Don't Like High Prices? | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

Don't Like High Prices? 

Taking a Gander: Blame showbiz

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I am the eternal optimist. I have lived my life with a constant expectation that—despite the temporary setbacks and glitches in our complicated world—everything is going to be fine. I have embraced the positive and rejected the prophets of doom who would have us believe that "the end is nigh."

But now, at the end of each day, I must shake my head, stop and pinch myself, and audibly ask the question, "Can this really be happening?" And I don't have to be any kind of expert in human emotion and behavior to assume that my fellow travelers on the planet are doing exactly the same—well, that is, everyone but those who wallow in the insane, ill-gotten profits directly derived from the misery of their fellow Americans and world neighbors.

Between the horrors of the Trump administration and its divisive aftermath, the COVID pandemic, the brutal Russian invasion of a peaceful neighbor, the crumbling of the Founding Fathers' mandated division between church and state, the politicization of the Supreme Court and the horrifying inflationary burden now crushing America's families, there's plenty to worry about. I'm not sure there's been any time during the U.S.A.'s short history when so many people have been so beset by worry.

While the horrors of out-of-control inflation, threats to world peace and health risks can't help but shake my ability to believe that everything's going to turn out OK, I'm still clinging to that fading concept—that our world will go on, and that it can still be a wonderful place to live.

That said, I've been asking myself when all the present madness began. What events and people have brought us to this present explosion of health, political, and economic woes? There's no question that our world—not just our own country—is temporarily spiraling out of control.

Those, like myself—the mostly incurable optimists—are having to do a double-take, understanding that our civilization is not exactly our own heaven-on-earth. The perception that "all is well" is being broken by the hard realities. No one knows when it will end.

Over a very short period of time, runaway inflation has dinged the average American family by a whopping $500 per month—just for the necessities. With oil and food prices soaring, we're all wondering when it will end—and trying to make sense of the factors that are causing this economic disaster. It's no different with our world neighbors.

Sure, big business will tell us: The financial burdens in our lives are the result of the pandemic and the Ukraine invasion. The behemoths of business claim that the current shortages and astronomical price increases were caused by market factors, and that everything economically-bad is about supply and demand. That all makes sense.

And yet, I suspect it's a lie.

We've been fed a whopping mouthful of B.S. about oil supplies being short, yet while Americans are paying gasoline prices that are 250% above 2020 rates, President Joe Biden has been selling our excess oil from the Strategic Reserve to other countries. At the same time, the oil giants of our world have increased their profits to the highest in history.

Now, I realize that it's one big world, but it certainly seems that if there's plenty of oil here, Americans should have the benefit of reasonable pricing. The reality is that our country is still a net exporter of oil, yet gasoline prices are crushing our families.

While we may find the current transportation and distribution issues credible, it's likely that U.S. business has simply decided the current situation is a license to steal. Without the long-enforced antitrust regulations to protect the consumer, there's no reason for the mega-corporations to stop the assault on our wallets.

Big business has just found a handy-dandy excuse for lining its pockets with more gold. My take: The financial gouging of the world is only about the wealthy becoming wealthier. We hear a lot of excuses, but are any of them true? My guess is that the government partnership with big business has become public enemy no. 1.

When it comes to deregulation of mega-corporations—and the glaring failure of our government in enforcing antitrust and fair-trade practice legislation—we need only to look back 40 years to find a likely culprit. Ronald Reagan, celebrity and charmer that he was, literally dismantled almost 100 years of progress on controlling big business for the protection of the consumer.

In an effort to spur the economy, Reagan allowed the corporations to write their own tickets, giving them, in effect, the ability to print their own money. He deregulated stock buy-backs for corporate executives, allowed unfettered consolidations and mergers, encouraged out-sourcing of high-paying domestic jobs, got rid of long-standing tax write-offs for the middle class—particularly the deduction of interest paid on most types of loans—raided the coffers of the Social Security system to fund his government's excesses, quadrupled the national budget, effectively destroyed the power of the unions and preached a theory of "trickle-down economics" that simply didn't work.

Since Reagan, the taxes paid by our billionaires has dropped by almost 80%. His administration, despite his lovely warm smile, was one of the worst disasters our country has suffered.

Well, it's easy to find the culprits. But what we need now is to focus on solutions. There's no reason that corporate rape should be allowed to continue. It's time for our country to start enforcing the laws that were enacted to protect us, which means it's high time to reel in the corporate enemies of our country and our world.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He lives in Riverton, Utah with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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