Democrats and the Politics of Scarcity

 

One chilly night, the president lowered the White House thermostat, put on a cardigan, and gave the American people a stern talking-to. We enjoyed too much abundance for too long and it was time to pay for our profligacy.

“The oil and natural gas that we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are simply running out,” Jimmy Carter said in 1977. “We could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.” The only way to prevent catastrophe was “strict conservation” and a willingness to “make sacrifices.”

Carter relentlessly preached his new austerity gospel to American citizens. We must repent of our excess and deny ourselves the pleasures of a functional economy. Every head bowed, every eye closed, it’s altar-call time.

I’m sure that each of you will find something you don’t like about the specifics of our proposal. It will demand that we make sacrifices and changes in every life. To some degree, the sacrifices will be painful–but so is any meaningful sacrifice. It will lead to some higher costs and to some greater inconvenience for everyone. But the sacrifices can be gradual, realistic, and they are necessary.

America has had a puritanical streak since our founding but it remains an outlier. The former Sunday school teacher promised pain, inconvenience, and higher costs. The next time he faced the voters, they tossed him out on his tin ear.

Bizarrely, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are offering a classic ’70s rerun. Instead of talking up the country, they’re again talking down to America.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain agreed that “most of the economic problems we’re facing (inflation, supply chains, etc.) are high-class problems.”

A senior White House official warned it might be emptier under this year’s Christmas tree because “there will be things that people can’t get.” Press Secretary Jen Psaki concurred: “We are not the Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx. We cannot guarantee” people will get their presents.

Interrupting his third month of paternity leave, DOT head Pete Buttigieg promised supply-chain issues will continue into next year and that’s a good thing. “Demand is up because income is up, because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession.” Later that day, the DC Metro shut down 60 percent of its rail cars. (Hopefully, the Secretary of Transportation got back to his postpartum self-care.)

Dutifully backing the administration’s play, the mainstream media keeps promoting the bright side of empty shelves:

“Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.” — Washington Post

“America is running out of everything because Americans are buying so much stuff.” — Business Insider

“You can either shop early, expect to pay more, or just embrace scarcity.” — Bloomberg

I admire monastics choosing lives of ascetic struggle but doubt voters will reward politicians who mandate we join them. Heading to a cave to find God is one thing; eating lab-grown meat to boost Joe Biden’s polls isn’t the path to enlightenment. Even the most austere Americans prefer a politics of abundance to a politics of scarcity.

Excuse me, but I need to finish Christmas shopping for my kids. Looking for a deal on a hoop-and-stick and maybe a plump orange they can share.

Published in Economics, Politics
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  1. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    The same people don’t worry running out of Rare Earth metals for Solar Panels 

    • #1
  2. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Jon,

    Well said. The left’s obsession with living smaller, living poorer, accepting less has always rubbed me the wrong way.

    I remember getting off a flight from the UK once and overhearing a British woman exclaim, as she looked out the airport windows at the cars driving past, “The cars are so big!”

    Cars, homes, stores — dreams. America is big. Let America stay big.

    Brandon and his puny vision can pound salt.

    • #2
  3. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jon,

    Well said. The left’s obsession with living smaller, living poorer, accepting less has always rubbed me the wrong way.

    I remember getting off a flight from the UK once and overhearing a British woman exclaim, as she looked out the airport windows at the cars driving past, “The cars are so big!”

    Cars, homes, stores — dreams. America is big. Let America stay big.

    Brandon and his puny vision can pound salt.

    The weird thing is that I’m naturally pretty ascetic…. until the government orders me to be. Then it’s Team Super Big Gulps and Cadillac Escalades.

    • #3
  4. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    “Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.” — Washington Post

    “America is running out of everything because Americans are buying so much stuff.” — Business Insider

    “You can either shop early, expect to pay more, or just embrace scarcity.” — Bloomberg

    While the middle class is told to learn to live with scarcity. the Political Class is boarding private jets to attend “Climate Change Conferences.”

