WaPo op-ed: Don't complain about supply chain disruptions - lower your expectations

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

In Biden’s America, the Washington Post publishes op-eds advising Americans to stop complaining about supply shortages and disruptions in the supply chain. The suggestion offered is to just lower your expectations. Yes, really. Just accept it and move on with your life.

Such an op-ed appeared in the Washington Post in the Voices Across America page of the opinion section. The author of the piece lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and references her own experiences as she not so subtlety mentions she just happens to be writing a book loosely connected to her hot takes. I can’t help but think that if we were living during a Republican administration and experiencing the difficulties that many Americans are right now, she’d have a different opinion. Perhaps Team Biden is encouraging people to speak out and encourage Americans to pipe down. Hey, if Kamala can appear with a group of child actors without full disclosure, anything is possible with this administration.

She blames the pandemic for getting us to this place, which certainly plays a part but it isn’t the whole story.

But Taylor’s ideas didn’t take into account the havoc a pandemic might do to supply chains — and how that would blunt what a few months ago seemed like a looming resumption of modern daily life’s zippy pace.

Across the country, Americans’ expectations of speedy service and easy access to consumer products have been crushed like a Styrofoam container in a trash compactor. Time for some new, more realistic expectations.

Fast food is less fast. A huge flotilla of container ships is stuck offshore in California, waiting to unload. Shelves normally stocked with Halloween candy this time of year are empty, as I saw the other day at a Target here in Ann Arbor, Mich.

She notes that the White House has put out the call for unions and port operators to move to 24/7 operation in hopes of accelerating unloading cargo ships and moving goods for quicker distribution. The problem with that is the White House is asking something that can’t be carried out with the current labor shortages. There aren’t enough workers and truck drivers to do much more than they are doing right now. The author, Micheline Maynard, a contributing columnist, says Americans are pampered and unaccustomed to inconvenience.

Rather than living constantly on the verge of throwing a fit, and risking taking it out on overwhelmed servers, struggling shop owners or late-arriving delivery people, we’d do ourselves a favor by consciously lowering expectations.

I don’t know about where you live, but in Ann Arbor the luxury of blithely tapping on a phone and summoning a restaurant delivery that arrives in 45 minutes is over. There’s a shortage of food-delivery drivers nationwide. The sanity-preserving move is to assume an hour and half for delivery, and then a mere hour and 10 minutes is a pleasant surprise.

Here’s the thing, something like a shortage of delivery people is the result of this administration’s “free money” to workers who were unemployed due to the pandemic and then decided to remain at home instead of going back to work. They were making more from Uncle Sugar than from their employers. The checks have mostly stopped now, though, so local businesses have to find a way to recruit workers, usually with higher wages and better working conditions. It is not unusual that once businesses were able to resume more normal operations, consumers expected their orders to be delivered in a timely manner. Businesses like Instacart and other delivery services thrived during the pandemic and continue to do so because they filled a void when everyone was told to stay home, only shop when absolutely necessary. That’s capitalism, that’s the free market.

Perhaps the author should look for alternatives, maybe find food delivery services from local establishments eager for her business. There is no reason to lower expectations of good service. We mostly order food delivery from two locally-owned eating establishments in my area of town. One is an Italian place and the other is a Chinese restaurant. Our service has remained the same throughout the pandemic. We call them directly and don’t bother with a third-party delivery system. Are we pampered? Maybe but why not reward businesses who go the extra mile, especially locally-owned businesses?

The idea that everyone should just lower expectations is just counter to our American way of life. We are the United States of America, a first-world country. Generations of Americans have worked hard to bring us to our pampered lives, expecting convenience in our lives. Americans don’t settle. We strive for better. I would argue that while we are frustrated with shortages in stores and empty shelves making appearances again as they did at the beginning of the pandemic, we should not be expected to just shrug our shoulders and assume that this is the new normal. Recently I saw a tweet posted that referenced the old Soviet Union and bread lines. That twit said that bread lines weren’t any big deal, that the people enjoyed the sense of community as they stood in line. That is some really delusional rationale right there. Our country thrives because of capitalism, not in spite of it.

We can show patience with shortages experienced by merchants. We can substitute goods, going with a second or third choice over the first choice if necessary. But, don’t expect us to settle for this way of life. The supply chain disruption is an international problem yet it has been treated by this administration like it is an unexpected problem. Biden only last week addressed the cargo ships waiting off the coast of California. At some point, a person with logistics experience and an understanding of the industry should have been put in charge. The Secretary of Transportation was on paternity leave and it appeared that the Biden administration was ignoring the growing crisis. The administration has not shown itself to be serious about solving any of the crises we face – whether it is this crisis or the illegal migration crisis on the southern border or the growing threat of long-term inflation. We’ve been told that supply chain backlogs will last until next summer.

Lower our expectations? No. We expect our government to be able to pivot and find solutions, plan ahead, war game out any possible crisis on the horizon, and move accordingly. We were told if we voted for Joe Biden a return to normal would occur, the grown-ups with all the experience would be in charge. Unfortunately for all of us, this administration is incapable of handling crisis situations and there are those among us who are willing to tell us to just lower our expectations. Sorry, not sorry. That’s not going to happen. Can you imagine the press coverage and op-eds that would flow if cargo ship back-ups offshore and supply chain disruptions were happening during a Republican presidency?