The problem isn’t inflation. It’s prices.

“The actual problem here is prices.
They’re not going up nearly as much as they were in, say, the middle of last year, but they’re by and large not declining en masse, either. And in most cases, they won’t get back to where they were in the Before Times.

“Inflation in the US is falling relatively quickly compared to all of our other peer countries, and we have the strongest growth out of the recession,” said Felicia Wong, president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank. “But people don’t just want falling inflation numbers, they actually want deflation.”

Deflation probably isn’t in the cards (and the rub is we don’t want it to be). Higher prices might just be the sort of thing we’ve all got to get used to. The truth is we’re never going back to how things were in 2019 — we won’t be returning to the office at the same levels, we’ll never hear “corona” and only think of beer, and that night on the town is going to cost us more than it did before.”

“Basically, if I get a raise at work, I think it’s because I’m awesome. That may be partly true, but that’s not all that’s going on — it’s also that the labor market is tight and wages broadly are going up. My current employer doesn’t want to lose me, and my future employer would have to pay me a little more to lure me away.

While many people see their employment situations (good or bad) as something they’ve earned, they see inflation as something that’s happening to them and that it’s the government’s fault. “The reality is inflation takes away and it gives back. It takes away, prices go up, and it gives back, wages catch up,” said Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan. “But you code what it takes away as inflation’s fault but what it gives back as your own genius.””

“The rate of inflation really is slowing (and, if all goes well, will continue to do so), and the disorienting nature of what’s happened in the economy over the past few years will likely fade. Post-pandemic prices will eventually feel normal, and post-pandemic wages should make those prices more feasible — or at least not significantly less feasible than they were before. Sooner or later, sticker shock will feel a little less shocking.”

Why Is Halloween Candy So Expensive? Sugar Protectionism.

“The series of subsidies and tariffs that the federal government uses to artificially inflate sugar prices in the United States cost consumers between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion every year, according to a timely Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today. Those protectionist policies aren’t the cause of the recent spike in sugar or candy prices, of course, but prices would absolutely be lower without them.”

“Those higher prices get baked—quite literally—into the cost of everything from Milky Ways to Sour Patch Kids. And, as the GAO also points out, this is a classic case of concentrated benefits for a special interest that results in huge, but very diffused, costs for everyone else: “Because the program guarantees relatively high prices for domestic sugar, sugar farmers benefit significantly, and sugar farms are substantially more profitable per acre than other U.S. farms.””

Basic income is less radical than you think

“unless you pin down the details, basic income is too vague to mean anything politically concrete. Like the Rorschach inkblot, you can interpret and design UBI in an endless variety of ways. A program that provides $250 per month is a different ballgame than one providing $1,200 per month. The same goes for one that replaces all other welfare, like food aid (sometimes referred to as a “pure UBI,” which would actually leave the most disadvantaged worse off, and is a bad idea), compared with one that complements existing programs.
Ultimately, the effects of any income guarantee hinge on the details. How much does it pay? Who gets it? How’s it financed? How does it relate to the rest of the welfare state? But most of the real proposals that have made their way through the policy world share a noteworthy trait: When the dust settles, they just wouldn’t be that radical, in either direction.

Generally, most people at the bottom of the income ladder would be better off, those in the middle would break even as they pay about as much in higher taxes as they’d receive from the basic income, and those at the top would be a little worse off. Society would neither ascend into utopian communism nor collapse into bleak idleness. There would just be less poverty and higher taxes.”

Biden sold off nearly half the U.S. oil reserve. Is it ready for a crisis?

“Biden’s administration sold off more than 40 percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve last year to help limit rising fuel prices after Russia invaded Ukraine, leaving the stockpile at its lowest levels since the early 1980s. That’s fueling Republican accusations that Biden has left the U.S. vulnerable to a disruption of global oil supplies — at a time when Hamas’ terrorist attacks in Israel are stoking fears of a wider regional war disrupting fuel shipments from the Middle East.”

the reserve still holds 351 million barrels — equivalent to nearly 56 days of total U.S. oil imports last year — though well below the peak of 727 million barrels it held during the Obama administration. That’s on top of 424 million barrels that private companies were storing in the U.S. as of early October.
The administration has defended its handling of the reserve, saying it still holds ample crude to protect the nation’s strategic needs and offer a cushion against price shocks. “I am not worried about the reserve levels at all,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told a House committee in September, adding: “It is the largest strategic reserve in the world.”