    • #4
  5. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Very nice.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    A new rule was issued that Wright-Patterson AFB had to maintain a winter room temperature of 68°. This included the server rooms, where due to the heat generated by the computer equipment had to be air-conditioned all winter.

    Gubmint. There is no bad situation that they can’t make worse. It’s like a reverse Midas touch.

    • #6
  7. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    “Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.” — Washington Post

    “America is running out of everything because Americans are buying so much stuff.” — Business Insider

    “You can either shop early, expect to pay more, or just embrace scarcity.” — Bloomberg

    While the middle class is told to learn to live with scarcity. the Political Class is boarding private jets to attend “Climate Change Conferences.”

    Our Revolutionary Vanguard is working so hard for the people that they deserve the extra special treatment.

    • #7
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jon,

    Well said. The left’s obsession with living smaller, living poorer, accepting less has always rubbed me the wrong way.

    I remember getting off a flight from the UK once and overhearing a British woman exclaim, as she looked out the airport windows at the cars driving past, “The cars are so big!”

    Cars, homes, stores — dreams. America is big. Let America stay big.

    Brandon and his puny vision can pound salt.

    The weird thing is that I’m naturally pretty ascetic…. until the government orders me to be. Then it’s Team Super Big Gulps and Cadillac Escalades.

    This one reminds me of one of my favorite P.J. O’Rourke quotes:  “We’re three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother’s side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn’t give us room to park our cars.”

    The rest of the quote is just a good, but way out of CoC bounds.

    • #8
  9. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    “Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.” — Washington Post

    “America is running out of everything because Americans are buying so much stuff.” — Business Insider

    “You can either shop early, expect to pay more, or just embrace scarcity.” — Bloomberg

    While the middle class is told to learn to live with scarcity. the Political Class is boarding private jets to attend “Climate Change Conferences.”

    Our Revolutionary Vanguard is working so hard for the people that they deserve the extra special treatment.

    Nanct P’s ice cream stash.  Just in case times get tough.  

    • #9
  10. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    My ancestors worked very hard so that I, my children, and my grandchildren could live with more abundance than they had. The president (and his handlers) and the media insult my ancestors by saying their work should be undermined. 

    • #10
  11. davenr321 Coolidge
    davenr321
    @davenr321

    Is This Tomorrow?

    • #11
  12. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Well said. The left’s obsession with living smaller, living poorer, accepting less has always rubbed me the wrong way.

    They want you to be living smaller, living poorer, accepting less. That leaves more of the pie for them. A lot more. Look at Hugo Chavez’s daughter. She’s the richest person in Venezuela. That’s the vision the tech barons have for the US – with them as the aristocrats and lots and lots of peasants to look down on.

    • #12
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Well said. The left’s obsession with living smaller, living poorer, accepting less has always rubbed me the wrong way.

    They want you to be living smaller, living poorer, accepting less. That leaves more of the pie for them. A lot more. Look at Hugo Chavez’s daughter. She’s the richest person in Venezuela. That the vision the tech barons have for the US – with them as the aristocrats and lots and lots of peasants to look down on.

    Yes. 

    That is what they want. More for them, and even if they don’t get more, they want others to have less to make what they have feel like more.

    • #13
  14. John Davey Member
    John Davey
    @JohnDavey

    Even though I was only ten years old in 1977, I have a vivid memory of the the era, and the general tone set by the administration. When Carter insisted two years later in 1979 that the country was mired in a “Crisis of Confidence” – he never said malaise  in  the address to the country – and even then, my now twelve year old peers understood that malaise was exactly what the course, the goal, that the President had set us – had proscribed – two years early. 

    There’s a segment of society – left and right – that exists only to wallow in outrage and misery. Solutions to concerns and problems are never the goal – the objective is to bring everyone else into their bleakness. We all must suffer to bring purpose and joy to these malaise-ists. 

    I’m reminded of the plaintive wail of Annie Wilkes in the novel/film Misery, when she lashes out at author Paul Sheldon;

    You killed my Misery!

    I hope, that like in 1980, that there’s a groundswell of people with a desire for optimism – an eye on a brighter horizon. “Killed my Misery?” Lord, let’s hope so. 

