A smart move, and not just in terms of rational priorities. The White House may laugh off the supply chain crisis as a “high class problem,” but no one else is chuckling along with them. It ain’t all treadmills and Dior coats, after all:
Ugggh. The milk situation is still not great, Bob. At the Walmart in Thornton. pic.twitter.com/cFlkuNZjpZ
— Kelly Maher (@okmaher) October 20, 2021
Kevin McCarthy put together a statement from nearly the entire GOP caucus to Joe Biden, asking him to drop the reconciliation bill and instead focus on the broken logistics for consumer goods and business investment. Reuters calls the reconciliation bill an “economic revival package” even while Biden insists that the supply-chain crisis is an outcome of economic revival:
A group of 160 Republican lawmakers said addressing supply chain woes that have dramatically slowed the manufacture and shipment of goods around the United States must be fixed before considering new spending on social programs, according to a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
“We urge you to call on your congressional allies to halt discussions on a budget reconciliation bill that aims to reshape the social fabric of this country and instead work on real infrastructure solutions that focus on moving goods and people safely and efficiently,” said the letter signed by lawmakers including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Representative Sam Graves, the ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and others.
The White House did not immediately comment.
Democrats in Congress and the White House are negotiating over the scope of an economic revival package, a multitrillion-dollar, two-bill legislative package that expands social safety net programs and infrastructure spending.
Biden’s pretending he already fixed the supply-chain crisis by attempting to get a few overnight shifts at the ports, but the problem is much more complex than port access. Thanks to a decades-long reliance on Just In Time strategies, we have only enough warehouse and shipping capacity to deal with normal demand, not in big spikes of shipments such as we are seeing at the moment. Our train, truck, and warehouse “infrastructure” does not have anywhere near the capacity to deal with severely backlogged shipping. It’s not the ports, or at least it’s not just the ports, and adding shifts and OT pay won’t solve the problem.
The milk issue above from my pal Kelly Maher shows just how pervasive this logistics crisis is. Milk gets domestically produced, but it still has to go into containers that may not be manufactured domestically, or may use raw materials that don’t get produced in the US. The logistics chain that has enough capacity to ship all those materials in complicated sequences in normal operation breaks down when it has to deal with sudden shortages, demand spikes, and producer backlogs.
To fix what got broken by all the shutdowns last year will take a concerted effort of resources, especially transport and storage resources that simply don’t exist. It will be costly and will take almost a wartime-logistics plan to succeed. That’s why this demand from Republicans to prioritize this issue makes lots of sense from a policy standpoint.
It’s also smart from a political standpoint. Trafalgar conducted a survey to see how visible this crisis has become to voters, and the impact is both significant and non-partisan:
A solid majority of Americans are feeling the impact of supply-chain shortages, and not just in treadmills and fancy coats either. Even among Democrats, 42% of respondents say they have personally experienced delays and shortages on “common consumer products” (48% say no). A majority of non-affiliated respondents (51/37) have been personally impacted by the supply-chain issues. The other demos show the breadth of the impact, especially in normally Dem-friendly demos:
- 18-24 YOs: 53/35
- 25-34 YOs: 60/33
- Women: 54/37
- Black: 41/42
- Hispanic: 40/47
Those are not numbers that will be improved by laughing at their experience in stores, regardless of what Jen Psaki thinks. This is a basic governance issue in America — access to consumer goods, especially staples. Democrats are trying to avoid it while Republicans want it prioritized. Which party will look like a rational governing party in the midterms, especially when Biden’s piecemeal and simplistic tweaks fail to get goods on the shelves?