03 December 2021 ⚡️ What's causing inflation? Might it be record profits?
A jaundiced view on Wednesday's SCOTUS news; a question for the NRA; US reported the most daily COVID cases since September 15th and about 1,800 deaths
The past few weeks, TV news and newspapers have run lots of stories on inflation.
On the political pundit side, those stories have a common theme: inflation up, Biden approval down. What seems totally missing from mainstream news (per Google News search) is this week’s report from Bloomberg:
CEOS have argued that labor costs are the problem, which is contradicted by record profit margins. Although total employee compensation is 12% more than this time last year, the compensation leap is due in part to millions of Americans working today who weren’t working then. Plus, many got a raise. However, author Charles Hugh Smith points out that a compensation increase is long overdue:
[C]apital has dominated labor for 40+ years, siphoning $50 trillion from labor. This cycle has now turned and the rebalancing is underway: it’s capital’s turn to surrender gains and power.
Corporate profits are at record levels, due in no small part to the Trump-McConnell tax cuts.
Inflation is a measure of rising prices. However, news reports present inflation as a corporate response to factors beyond their control. Inflation, meet record profits plus market concentration:
Just before Thanksgiving, CNN noted that “[b]reakfast is going to be more expensive next year.” General Mills “notified retail customers [e.g., grocery chains] that … prices will go up by around 20% beginning next year [for some items] … The company is the latest consumer manufacturer to announce price hikes beginning next year, joining Tyson, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez, Procter & Gamble, Kimberly Clark and others.”
General Mills owns more than 100 brands that are sold in 100 countries:
Baking goods such as Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Gold Medal, Pillsbury
Cereals such as Cheerios (partners with Nestle), Lucky Charms, Total, Wheaties
Ice cream: Haagen-Dazs
Pet: Blue Buffalo
Pizza: Annie’s and Torino’s/Jeno’s
Snacks: Bugles, Fruit Snacks, Natural Valley
Soups: Annie’s and Progresso
Vegetables: Cascadian Farm, Green Giant and Muir Glen
Yogurt such as Annie’s and Yoplait
To get a feel for market concentration, look at the brands of flour in your grocery store. My local Kroger (Fred Meyer) sells the following: Bisquick, Gold Medal, and Pillsbury (all General Mills, annual sales $18 billion) plus Bob’s Red Mill (employee-owned, annual sales $500 million), King Arthur (privately owned, annual sales <$500 million), Simple Truth Organic (Kroger brand) and the generic Kroger flour.
Cake mixes? Betty Crocker and Pillsbury (General Mills) plus Bob’s Red Mill, Duncan Hines (Conagra Brands, privately held, sales $11 billion), Krusteaz (Continental Mills, annual sales <$500 million) and Simple Truth Organic.
Not really much of a choice when you look at ownership, is there?
The chair of the Federal Reserve has opined that supply bottlenecks, which are temporary, have contributed to increased prices. But market concentration is the more critical structural (systemic) reason.
😡 Wednesday’s news that didn’t make the news
While announcing Chris Cuomo’s indefinite suspension, Anderson Cooper was sitting next to Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin returned to CNN in June from an “indefinite suspension” (considerably less than a year). In a just world, Toobin would have been tried, fined, jailed per GA public indecency laws.
CNN cannot out-FOX FOX News although it looks like it will go to a grave of irresponsibility giving it the college try. White men bailing out White men. I understand why people retreat to sitcoms, booze, and the like.
☠️ A question for the NRA
How are you going to spin this one?
For those who have not read her letter (blog post) to Trump, it’s archived.
🦠 Omicron/COVID-19 update
At the Antwerp Zoo, two hippos (Hermien and Imani) have tested positive for the coronavirus. This is the first hippopotamus infection in the world.
The Cook Islands has its first COVID19 case after a repatriation flight; the 10-year-old is in the island’s quarantine facility. All passengers were double vaccinated and had a negative test before boarding.
On Friday, the United States reported the most daily cases of COVID-19 since September 15. Only 11 cases were Omicron; 157,500 were Delta. There were nearly 1,800 deaths.
Important: “While breakthroughs might be more common with this variant than others it’s likely going to be the vaccine is still able to protect us against what matters [hospitalization],” Dr. Amesh Adalja, Johns Hopkins, said in response to cases being identified in Maryland.
Five cases of Omicron in California have been linked to a wedding in Wisconsin. All were fully vaccinated and had boosters. None have been hospitalized.
Norway appears to home to the the world’s first Omicron superspreader event.
At a company party of 120 in Oslo last Friday, one person had recently returned from South Africa and turned out to be positive for Omicron despite having a negative test. Of the 120 healthy fully vaccinated individuals who showed a negative test to attend the event, 80-90 are PCR positive. “So far 13 Omicron cases have been confirmed after sequencing. More cases are expected,” the city of Oslo confirmed in a written statement.
“Our working hypothesis is that at least half of the 120 participants were infected with the Omicron variant during the party. This makes this, for now, the largest Omicron outbreak outside South Africa…”
The outbreak took place at a Christmas party on Nov. 26 organised by renewable energy company Scatec , which has operations in South Africa where the variant was first detected.
In addition, Preben Aavitsland, a senior physician at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, told Reuters that two people from Norway’s west coast and two people in quarantine at the Oslo airport are Omicron positive.
🤓 Recommended reading
Rand Paul’s anti-mask falsehoods, Washington Post Fact Checker
On Thursday, two Georgia election workers, who were falsely accused last year by Trump allies and right-wing news sites of manipulating ballots, have filed a defamation lawsuit against The Gateway Pundit.
The Canadian news industry expects Google and Facebook to begin paying publishers CA$100-150m a year as Canada prepares to implement Australia-like regulation in 2022.
👓 See COVID-19 resource collection at WiredPen / See all newsletters
👓 See primary news sources