    • #14
  15. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    John Davey (View Comment):

    Even though I was only ten years old in 1977, I have a vivid memory of the the era, and the general tone set by the administration. When Carter insisted two years later in 1979 that the country was mired in a “Crisis of Confidence” – he never said malaise in the address to the country – and even then, my now twelve year old peers understood that malaise was exactly what the course, the goal, that the President had set us – had proscribed – two years early.

    There’s a segment of society – left and right – that exists only to wallow in outrage and misery. Solutions to concerns and problems are never the goal – the objective is to bring everyone else into their bleakness. We all must suffer to bring purpose and joy to these malaise-ists.

    I’m reminded of the plaintive wail of Annie Wilkes in the novel/film Misery, when she lashes out at author Paul Sheldon;

    You killed my Misery!

    I hope, that like in 1980, that there’s a groundswell of people with a desire for optimism – an eye on a brighter horizon. “Killed my Misery?” Lord, let’s hope so.

    Sounds like we’re the same age. I remember waiting in gas lines for 3-4 hours with my dad. Cars in front of us kept running out of gas and we’d push them to the pump.

    • #15
  16. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee
    @RobertELee

    The problem is the Republicans have no one to run against Harris. And we don’t need another Reagan, the president who brought income tax to social security. (I mean, you take taxes, you give it back, you tax what you give back. Does that make sense? The admin costs alone are worth more than the aggregation.) If Republicans have a plan more tha piss and moan, I haven’t seen it.

    • #16
  17. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    They forget that this is a consumer-based economy. That’s a good thing.

    I wonder where these clowns think tax dollars come from.

    Well, of course, there’s the wealth tax I’m sure they are drooling over whereby taxpayers pay for things they own and have already paid taxes on.

    • #17
  18. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    They’re so fargin’ bad at this. Everything has to be blue skies and daisies, so any attempt to describe what everyone knows triggers instant Baghdad-bob mode. At least Carter was telling us we had to pay for the sin of expecting to be Americans; they’re telling us we should be grateful and happy with our itchy new hair shirts, because it’s a sign of how fantastic everything is, and also it’s a moment to contemplate on how choice and abundance are false gods.

    If you have airy bong-session blatherations with your fellow Beltway lemoras about the idiocy of 32 brands of deodorant, and style yourself a good egalitarian who’s down with Bernie and all that but also just closed on an awesome townhouse in Georgetown (the guv gig doesn’t pay that much, but the wife does lobbying for the Chlorine Institute and makes boocoo lettuce), you’ve prepared your mind for laughing at the trogs in the “heartland” who order a treadmill, because they brought it on themselves eating Cinnabon at the frickin’ mall, and they’ll probably end up using the treadmill to hang wet sweaters just out of the wash in a few months. 

    I suspect Ms. Psaki has access to a fully-functional treadmill. If it breaks, there are ten others in a row next to it. The gym membership is a perk of the job. 

    • #18
  19. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    GlennAmurgis (View Comment):

    The same people don’t worry running out of Rare Earth metals for Solar Panels

    And batteries for their electric cars.

     

    • #19
  20. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Cranking down on what is available through freedom, free markets, i.e.  centralization of power, whether government or private sector enhances the leverage of those who control allocation of stuff and that group inevitably shrinks as leverage increases and the civilization that fosters it dies, or just rots and becomes mostly irrelevant.  Nobody choses this, it just happens as folks pursue their own interests.   If it’s not guided by a fairly simple set of firm rules it happens, has always happened and is happening again now in the only place that figured out how to avoid it. 

    • #20
  21. carcat74 Member
    carcat74
    @carcat74

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jon,

    Well said. The left’s obsession with living smaller, living poorer, accepting less has always rubbed me the wrong way.

    I remember getting off a flight from the UK once and overhearing a British woman exclaim, as she looked out the airport windows at the cars driving past, “The cars are so big!”

    Cars, homes, stores — dreams. America is big. Let America stay big.

    Brandon and his puny vision can pound salt.

