Oftentimes, there is a big divide between the business world we read in the newspapers and the practical world of which we find evidence in our wallets. There never seems to be a correlation between the two.
Hugh Johnson’s economic forecast was welcomed news to purveyors of stocks and those looking to strike out on the next business venture, but what does it mean to those looking to go out and buy groceries?
One of the slides from Mr. Johnson’s presentation quoted a 2 percent rate of inflation since last year. With this week marking our tenth month while in the clutches of this pandemic, 2019 seems like a generation ago. A trip to the grocery store today resembles an outtake from Mel Gibson’s Mad Max more than your innocent suburban jaunt to buy Pop Tarts. COVID’s touch on our world is visible on store shelves. It’s a challenge, at times, to find what we once found abundant. Toiletries and cleaning supplies sell over Amazon like outlawed products. The prices for meats and produce are only about 20 cents more a pound than a year ago, according to the Department of Agriculture, but was more than a $1 more back in June. With the virus vamping up this winter, the likelihood of prices going up again is all too likely.
Local businesses, our restaurants and favorite theatres, are teetering on the brink. Theatres have had to lay off 80 percent or more of their staff. Eateries can only host a quarter of their seating capacity, and that’s not enough. They’ve all been doing it since March. These are not ideal times, and though there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the oncoming vaccine, we need help now.
Another stimulus package failed to make it out of Capitol Hill last week. A $900 million bailout that would have helped extend unemployment insurance to the nearly 7 percent of Americans who remain without a job this holiday season. Evidence of yet another foolish game played between Democrats and Republicans who neither seem to full appreciate the struggles we go through each day. Even Johnson said we needed that aid to get us through the next six months, otherwise his optimistic view on the economy will turn more into “a problem.”
Practically speaking, our everyday lives are still more or less a problem as we navigate through social distancing at the grocery store and home schooling our kids through remote classrooms. The possibility that the Dow Jones will skyrocket to views not seen since the 1920s means little if what qualifies as the status quo in 2020 continues into the next year. We need to wear masks. We need help from Washington.
We need to look after one another and continue to be community-minded, or what we grew fond of having will disappear.