The shelves pictured above are normally full of packages of chicken breasts, tenders, thighs, and drumsticks. On Friday they had none.
To be clear, the shelves at my local Publix supermarket in Coral Gables, Fla., were not partially or even mostly empty. Not a single package of any kind of raw chicken could be found, replaced instead by the sad signs blaming the problem on supplier production issues.
The scarcity went far beyond the poultry. Out of eight items on my grocery list (counting Spray ‘n Wash and Shout as two), only two were available and neither of those was exactly what I was looking for.
Here are the results of my mostly fruitless trip to the grocery store:
· Chicken breasts boneless x 2 – unavailable
· Coke Zero – unavailable in cans, limited availability in bottles
· Bloody Mary original mix – unavailable
· 2 packages of chicken thighs – unavailable
· 1 rotisserie chicken – unavailable
· Spray ‘n Wash – unavailable (no Shout either)
· Mrs. Smith’s Apple Pie – unavailable, but they had the crumb pie
No wonder the hashtag #BareShelvesBiden has trended on Twitter. Search for that and Twitter will provide you with pictures of empty shelves at every kind of grocery store, from the major supermarket chains to Target and mom-and-pop stores.
The land of plenty has suddenly started reminding me of stores I’ve seen in Cuba and Venezuela. Of course, the U.S. is nowhere near that and most of the world would envy the copious quantities of food and other products we do have available.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has triggered a perfect storm, but Biden administration policies and the government’s delayed reaction to inflation and supply-chain issues have certainly contributed to the problem.
What Else Is Going Wrong for the White House?
I didn’t think that Biden could have a worse week than one I wrote about in September, but the past few days arguably were.
Aside from the supply-chain crisis, here’s a partial list of what’s gone wrong:
· The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index surged by 7% year-over-year in December, the fastest pace since 1982 and a slight increase from November’s 6.8%.
· Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday fell flat as he failed to convince senators in his own party to change filibuster rules to pass a voting rights bill.
· Even left-leaning magazines like Teen Vogue are publishing op-eds criticizing White House COVID messaging, arguing that comments from officials are “offensive, patronizing, and counterproductive.”
· Sen. Tim Kaine, a former Democratic vice-presidential candidate, said Sunday that Biden’s Build Back Better plan is “dead.”
· The National Retail Federation reported Friday that retail sales, the motor of the economy, fell 1.9% from November to December, likely affected by higher prices, shortages, and the pandemic.
All sorts of alarm bells must be ringing at the White House especially after the Qunnipiac survey showed Biden’s approval rating at a stunningly low 33%. Biden officials dismissed it as an “outlier,” but the RealClear Politics average of polls has the president’s approval rating at a still dismal 41.6%.
According to Quinnipiac, Biden gets very low approval numbers for his handling of the economy (34%), foreign policy (35%), and COVID (39%).
A CBS News/YouGov survey released Sunday, Jan. 16, confirms much of this, indicating that most Americans believe the Biden administration has not focused enough on the economy and inflation. A mere 26% of those surveyed think things in the country are going well. However, this poll found Biden had a 44% approval rating.
What About Republicans?
The GOP may want to avoid crowing about what’s going on in the country as the midterms approach. First, it’s not a good look to appear as if you’re celebrating empty shelves and higher prices. Second, Republicans have got their own problems.
While the country appears focused on the economy and COVID, many Republicans continue to obsessively talk about “Stop the Steal.” But the Quinnipiac survey indicates that 57% of Americans do not believe widespread voter fraud existed in the 2020 election, while only 34% think it did. That's not a recipe for gaining independent voters.
The 1/6 attack on the Capitol also remains a serious issue, with a substantial majority of Americans thinking U.S. democracy is in danger of collapsing. Americans by a 61%-33% margin support the congressional investigation into 1/6 that Republicans leaders oppose.
And the lingering support for former President Donald Trump could also pose problems for the GOP. When Quinnipiac asked about how much responsibility he bears for the storming of the Capitol, 43% say Trump bears a lot of responsibility for it, 18% some responsibility, 16% not much responsibility, and 20% say none at all.
As I’m sure you have heard, ad nauseam, that the party in power almost always loses seats in midterm elections. That’s especially true when the president has low approval ratings.
We have a long way to go before the November balloting and much can change. Americans may start realizing that the economy is in better shape than most of them give it credit for; the unemployment rate is back near historic lows; if inflation cools down, Americans may feel more flush with cash thanks to wage gains; and it’s possible the pandemic will burn itself out.
Unfortunately for Biden, those are lots of “ifs.” Unless they become reality, this winter of discontent may be remembered as the good old days when compared to a winter where he has lost control of both chambers of Congress.
Cover photo: Empty shelves at Publix supermarket in Coral Gables, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Antonio Mora)
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