    The weird thing is that I’m naturally pretty ascetic…. until the government orders me to be. Then it’s Team Super Big Gulps and Cadillac Escalades.

    Mine is diet, and I prefer a red Dodge Durango R/T with the big Hemi, 4 wheel drive, and all the other goodies….

     

    • #21
  22. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The statists are always throwing parties to celebrate the end of innovation and economic growth.  Overpopulation:  We have peaked in food production and all other technologies and therefore we will decide how dwindling resources are allocated and even who gets to have kids.  Climate Change/Peak Oil:  The party’s over SUV owners.  Get on the bus, move back into the city and wear more sweaters.  

    Socialism can be explained thusly: 

    Allan got straight A’s in high school, went to a highly rated college, then got a Ph.D. in some “critical studies” area, and then got tenure at a so-so college.  His high school classmate Bob got mostly C’s and B’s, became a plumber’s apprentice, then a successful plumbing contracting business, then opened a plumbing wholesale supply business which now has locations all over the tri-state area.  The Governor, both Senators, and most of the state’s congressional delegation all know who Bob is and he is invited to weigh in on issues affecting business and employment.  Allan once got an opinion piece published in Vox, has 632 Twitter followers and nobody of importance much cares what he thinks about issues. 

    Modern socialism is about making sure this outcome never happens and that Allan, not Bob has influence.  And that outcome cannot be achieved if innovation, market forces, and economic growth are permitted to operate and function freely.  Change, growth, incentives for creating value all have to be stopped.

    • #22
  23. carcat74 Member
    carcat74
    @carcat74

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    “Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations.” — Washington Post

    “America is running out of everything because Americans are buying so much stuff.” — Business Insider

    “You can either shop early, expect to pay more, or just embrace scarcity.” — Bloomberg

    While the middle class is told to learn to live with scarcity. the Political Class is boarding private jets to attend “Climate Change Conferences.”

    And flying illegal invaders into the country after dark… I like Ted Cruz’s bill—send them to the high rent zipcode for ‘processing’….

    • #23
  24. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    I’m going to lunch soon in my GT350 (526hp, about 17 mpg).  Later I’ll drive my V10 truck (about 11 mpg).  And last night we operated all of our firefighting equipment: 4 diesel trucks of various sizes and three gas powered trucks.  And a diesel Kubota UTV.  I’m doing my part for fossil fuels.  

    • #24
  25. John Davey Member
    John Davey
    @JohnDavey

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    John Davey (View Comment):

    Even though I was only ten years old in 1977, I have a vivid memory of the the era, and the general tone set by the administration. When Carter insisted two years later in 1979 that the country was mired in a “Crisis of Confidence” – he never said malaise in the address to the country – and even then, my now twelve year old peers understood that malaise was exactly what the course, the goal, that the President had set us – had proscribed – two years early.

    There’s a segment of society – left and right – that exists only to wallow in outrage and misery. Solutions to concerns and problems are never the goal – the objective is to bring everyone else into their bleakness. We all must suffer to bring purpose and joy to these malaise-ists.

    I’m reminded of the plaintive wail of Annie Wilkes in the novel/film Misery, when she lashes out at author Paul Sheldon;

    You killed my Misery!

    I hope, that like in 1980, that there’s a groundswell of people with a desire for optimism – an eye on a brighter horizon. “Killed my Misery?” Lord, let’s hope so.

    Sounds like we’re the same age. I remember waiting in gas lines for 3-4 hours with my dad. Cars in front of us kept running out of gas and we’d push them to the pump.

    Filling my Dad’s 1976 Ford Supercab with the 360CI -big block with small block displacement and power- that averaged about 9 MPG, was a treat! An ill-timed purchase if there ever was. My Uncle was an electrician in a small Northern California Foothill town that had a contract to wire the last major dam constructed in California in the 70s – New Melones. His company rapidly expanded, to the point that he had to put a huge fuel tank on his property to keep his small fleet of work trucks fueled. My Dad would routinely ‘top off’ his new 76 Supercab from my uncle’s tank which only had regular leaded fuel, even though his new truck took unleaded – it beat the lines at the stations along HWY49 – most of which had no fuel available at all.

