Opinion: it seems that the United States has begun to lack everything in general
The global supply chain is slowing down the very moment Americans need it to go into congestion. Journalist of the publication The Atlantic Derek Thompson in his column told what was happening. Further - from the first person.
I visited CVS last week to purchase COVID-19 home tests. One of the staff told me that they had been gone for a week. I asked about paper towels. “They're not there either,” he said. "Look at Walgreens." I went to Walgreens which had paper towels. But when I asked the pharmacist to give me some very common medicines, he said that the supply was out. “Try to stop by Target,” he suggested. Target had drugs in it, but the front was unsettlingly empty.
Now such a situation - one-hour orders have turned into hours-long odyssey, delivery day after day becomes delivery the next day. Even Halloween decorations are hard to find.
The US economy is not yet in a downturn similar to that of the 1970s. This is something different and rather strange. Americans are entering a new phase of a pandemic economy in which GDP is growing, but we are also suffering from a shocking lack of things: test kits, auto parts, semiconductors, ships, shipping containers, workers. This is a lack of everything.
The lack of everything is not the result of one big problem, say, in Vietnamese factories or in the American trucking industry. We are short of all kinds of stocks due to many factors.
The pandemic has affected global supply chains for several reasons. Many received quarantine financial aid. Most of that money went to buying everyday items, especially home furnishings such as furniture and home renovation supplies.
Many of these materials have to be imported from East Asia. But this region is dealing with the Delta variant, which was significantly more deadly than previous versions of the virus. Delta caused several halts at semiconductor factories in Asia as demand for cars and electronics began to rise. As a result, these stops slow down the supply chain at the very moment when Americans demand more goods.
Most dramatic of all is the loaded shipping containers stacked on ships off the coast of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The congestion in California ports is exacerbated by excessive consumer demand, which is faced with a shortage of trucks, truckers and port workers. Since ships cannot be unloaded, there are not enough empty containers to carry all the goods that consumers are trying to buy. So the world is learning its first lesson: high demand plus limited supply equals skyrocketing prices. Before the pandemic, it cost $ 35000 to reserve a container holding approximately 2500 books. It now costs $ 25.
The container situation is even stranger than it sounds. With a surge in US demand, shipping a parcel from Shanghai to Los Angeles is currently six times more expensive than shipping a parcel from Los Angeles to Shanghai. Michael Chembalest of JP Morgan wrote that this created strong incentives for container owners to ship containers to China, even if they are mostly empty, to expedite packing and shipping in Shanghai. But when containers leave Los Angeles and Long Beach empty, American-made goods that were supposed to be shipped across the Pacific end up in rail cars parked in West Coast ports. Since the filled wagons cannot unload their goods, they cannot return and pick up more items from the filled warehouses.
But what about truckers who have to transport materials between warehouses, ports, shops and homes? They also deal with scarcity. Supply chain problems have led to an increase in parts orders. But there is also a sorely lack of people. The Minnesota Freight Forwarders Association estimates that the country is short of about 60 drivers due to long-term hiring problems, early retirement and cancellation of courses at a driving school due to COVID-000.
In short, supply chains depend on containers, ports, railways, warehouses, and trucks. Each stage of this assembly line breaks down in its own way. When the global supply chain is running, it’s like a beautiful invisible domino system moving forward. Today's situation is a reminder that dominoes can also fall.
And then there is the labor market. In the United States, job vacancies have hit a record in restaurants, hotels and other leisure and hospitality sectors. But companies are struggling to fulfill these roles in order to keep factories and some other businesses operating at full capacity.
You can see these problems from different angles. From a workers' point of view, unemployment insurance and multiple rounds of payments have allowed laid-off workers to be picky about their jobs, rather than rushing desperately for the first paycheck available. Doesn't sound so bad. But from the perspective of many employers, government programs have exacerbated severe labor shortages. It has become difficult to staff the business with employees. The result, from the point of view of consumers, is more like a lack of everything. Since it is difficult to simultaneously find, hire and train hundreds of thousands of people in new roles during a pandemic, we should all expect some slowdown in the service sector.
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Finally, as if that slowdown wasn't enough, here's the post. Starting this month, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is cutting down on air travel to save money. Shipping outside the region is likely to be delayed by one or two days, USPS estimates.
This has not yet led to a recession, but heralds massive delays during the holiday shopping season, especially for households with a last-minute gift-buying habit.
“I've been doing this for 43 years and have never seen such a bad situation,” said Isaac Larian, founder and CEO of toy maker MGA Entertainment. Anything that can go wrong goes wrong. "
How will the lack of everything be solved? One possibility is for Americans to lead a sustainable, ascetic, and domestic lifestyle that will reduce dependence on goods that activate the global supply chain.
The best solution to the lack of everything is to have a policy that allows you to do the most. Containers, which carry more than 90 percent of the world's goods, are overwhelmingly manufactured in China.
For decades, many American companies have moved production overseas with cheaper labor and cheaper materials. In normal times, America benefits from world trade. But the pandemic and supply chain disruptions are a reminder that a production slump can be felt more broadly during a crisis, when we are running out of nearly everything. That's why US President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan includes billions of dollars in retooling, investment in fundamental research, and strengthening internal supply chains.
The original column is published on The Atlantic.
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