Americans hate lack, but it's here (to stay?)
Plus: Money and mud will define Georgia's nasty Senate race
In Russia, a babushka walks into a grocery and sees a dozen eggs selling for $5. “Five dollars for a dozen eggs! That’s robbery. I can get them for $3 at the place down the street.”
“Why don’t you buy them down the street, then?” asks the grocer.
“They don’t have any!” says the babushka.
“No problem,” answers the grocer. “When I don’t have any, I’ll sell them to you for $3.”
Russians are used to lack. In Soviet days, long lines for bread, meat, and other staples were common. Even in the last 30 years since communism, outside of big cities, many Russians have to wait to get things. Dealing with lack is built in to Russian culture. America is the opposite.
The most productive country on earth, with the most demanding consumers on the planet, must have things now, in stock, on the shelves, and no waiting. We must have an abundance. Amazon must deliver, same day! When that doesn’t happen, we Americans get rather upset.
I had a plumbing problem to solve at work the other day, and all we needed was some 1-1/2” pipe, fittings, and a 90 degree elbow for a water supply line (no, it couldn’t be PVC because this is a high pressure commercial line). It took the plumber most of a day hunting around metro Atlanta to find those items, in a city of several million people. I was very unhappy that a 30-minute job extended to 24-hours for lack of such simple parts. For a whole day, three shifts of production workers had to trek across a parking lot in the Georgia heat to use the bathroom. In most countries that aren’t America, this would be life-as-normal, but here it’s a catastrophe.
The supply chain disruptions affecting our nation are causing rolling lack of items, and occasionally, it hits something critical. A month ago it was baby formula. Today it’s tampons. I can’t think of a more damaging thing to run out of in the modern world. At risk of trolling transgender-rights activists, trans-women who were born men don’t need tampons, and never will. This particular biological problem won’t harm them. Nor will it particularly harm male gay married couples, or incels. But for biological pre-menopausal, non-birth control females, and male companions or spouses of those females, this is IRL catastrophic.
For women, the price of Playtex, Tampax, Always, or store-brand tampons becomes as irrelevant as the babushka’s egg price when there’s nothing on the shelves. And I think you know what happens on a hot Georgia day when ten thousand women don’t have their needed hygiene items, right? The world ends. Restaurants stop serving, clinics have long lines, cats and dogs live together, and fire rains from the heavens.
Also, if your air conditioner is struggling, you might not be able to get it repaired. I’ve personally heard horror stories from HVAC people of parts that simply don’t exist in the U.S., and factories that can’t even give a date when more will be made. Sometimes a suitable replacement part (if you’re willing to have a single-speed fan versus variable, for instance) can be improvised. But sometimes the coil is dead and there’s no new coil. You might have to fork over thousands (for businesses, tens or hundreds of thousands) for a new AC system because the old one can’t be fixed. Either that, or live with the heat.
Cars are still in short supply. The Kia dealer where I get my EV6 serviced had no cars in the showroom and two cars on the lot the last time I was there. They might get one or two trucks a month and everything on them is generally pre-sold or gone within a week. This dealer’s owner also owns the largest Kia dealer in the nation—it’s not like he can’t get allocations. I have to assume it’s this way for many brands. And many new cars are headed for fleets, not the dealer’s lot.
GM says it’s “selling every truck it can build.” Ford’s F-150 Lightning EV is sold out for the next two years, at least, while the company has had to cut production at three more U.S. plants due to supply shortages. If your older car has problems with “brakes, air conditioning units, suspension parts, clear windows, oil, oil filters, or motors,” you may have to wait for repairs, or find another way to get around.
“Typically, if we were to order a wiring harness, we would have one in two days. Now, it could be three to four months,” Kirby Witt, owner of Team Witt Customs and Restorations, said.
That goes double for trucks. Thieves are stealing the powertrain control modules from parked Freightliner and Western Star trucks, leaving the tractors dead.
In one theft in April, thieves stole modules from 24 trucks awaiting sale at an auction yard in Pennsylvania, Daimler said. A large number of other thefts have occurred at dealerships and customer terminals. Daimler said it is aware of about 175 thefts to date.
These trucks cannot be fixed because there’s no parts to fix them, so they’re off the road. Less trucks, less drivers, less goods delivered, and that means less goodies for us at the stores, like plumbing fittings, tampons, and air conditioning coils.
If you fly commercially, airlines are suffering a pilot shortage. This is generally a cyclic thing, but in the middle of this supply chain mess, it’s making life harder.
Airlines have been on pilot hiring sprees since last year when travel demand began to bounce back from Covid pandemic lows. But a persistent shortage of pilots is still hindering growth at a time of strong demand, prompting airlines to park jets that serve smaller cities. Part of the problem is that airlines encouraged pilots to take early retirement after demand cratered in 2020 and were left with too few when travel rebounded.
Oh, and remember how the pandemic killed the car rental industry? Hertz basically died, and had to remake itself. But again, price is not the problem for business travelers. You simply can’t rent a car. Because there are none to rent. I talked to a businessman this week who had to fly into Omaha to get to Kansas City and then to Tulsa because there were no cars to rent in Kansas City and Tulsa, so he had to drive. This guy travels for a living and has the highest frequent-renter status at all the rental companies. None of them had any cars. He wasn’t going to Omaha, mind you. He had to go there because had he flown into Kansas City, he would have spent hundreds of dollars finding Ubers to get from place to place (if he could find an Uber). Hours spent driving are not productive time for a busy executive.
“They” have been saying for two years that the supply chain issues will work themselves out. Yet we still have lack. I think for the near future, and possibly for the medium-term future, the most productive country on earth will be dealing with lack. Lack of workers, lack of parts, lack of supplies, and lack of stuff on the shelves when we need it.
It’s no wonder we’re all angry at each other.
Warnock vs. Walker: Money and mud
Sen. Raphael Warnock’s half-brother was released from prison, after serving decades of a life sentence. Warnock spent years trying to get his brother sprung, claiming it was a conviction based on racial injustice.
The facts tell a different story: Warnock’s half-brother was a dirty cop, who assembled a group of dirty cops in Savannah, providing protection for a drug ring. But the drug ring was a federal sting, put in place after complaints of police corruption reached the FBI.
Warnock never mentioned that his half-brother was a dirty cop.
Herschel Walker has a mental health issue. Unlike Warnock, Walker us not a polished speaker with a Ph.D.
Both of these candidates lie and spout nonsense in what will become a particularly nasty Georgia Senate race. In my mind, neither of them is fit for the office. I’d much rather have David Perdue or Kelly Loeffler than either of them.
This race is going to be about money and mud. Lots of money, hundreds of millions of dollars between PACs, dark money, campaign war chests, and party cash. And since there’s little positive political history for a third-of-a-term freshman Senator with no prior political history, and a football hero who has never held office, this is all about which candidate is more repugnant to voters.
It’s going to be very nasty.
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