In 2022 we can expect the Republican Magic Show to again feature its inflation sleight-of-hand.

Since inflation neared 7 percent in 2021, its highest rate since 1982, we’re already hearing more inflation patter from the political party given to deception and distraction. As always, when a Democrat occupies the White House, inflation hysteria returns to center stage.

The 2021 inflation was real enough, but Republicans would have us mistake much of its cause. Look over here, they say. It’s government spending. Time to put on the spending brakes. President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan will only make bad things worse.

While predictions about BBB’s possible inflationary effects are mixed (budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu), Republicans continue to direct our attention away from one of inflation’s major causes.

Long before COVID’s material and supply chain interruptions and the predictable inflation that ensued as economies reopened, the growth of monopolies in the food and pharmaceutical sectors was already raising consumer prices.

A multitude of brand names gives the impression of a variety of food suppliers, but only a few corporations are behind all those names. Today three or four firms account for one-third of typical grocery sales (The Guardian), and only four corporations supply more than 70 percent of our beef (Reuters). Such concentration has increased corporate profits, decreased farmers’ and growers’ earnings and elevated what we pay for food. (NPR)

Over the last 30 years, drug manufacturers have followed the same monopolistic path to higher profits. “Between 2010 and 2015 …. nearly one-quarter of all generic drugs saw at least one price increase of 100 percent or more … some as much as at least 1,000 percent” (openmarketsinstitute.org).

Magicians employ attractive assistants for a reason. It’s easy to miss what the magician’s hands are doing, when everyone’s eyes are on Miss Direction.

Ken Winkes

Conway

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