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Jacobin - December 6, 2021

As banks notch record profits, executives are finding ways to “juice” their salaries. There’s a 20 to 30 percent “private jet inflation” caused by booming demand from rich people who saw their wealth soar during the pandemic. Rich people have so much spare cash laying around they are buying digital art for tens of millions of dollars, creating new speculative bubbles. Corporations are seeing their largest profits since 1950 (and still jacking up prices of essentials). Over the last forty years, the top 1 percent have seen income gains far outpacing inflation, while workers’ wages have flatlined.

Inflation is punching far above its weight in the minds of Americans immersed in louder and louder media alarms about rising prices — often stripped of any context or policy prescriptions that might complicate the narrative, embarrass the rich, or spotlight the predatory business practices of wildly profitable corporations.

Have you noticed that all the media fearmongering about wage inflation hasn’t mentioned the soaring salaries of corporate executives?

Have you noticed how most of the headlines about price increases haven’t mentioned medicine, health insurance, and housing prices that have been skyrocketing for years?

Have you noticed that stories about expensive essential goods don’t mention the record profits of the companies selling them?

That’s not an accident. The discourse is being rigged and manipulated by media and political voices so that the conversation serves the business interests and donors benefiting from the status quo.

Make no mistake, higher prices are annoying, and for 70 percent of households with an annual income below $40,000, they are causing financial hardship. For some people, the rate of inflation has outpaced wage increases. But the bottom 60 percent of earners have more money in their pockets than they did pre-pandemic, even after accounting for inflation, when wage increases and government programs like COVID relief checks and the Child Tax Credit are included. That spending successfully cut poverty nearly in half.

Why is inflation overshadowing these positive indicators? In part, it’s because — as social scientists have long observed — people tend to have a negative gut reaction to increased prices, since they don’t intuitively connect inflation to increasing wages or aforementioned government benefits that may contribute to inflation.

That lack of context is exacerbated by corporate media.

Like the pundit freakout over worker shortages last summer, the conversation about inflation is being driven by corporate lobbying groups like the US Chamber of Commerce, whose self-serving talking points are echoed across the mediascape — and amplified by ever-more cartoonish sensationalism.

Instead of reporting context, corporate media is busy finding families that drink forty-eight gallons of milk a month to talk about milk inflation (which, by the way, was higher a decade ago) or people who drive older Cadillac Escalades to talk about gas prices (which were also higher a decade ago). Corporate media outlets are also falsely predicting food and labor shortages, writing stories based on the inflation concerns of anonymous CEOs, and falsely claiming that inflation is being caused by wage increases for rank-and-file workers.

As a result, even though people think the job market is better than it’s been in decades, consumer confidence is plummeting — likely due to price increases largely caused by sector-specific shortages and a global energy crisis, according to a Conference Board Consumer Confidence survey. Meanwhile, even though people are spending no more of their income on gas than pre-pandemic, and far less on gas than a decade ago, President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings seem inextricably tied to rising gas prices over the past ten months. ...
Read full report at Jacobin