Media Criticism

New York Times Writer Sarah Jeong Says Inflation in the News Is Just 'Rich People Flipping Their Shit'

Are normal Americans worried about inflation? Jeong says nope, it's a ginned-up outrage because rich people's "parasitic assets aren’t doing as well as they’d like."

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Earlier today, New York Times opinion contributor* Sarah Jeong tweeted:

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.

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.

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.