10 Things in Politics: The real reason behind America's supply crunch

·6 min read

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Here's what we're talking about:

With Phil Rosen.

Container ships at the backlogged Port of Los Angeles in September 2021.
Container ships at the congested Port of Los Angeles. Mike Blake/Reuters

1. THE ECONOMY: Americans are buying everything they can get their hands on. This double-edged economic sword is a boon for the post-pandemic economy, but it has also overwhelmed the global supply chain responsible for actually getting it into your hands. It's also why the ubiquitous coverage of shortages isn't telling the full story.

Here's how America's buying binge breaks down:

The US has imported an immense amount of stuff in the last eight months: This might seem odd considering the inventory to sales ratio - a key metric tracked by the Census Bureau that compares how much stuff sellers have on hand to how much stuff consumers are buying - is at a 10-year low. But the Port of Los Angeles reported a 30% uptick in incoming cargo in the first nine months of 2021 and similar activity is surging at other busy ports.

  • So what's really happening?: Lots of imports and even more spending have driven the inventory to sales ratio down because businesses imported a lot of stuff, and then Americans bought it. "Spending might have been higher if not for shortages of items consumers are eager to purchase," Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF's chief economist said last week, illustrating that some think the buying binge could be even larger.

  • Let's be clear: There are outright shortages of some items. One of the biggest shortages is in the semiconductor supply, which could lag behind for years to come.


But the binge isn't lifting up everything: There's still a pandemic damper on services spending, which fell faster and has been much slower to recover than for goods: People want to buy for the home and life events. (You can see the divergence very clearly in the data in the chart above.)

More on how officials are trying to adjust to this demand surge.

2. Biden is ready to slash his massive economic plan: The president is leaning toward scaling down his $3.5 trillion economic plan to somewhere from $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion, The Washington Post reports. Biden's movement on the overall price tag comes as both the White House and top congressional Democrats hope to finish negotiations by the end of the week. Some progressive lawmakers maintain that they can still accomplish all their goals even with a smaller price tag. Read more about what's on the chopping block to make room for such large cuts.

3. Wealthiest Americans now own almost all of the stock market: The top 10% of Americans now own a record-high 89% of household stocks, CNBC reports. According to Federal Reserve data, the top 1% hold 54% of corporate equities and mutual-fund shares. This is just the latest data point showing how the richest Americans' fortunes have grown throughout the pandemic.

  • Dueling stats: More than 100 new billionaires were minted during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the bottom 90% of Americans saw their share of gains shrink, holding just about 11% of stocks, Fed data showed.

Insider chart

4. Lawmakers vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt: Members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection unanimously approve to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to the probe. The full House could vote on the matter as soon as this week, per The Post. Bannon is not the only Trump ally who has refused to cooperate so far.

5. Facebook is rebranding: CEO Mark Zuckerberg will discuss changing the name of the social network at Facebook's annual Connect conference on October 28, but the company's new identity could be announced before then, The Verge reports. The new name will focus on Facebook as a "metaverse" company and rebrand its current namesake app as just one of its offerings. More on the rebranding effort, which comes as Facebook is increasingly under fire from lawmakers and regulators.

6. Businesses eagerly await details of Biden's vaccine mandate: "More than six weeks after promising a new vaccination-or-testing rule covering the millions of Americans at companies with 100 or more workers, Biden's most aggressive move yet to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is almost ready to see the light of day," the Associated Press reports. Some business groups worry that the proposed threshold of 100 employees or more could cause workers to flock to small businesses. Here's where things stand as companies await the final policy.

7. GOP lawmaker indicted over lying to the FBI: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska faces federal charges over potential campaign finance violations associated with foreign donations to his campaign. Fortenberry is one of several lawmakers who investigators said received illegal contributions from the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. Before the indictment came down, Fortenberry vowed to "fight" what he called a "bogus charge." More on the news.

8. Haitian gang demands $17 million in ransom for the release of Christian missionaries: A group of mostly-American Christian missionaries was kidnapped last Saturday in Haiti, officials say, with each one being ransomed at $1 million each. The White House said that the FBI was working to help secure the group's release. According to a Haitian activist, the asking price is unusually high.

9. Colin Powell blasted Trump in his final interview: The former secretary of state, who died Monday, accused Trump of trying to "overturn the government" in a stinging interview before his death. "Trump refuses to acknowledge that he wasn't reelected," Powell told Bob Woodward. Meanwhile, Trump disparaged Powell amid an outpouring of tributes from every other living former president.

Kanye West
Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

10. The artist formerly known as Kanye West: He has legally changed his name to Ye, the Los Angeles Superior Court confirmed to Rolling Stone. The 44-year-old rapper filed for a name change in August and now it's set in stone. More on the change.

Today's trivia question: Today marks the start of the "Saturday Night Massacre" following the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Who also led a high-profile probe involving a sitting president and also attended St. Paul's School, the same board schooling as Cox? Email your answer and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider