Earlier today, New York Times opinion contributor* Sarah Jeong tweeted:
all the stuff you see about inflation in the news is driven by rich people flipping their shit because their parasitic assets aren't doing as well as they'd like and they're scared that unemployment benefits + stimmy checks + 15 minimum wage + labor shortage is why ~jmt~
— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) November 17, 2021
This is patently false for a few notable reasons: Inflation is most definitely not a manufactured media narrative, but rather a real, agreed-upon thing that is happening (though the Biden administration irresponsibly insists it's transitory). The consumer price index indicates that, from last September to this September, Americans have seen beef prices rise by 18 percent; gas prices by 42 percent; furniture prices by 11 percent; electricity prices by 5 percent; and used car prices by 24 percent. Consumer prices for October, the most recent month for which is there is data, jumped by 6.2 percent compared to what they were a year prior—the highest year-over-year jump we've seen in three decades!
It is not ginned-up outrage spurred along by rich people either. In fact, wealthy people who have invested heavily in the stock market are, by and large, doing quite well right now, contra Jeong's claim. (Bitcoin, too, has seen extraordinary growth over the last year, but is down this week.) Homeowners, rich and less rich alike, might even stand to benefit from inflation; those who have secured low-interest fixed-rate loans from the bank are the real potential winners, given that they're insulated from landlords raising rents on them while being locked into the amount they have to pay back to the bank. Though their asset keeps rising in value, their monthly payments stay the same over time.
This is idiotic. Asset prices have risen sharply. Inflation is squeezing at the middle of the income spectrum; wage growth is outpacing inflation at the bottom, and people at the top are enjoying asset price spikes. https://t.co/aYqTgqGVBh
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) November 17, 2021
Inflation is not a frivolous concern created by panicking, self-interested rich people; nor are rich people currently "flipping their shit" because their assets aren't doing as well as they'd like. Inflation is something that's making things significantly harder for the non–"pajama class"—those roughly 79 percent of workers (estimates vary) who do not work remotely, but must commute to their in-person jobs day in and day out, incurring the burden that comes with the rising price of gas. It's something that's making it significantly harder for families to feed their kids. It's something that's throwing a wrench in some people's plans to travel for the holidays, as rental cars and hotel rooms have gotten a good deal pricier than before. And it's something many Americans probably don't appreciate being lied to about, by either Jeong or the Biden administration, which insists, time and time again, that this inflation is transitory, implying it's really just a minor blip on the radar that will bounce back to normal in no time at all.
Though some Americans are "lying flat," taking a cue from the (perhaps overhyped) Chinese trend of highly educated, upper middle class millennials opting out of the workforce entirely, and others are bolstered by child tax credits and stimulus-lined savings accounts, many are dealing with real fears about how inflation affects their budgets. They deserve to be taken seriously.
Assets are actually doing very well and stocks are booming. The rich are doing very well right now.
— Kevin Knodell (@KJKnodell) November 17, 2021
This argument, which is mainstream on the left right now, is really important to remember. Because people will eventually deny it was ever made! https://t.co/ItpzPt2bWq
— Nellie Bowles (@NellieBowles) November 17, 2021
S&P 500: +30%
Real Estate: +28%
Rich people love inflation — they own assets.
But it's also an artificial tax that disproportionally impacts lower-income families at a greater rate & robs them of their purchasing power.
This isn't hard. https://t.co/tTcVzIU84O
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) November 17, 2021
You may remember Jeong from her prior instances of ill-advised tweeting, which presented a wrinkle when the Times hired her as a tech writer back in 2018. Those tweets, from 2013 and 2014 when she was 25 or 26, read: "oh man it's kind of sick how much joy i get out of being cruel to old white men" and "are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins." Jeong has long been hobbled by her extremely online style of tweeting—ironic detachment coupled with racial generalizations against disfavored groups like white men—which is fashionable among certain sets on the left.
For Jeong, this is par for the course. But choosing flippant tweeting over thoughtful analysis is a bad look for New York Times contributors* who really ought to be more concerned with the plights of everyday Americans forced to tighten the purse strings for reasons far beyond their control.
*CORRECTION: Jeong is a contributor for the Times.