And the U.S. is no longer the energy beggar it was in 1973, when the Yom Kippur War prompted an Arab oil embargo against the United States that sent prices spiraling and left Americans waiting in hours-long lines at gas pumps. Back then, U.S. oil production was dropping while its thirst for the fuel was rising — prompting Congress to pass a law in 1975 to create the reserve.”

” the United States is the world’s biggest oil producer, which exports more crude and petroleum products than it imports. Its output is at record highs and is climbing, even as demand has flattened.

Over the years, some conservatives have even called for abolishing the reserve, complaining — as the Heritage Foundation did eight years ago — that “Presidents have used the SPR as a political tool.”

Still, the reserves’ diminished volumes limit Biden’s options to respond to a future shock to the oil markets, including those that could result from a widening of the war in the Middle East.”

‘A devastating financial blow’: California’s so-called ‘draconian’ fast-food bill is now law — here’s why McDonald’s franchisees say it’ll cost small business owners $250K a year

“B 1228 applies to fast-food chains with at least 60 locations nationwide — except for those that make and sell their own bread. The bill’s landmark change is a minimum wage hike to $20 per hour, almost $5 higher than the Golden State’s minimum wage of $15.50.
It would also see the establishment of a Fast Food Council to set wages and make recommendations for working conditions. The council has the power to increase the new minimum wage each year through 2029 up to 3.5% or the average change in the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners, whichever is lower.

One key part of the bill has been removed since its proposal. Previously, AB 1228 would have made fast-food corporations jointly liable if franchisees committed labor violations, which the NOA believes could have led to “frivolous lawsuits against franchisees” that would then force the larger corporate head offices to exert more control over local operations.”

The government’s case to break up Amazon, explained

“Much of the lawsuit centers around how Amazon essentially forces third-party sellers who use its Marketplace platform — which accounts for about 60 percent of Amazon’s sales — to purchase additional services from Amazon. Amazon’s critics say the company has gotten greedier over the years, resulting in sellers having to cut their profit margins or raise prices to consumers to account for Amazon’s ever-increasing charges and fees. The FTC says that many sellers pay nearly 50 percent of their revenue to Amazon when all of the fees are combined, and those costs can be passed on to the consumer.
One way it does this, the suit says, is through search ads, which allow sellers to have their products placed prominently in customer searches, above products that organically earned a top spot. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon has increased the number of ads in search results over the years, making sellers feel that the only way potential customers will see their products at all is if they pay Amazon for ads. This makes the shopping experience worse for consumers who have to wade through them to find organic results.

“These ads have been enormously lucrative for Amazon, but shoppers face less relevant results and are steered toward more expensive products, while sellers face an additional set of fees,” Khan said.

The lawsuit also addresses Amazon’s “buy box.” When several sellers offer the same product, Amazon picks which one gets the sale when a customer clicks to make a purchase — whether “add to cart” or “buy now.” That’s the buy box. Everyone else is relegated to an “other sellers” section, which is farther down the page. Most customers don’t bother or even know to check it, which makes that buy box placement crucial for sellers.

But Amazon has certain conditions that make it more likely that the seller will get that buy box — or, if they don’t comply with them, make it impossible to get it at all. Those conditions often mean giving Amazon more money.

Qualifying for Prime is one of them, but sellers pretty much have to use Amazon’s “Fulfilled by Amazon” logistics and shipping service in order to be eligible for it. Amazon has technically allowed sellers to use other fulfillment services, but it’s exceedingly difficult for any third-party fulfillment service to meet Amazon’s requirements, and Amazon closed off enrollment to the Seller Fulfilled Prime option years ago.

A few months ago, however, Amazon announced it would re-open enrollment “later this year.” Notably, it has also changed some of these practices in the European Union recently as part of a settlement to end an antitrust case there, including adding a second buy box and allowing seller-fulfilled Prime.”