What if we didn’t shop till we drop?
YES, THERE’S THAT big meal, with all the talk of gratitude and fellowship, as people gather tomorrow with family and friends. But for many, it also serves as the pregame, an exercise in day-before-the-marathon carbo-loading for retail enthusiasts. The race comes on Black Friday when victory goes to those up earliest and fastest on the draw, whether online or in-person, in securing untold amounts of stuff.
That urge to consume is now colliding with something US shoppers are not accustomed to: A scarcity of some items, or long delays in their availability, due to supply-chain constraints fueled by the pandemic.
And what a great development that is, some say.
“Store shelves are emptying, and it can take months to find a car, refrigerator, or sofa. If this continues, we may need to learn to do without — and, horrors, live more like the Europeans,” writes Allison Schrager, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, for Bloomberg Opinion. “That actually might not be a bad thing, because the US economy could be healthier if it were less reliant on consumption.”
Of course, supply chain problems – coupled with the rise of inflation – are serious issues when it comes to food and other essentials. But when it comes to Americans’ overall insatiable appetite for buying more, is it such a great thing to be able to proclaim, “We’re No. 1!” – especially when so many of those things are made elsewhere?
Household consumption makes up 67 percent of GDP in the US but only 50 percent in Germany, writes Schrager. We’re living in larger homes – with more space to fill – than we used to, she says, and 30 percent of US homes now have two refrigerators. Clothing purchases have increased five-fold since 1980, with the average item worn just seven times before being disposed of.
Of course, lots of things have become much cheaper – thanks to the same global supply chain that suddenly has some kinks in it. But whether that’s enough reason to go wild with Amazon Prime is the question.
As Massachusetts consumer advocate Janet Domenitz recently wrote in CommonWealth, a “Buy Nothing” movement has sprouted over the last decade as a reaction to consumerism gone wild.
Schrager says it’s not a matter of shunning economic growth but rather considering what kind of growth to pursue.
“Long-term, sustainable growth doesn’t come from going deep into debt to buy stuff we don’t really need. It comes from technology and innovation, where we come up with new products and better ways of doing things,” she writes. “Buying smart, while maintaining an openness to new things, can be the foundation of a more sustainable and growing economy.”
It’s a more measured approach to things we might like and enjoy. As with the meal many will sit down for tomorrow, the message is: No need to feel completely stuffed.
Here we go again: The Baker administration ordered hospitals nearing capacity to limit non-urgent procedures. The order isn’t as sweeping as the ban put in place near the start of the pandemic, but it is a step backward. Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services, said the order wasn’t prompted solely by a rise in COVID cases; she said staffing shortages and sicker patients are key factors. Read more.
Maine suspends permit: The Maine Department of Environmental Protection suspends a key permit for the Massachusetts-financed transmission line being built to carry hydroelectricity from Quebec into New England. The suspension means the fate of the project — a key linchpin of the Baker administration’s plan for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 — is now in the hands of the court system, which will have to decide whether a law approved by voters blocking the transmission line is unconstitutional. Read more.
Wu at ease: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu sat down for an hour-long interview with GBH and seemed completely at ease. She said the hunt for a new police commissioner will probably pick up steam early next year and indicated her support during the campaign for vaccine mandates in restaurants and other public venues has not gone away, although she skillfully avoided answering if and when she would take any action. Read more.
Pushing back: Nathan Forster, a top aide to Attorney General Maura Healey, pushes back against criticism of his office for its work in softening the blow of a major electricity price increase in the Unitil territory. Forster also goes on the offensive against members of the Retail Energy Supply Association, saying the state should pull the plug on predatory retail electricity suppliers. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Attorney General Maura Healey pushes for an overhaul of the state’s hate crime statute. (WBUR)
Lawmakers heard testimony on a sweeping bill that would cap charges for child care and raises wages of those who work in the field. (Boston Globe)
Sen. Diana DiZoglio continues her push to restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements in public and private places of employment. (Gloucester Daily Times)
A federal judge approved a settlement last month requiring the city of Boston to install or upgrade an average of 1,630 curb ramps every year until all of them meet ADA standards. (WBUR)
A federal jury finds CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart liable for helping to fuel the opioid crisis. (NPR)
Terence Cudney of Gloucester, a restaurant worker who formerly worked in software, will run against Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr as an independent. (Gloucester Daily Times)
AAA predicts Thanksgiving travel will return to pre-COVID levels. (Salem News)
Despite supply chain issues and worker shortages, consumers are still expected to do lots of holiday shopping this year. (Patriot Ledger)
JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon visits one of the bank’s new “Community Centers” in Mattapan. (Boston Globe)
Auditor Suzanne Bump says the state government failed to properly oversee ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. (MassLive)
Could the Fort Point Channel be used as a massive spillover reservoir to help drain areas of downtown Boston that get flooded? (Boston Globe)
State Police say an 82-year-old Brookline man was attacked by 30 to 40 people riding ATVs and dirt bikes as he drove from the Fenway area to Allston last week. They’re trying to identify the assailants; the man remains hospitalized. (Boston Globe)
Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger imposes a vaccine mandate for all staff and anyone working inside the county jail. (Eagle-Tribune)Two men who say they were sexually abused by a priest from the Fall River diocese decades ago when they were boys are demanding action from the diocese. (The Herald News)
Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey promises a thorough investigation of racial tension and racially motivated treatment in workplaces run by the Trial Court. MassLive previously reported on allegations of a hostile workplace by Trial Court workers of color throughout the state. (MassLive)