    • #25
  26. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Modern socialism is about making sure this outcome never happens and that Allan, not Bob has influence.

    The pursuit of leftism makes absolutely no sense unless you consider this motivating factor. 

    I hope there’s more to leftism than this, but I can’t imagine what it might be…

    • #26
  27. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Modern socialism is about making sure this outcome never happens and that Allan, not Bob has influence.

    The pursuit of leftism makes absolutely no sense unless you consider this motivating factor.

    I hope there’s more to leftism than this, but I can’t imagine what it might be…

    Marx was not a great economist but better than the moderns in some respects (e.g., he thought wage and price controls would never work).  But his biggest flaw (shared by all lefties) was to take the existing economy as a given without the slightest curiosity about what brought it into being.  The factories, the mines, the distribution system were like rocks or oceans–already there of their own accord waiting to be properly divvied up.  Incentives, innovation, adaptation, evolution were trivialities easily replaced by proper planning.

    • #27
  28. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Most of our political class don’t actually want to make America more prosperous or help the poor.  They want to enrich themselves and become more powerful, favoring their specific group over all.

    If Democrats actually wanted to improve infrastructure, there are vast numbers of bridges and highways that need work.  Worried about Climate Change?  Why not build sea walls and flood protection in coastal cities, and do an Operation Warp Speed project to get new nuclear plants up and running.  Wind and Solar are not reliable – we all know this.  At least the CCC under FDR actually built things people could use later.

    What we got was feminists complaining that supporting actual infrastructure would give jobs to burly men, and environmentalist who don’t want a better source of clean power, because cheap energy is bad.  These people disgust me.  I try to tell my technophile  futurist friends that the Democrats would hate living in a Star Trek utopian future because their enemies are not suffering and they are not lording it over the peasants.

    • #28
  29. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The statists are always throwing parties to celebrate the end of innovation and economic growth. Overpopulation: We have peaked in food production and all other technologies and therefore we will decide how dwindling resources are allocated and even who gets to have kids. Climate Change/Peak Oil: The party’s over SUV owners. Get on the bus, move back into the city and wear more sweaters.

    Socialism can be explained thusly:

    Allan got straight A’s in high school, went to a highly rated college, then got a Ph.D. in some “critical studies” area, and then got tenure at a so-so college. His high school classmate Bob got mostly C’s and B’s, became a plumber’s apprentice, then a successful plumbing contracting business, then opened a plumbing wholesale supply business which now has locations all over the tri-state area. The Governor, both Senators, and most of the state’s congressional delegation all know who Bob is and he is invited to weigh in on issues affecting business and employment. Allan once got an opinion piece published in Vox, has 632 Twitter followers and nobody of importance much cares what he thinks about issues.

    Modern socialism is about making sure this outcome never happens and that Allan, not Bob has influence. And that outcome cannot be achieved if innovation, market forces, and economic growth are permitted to operate and function freely. Change, growth, incentives for creating value all have to be stopped.

    Brilliant description. I see this too. 

    • #29
  30. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Most of our political class don’t actually want to make America more prosperous or help the poor. They want to enrich themselves and become more powerful, favoring their specific group over all.

    If Democrats actually wanted to improve infrastructure, there are vast numbers of bridges and highways that need work. Worried about Climate Change? Why not build sea walls and flood protection in coastal cities, and do an Operation Warp Speed project to get new nuclear plants up and running. Wind and Solar are not reliable – we all know this. At least the CCC under FDR actually built things people could use later.

    What we got was feminists complaining that supporting actual infrastructure would give jobs to burly men, and environmentalist who don’t want a better source of clean power, because cheap energy is bad. These people disgust me. I try to tell my technophile futurist friends that the Democrats would hate living in a Star Trek utopian future because their enemies are not suffering and they are not lording it over the peasants.

    Their utopian future includes ramping up the number of abortions and, if possible, mass sterilization.  

    • #30