being followed avidly by Democratic and GOP supporters, who cheer a ” victory” for the cycle, until John Fetterman or JD Vance, for example, are criticized by a new poll. I watch Real Clear Politics every day – and the Time‘ Nate Cohen when he posts, but I won’t take any midterm predictions seriously before Election Day. Not by chance, if anyone understands Liz Truss’ motives in the UK – I love her tax cut scheme, but now? – it will be the day. Not when she dies, but instead she’s forced to say hello to survivor Boris Johnson.

A few weeks ago, our Yorkie family, Billy Smith, was taken down by a canine virus that was rampant in the neighborhood. One day this normally stoic and fierce dog (in his mind he weighs only seven pounds but has the bark of a dog five times bigger) was lethargic, wouldn’t touch any food, was vomiting, had episodic bouts of diarrhea, and a parasite that came from the droppings of sniffer dogs on his walks, none of which were pleasant. He even skipped our daily ritual five times where he gnawed on my hands and wrists, waiting for me to rub his nose. My wife took Billy Smith to the vet, a person who has been giving him injections and the like since we paid through the nose for newborn Billy nearly two years ago. Either way, he was diagnosed – the vet, confirming the neighborhood scuttlebut, said he had seen plenty of pet dogs with the same disease – and given a temporary restricted diet and several prescriptions antibiotics and anti-nausea medications. Not cheap, but as we luckily don’t live in a squat it was a reasonable expense. But the thing, and this takes me back to the beginning of this story, is that the vet also suggested, to ease my wife’s mind, that x-rays could be administered, which cost over $500 $. My ever-polite wife (another quaint feature today) asked if this procedure was necessary. The vet replied that Billy Smith was not in imminent danger and that x-rays were a benefit for “peace of mind”. Melissa said no thank you and went to get the dog’s list of restorative products.

I have no doubt others have gone all out and paid for the x-rays, and that’s what I mean by saying a dollar is a dollar, and if the merchants/doctors can squeeze a little something thing more by simple suggestions, they will do it. I’m not casting any criticism, because as Calvin Coolidge said, and it should be taught in every high school, “the main business of the American people is business,” but buyer beware. It reminds me of the dipsy-doodle conversations I had with our dentist a decade ago – on at least five occasions – in which he tried to persuade me, at age 60, to get a brace dentistry for my crowded lower teeth. We circled around, and finally I had to say to my dentist (not coincidentally, the best I’ve ever had) “Tom, can we just drop this off now?” I don’t care how my lower teeth look and I’m certainly not in the mood to shell out thousands of dollars for a cosmetic upgrade. He laughed, agreed, and then we resumed our three-times-a-year discussion of Baltimore city government corruption and libertarian politics.

The country is not in recession? I report it to my friends at the local Starbucks which I frequent every day – it’s the most convenient, I have no particular allegiance to a coffee chain or independent coffee shop – when my order is 92 cents more than the day before (three increases this year alone) but the pricing is not their responsibility and besides, they agree. Starbucks executives, to name just one company, are undoubtedly abusing the customer while they can, before falling sales lead to lower prices and layoffs. I don’t cut newspapers or online coupons (if they exist), but I was surprised at a Safeway yesterday when I saw that a tube of Colgate toothpaste was $8.99. Never mind disposable razors (under lock and key at CVS), it was a long lost cause.

Then again, I could be full of beans on this: This recession, the inevitable result of an overheated economy and then unprecedented Covid complications, is not analogous to 2008-09 or most of the 1970s. It’s a beast in itself. It’s not that Joe Biden understands this (what he does understand is up for debate) as demonstrated by his class warfare student loan forgiveness – estimated by the CBO at $400 billion. Maybe that giveaway provides more votes for Democrats — even if Biden’s one-sided policy doesn’t take effect until the end of the year, if it survives legal challenges — but maybe not. I do not know. I am not a pollster.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @ MUGGER1955

About Sally E. Bartley

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