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Arwa and economics – sigh

“Let’s eat only two meals a day.” Back in the 1990s, North Korea, which was suffering through a terrible famine, adopted a slogan which cheerfully asked its impoverished citizens to eat less. Decades later, it looks like the Wall Street Journal wants to bring that slogan to America. “To Save Money, Maybe You Should Skip Breakfast”, the Journal headlined a recent short piece documenting inflation in breakfast foods like eggs. Which is honestly quite a restrained take for the Journal. Why not up the ante a little bit and ask some really difficult questions, eh? Like: “Hey Paupers, Have You Tried Existing on Grubworms?” Or: “To Save Rich People from Experiencing Any Inconvenience Whatosever, Maybe The Poors Should Live in Underground Tunnels”.

It’s a bit of a waste of energy – and without breakfast you can’t afford to waste energy! – to get angry over a Wall Street Journal headline that was clearly intended to provoke people.

Yes, it’s actually a discussion of inflation rates with a clickbait headline.

The real issue here, the reason this headline deserves any extra attention, is because it’s not just clickbait, it’s a perfection summation of the economy. Our current stage of capitalism demands that poor people make do with less while the rich make no sacrifices whatsoever. We can’t possibly tax the rich to help combat inflation, that would slow economic growth.

Taxing the rich doesn’t reduce inflation. Because, by definition, the rich are the people with savings. Tax ’em, they’ll reduce their savings, not their consumption. But inflation is real demand – consumption. So, we don’t reduce inflation, because we don’t reduce consumption, by taxing the rich.

You know another way we could all save money? Just spitballing here: corporations could stop price-gouging. There are a number of reasons why egg prices have gone up so dramatically in the US, including an outbreak of avian flu, but corporate greed is likely also to blame. Farm Action, a farmer-advocacy group, recently accused major egg producers of overstating the effects of avian flu and colluding to increase profits.

“Egg prices … have on average tripled for consumers since last year,” the co-founder of Farm Action said. “Dominant egg corporations are blaming inflation and avian flu for price hikes, but if they were only raising prices to cover this cost, why are they raking in fivefold product margins?”

Well, achully, the Farm Action report glosses over this but it’s at the heart of their propaganda. One specific egg provider has had a fivefold rise in margins. One specific egg provider has not been badly affected – so far – by avian ‘flu. The sector as a whole has reduced provision, so prices have risen. The lucky beneficiary being the one not affected except by the price rise. Which is good, of course. We like it when providers survive a disaster – means we still get eggs. So, more profit going to the folk who didn’t get hit by the disaster, that’s good.

That’s a very good question. Weirdly, however, it was completely ignored by the Journal in their avoid breakfast piece. The reason breakfast staples are up according to the Journal? “[A] perfect storm of bad weather and disease outbreaks – and continued effects from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” I’m not entirely sure why they chose to avoid any discussion of corporate greed.

Possibly because corporate greed has fuck all to do with it?

But let’s say that it has, You know, just to start from the same point as the diatribe? So, what has happened that allows that always extant corporate greed to break out into a rash of price rises and higher profits? The lack of competition caused by avian ‘flu, the objective conditions of higher input prices, the vast money printing…..we end up back in the same place. It’s not corporate greed it is those other things. Or, OK, it is that always extant corporate greed it’s just able to be sated – that lust for profits can work – because of those other things. We still end up with it being those other things, right?

For the corporate greed is an eternal, yea?

Egg corporations aren’t the only ones raking in massive profit margins as everyone else struggles with inflation. Last year the five largest western oil and gas companies made a combined $200bn in profits. Shell raked in a massive $39.9bn in profits, which is the highest in its 115-year history. Meanwhile I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that energy bills have rocketed and it now costs a fortune to heat your house. What are they doing with all that money? Transferring it to shareholders through share buyback schemes. You may be choosing between heating and eating right now, but companies are creating tremendous amounts of value for shareholders. If you’re shivering in your freezing cold house as you read this I do hope you find that just a little bit heartwarming.

There’s a war on. That knocked 10% out of global oil supply (no one is really supposed to be buying Russian oil these days) and 18% of world gas supply. Prices rise, profits at those not at war rise – what does anyone expect will happen?

7 thoughts on “Arwa and economics – sigh”

  1. Here in Oz, the Victorians and NSW’ers have strangled the development of new gas fields. Meanwhile Albo and the other greenatics are pushing to finally shut down the coal burning power plants. They have also assured the fossil fuel producers that they’re going to stop its production real soon now, so they won’t recover the cost of investing in new gas production.

    Oddly enough they’re now whinging about the shortage and the consequent high prices. All a sinister plot by the evil fossil fuel producers of course.

    But I’ve whined about all this many times before.

  2. There are a number of reasons […] including an outbreak of avian flu…

    a fact

    …but corporate greed is likely also to blame.

    a supposition.

    Tiresome but oft-repeated campaigner’s trick for validating a theory by harnessing it to a truth.

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    So according to their logic its either:

    1. A cartel. In which case its illegal and their are quite severe penalties, including the breakup of firms and sending executives to jail. So we’d expect the Feds to be investigating.


    2. Its greedy capitalists raising prices independently. But if they were truly greedy capitalists one of them would spot the opportunity to lower prices slightly and clean up the market and get stonking rich. Which would encourage the others to do drop their prices before they go out of business.

    As neither is happening there must be another cause.

  4. Price variations are not caused by constant forces (the desire for profit, for example) but by variable forces (supply and demand, for example). Amazeballs! Who could have known?

    Meanwhile natural gas prices are back where they were in 2019. Higher demand / restricted supply encourages increased supply. Amazeballs!

  5. This week’s Guardian complaint:
    – “Hey Paupers, Have You Tried Existing on Grubworms?”

    Next week’s Guardian content:
    “Hey Paupers, Eat Grubworms!”

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