We know the economy must be bad, because that’s what they’re saying on the TV

The price of chicken wings is coming down. Well? When you get to a certain age, what else is there to care about?

The price of chicken, that great economic indicator, is in free-fall. Chicken wings are down 43%. We all felt the sting somewhere, but chicken wings — that’s sacred territory. At times over the past two years, restaurants pulled them from the menu altogether.

I remember the inflation of the 1970s, but experienced little pain myself, because I was living at home and not buying anything except beer and gas. I’m certain my parents felt the pinch, but they never let on. Stuff costed what it costed. The Greatest Generation was also the Stoic Generation. They’d lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They weren’t going to whine about the cost of frozen peas.

Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

Inflation wasn’t a problem for me then, and inflation isn’t a problem for me now, because I’ve  already bought everything I want to buy. I’m 62, what am I going to do, go out and buy a new set of lawn darts? I’m trying to get rid of stuff. I have a garage full of things that seemed essential at the time but I never got around to using.

The striking difference between then and now is that in the 1970s, everyone wanted the bad times to end. Today, everyone seems disappointed that things aren’t worse. Republicans want a recession, obviously, so they can blame Biden. But it’s more than that.

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The Fed had been trying to create a recession, and can’t. Highly profitable tech companies have been laying off thousands, citing these as-yet theoretical “economic headwinds.” The media have been stoking the recession storyline since March, and are getting notably testy about having to wait. And even people who are doing great don’t seem happy about it.

Talk to a contractor, and he’ll tell you that things are awful, he’s never seen it worse, he doesn’t know how people are going to survive. Then you ask if he can build you a new deck and he tells you he’s booked through 2025.

It’s like a Monty Python skit. Guys sitting around in white tuxedos lighting cigars with $20 bills telling us how tough they have it. The stock market, meanwhile, recoils at every whiff of good news. “Oh no, there are plenty of jobs. We’re doomed.”

The people who are really up against it don’t bother to complain, because when has complaining ever done them any good? The politicians are too busy fine-tuning their transgender policies to do anything about child-care workers who can’t afford a decent apartment.

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We know things must be bad, because that’s what they’re saying on the TV. In predicting an electoral bloodbath in the midterm elections, the press sold itself on its own storyline of economic disaster. But apparently people weren’t as bad off as we were being told. However, we’re happy to panic if that’s what we’re told to do. It’s like people in Miami buying snow shovels because they saw a storm hit Buffalo.

To wit, although prices have been coming down for nearly two months now, a recent poll by the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 99% believed they were still going up, according to the Washington Post.

It reminded me that back in the ’90s, there was an economist who wrote syndicated columns, and early in the Clinton administration he became convinced that a recession was right around the corner. And for the next eight years he wrote that same column over and over, predicting that a recession was right around the corner. It was less work for us on the Opinion page, because we never had to change the headline from “Recession is right around the corner.”

This during the greatest economic boom in 50 years. A recession finally did come along in 2002, but by then I think he’d retired. But keep the faith. There has always been another recession, so one of these days recession-predictors are bound to be right.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Inflation seems to be settling, but pundits still predict recession