Inflation soaring in the U.S. and worries are everywhere
Anthony Moretti
Consumers shop for meat at a Safeway grocery store as inflation continues to grow in Annapolis, Maryland, May 16, 2022. /CFP

Consumers shop for meat at a Safeway grocery store as inflation continues to grow in Annapolis, Maryland, May 16, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Anthony Moretti is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

James Carville was one of America's elite political strategists during the late 20th century. A loud and proud Democrat, Carville, in 1992, created the saying that ushered then U.S. President Bill Clinton into the White House: "It's the economy, stupid."

Carville said the slogan demonstrated that Clinton was aware the recession that gripped the United States that year had affected especially the poor and the middle class and, more importantly, Clinton had the policies to get America's house in order.

The rest, as the cliche reminds us, is history: Clinton, an otherwise unknown governor of Arkansas, defeated George H. W. Bush, who one year earlier had approval ratings at 90 percent after the country's success in the initial Gulf War.

Fast forward 30 years: The United States is not in recession (and might not be before the year is over) but it is facing its worst inflationary pressures since the 1980s. According to CNBC, inflation, currently sitting at roughly 8.3 percent, is forcing Americans to spend an extra $341 every month for the goods and services they use every day. As just one example, according to the Automobile Association of America, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in Pennsylvania, where I live, was $4.77 a couple of days ago; one year ago, it was $3.16. 

Put it all together and Americans are buying fewer products but spending more for them, taking shorter vacations (or cancelling them) and delaying retirement plans. Meanwhile, businesses are raising prices to counteract their increased costs, some of which were already rising because of supply chain issues. They are also delaying the purchase of expensive new equipment, and they might be forced to layoff employees in the coming months.

The current U.S. President Joe Biden is already feeling the country's wrath, and his fellow Democrats are especially angry. A few days ago, his popularity reached the lowest point of his roughly 17 months in office. As the Associated Press reported, "Overall, only about two in 10 adults say the U.S. is heading in the right direction or the economy is good, both down from about three in 10 a month earlier. Those drops were concentrated among Democrats, with just 33 percent within the president's party saying the country is headed in the right direction, down from 49 percent in April."

About a year ago, the story was much different. Americans were cautiously optimistic that the worst of the pandemic was behind them. On top of that, the president had signed a stimulus package that placed about $1,400 in almost everyone's bank account. Little did anyone know that such government largesse would be a bad thing. 

Four members of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco examined the impact of the stimulus on the current economy and concluded it "may have contributed to about 3 percentage points of the rise in U.S. inflation through the end of 2021." 

It is one thing to remind Americans that prices are skyrocketing or to give them some esoteric statistical data to explain why. It is another to tell them there is ample evidence inflation also contributes to poor mental health. Americans, like people from all over the world, are more aware of mental health because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are now reminded daily that economic uncertainty is not good for mental wellbeing. 

Fresh meat with high price was displayed at a store in San Anselmo, California, April 11, 2022. /CFP

Fresh meat with high price was displayed at a store in San Anselmo, California, April 11, 2022. /CFP

World Psychiatry found multiple studies linking income inequality to an increased risk of depression. The rates of depression were higher among women and the poor, groups that often have less job security, a situation that creates its own mental stress. The Washington Post added that during inflationary times, the poor fall further behind the wealthy, who can tap into retirement savings and fatter bank accounts to pay for items that are more expensive. 

Mental health challenges soon align with stress, and that combination creates real potential for Americans to gain weight, consume more alcohol and struggle with relationships, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Arthur Evans Jr., the APA's chief executive officer, added this: "Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we're now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope."

Yes, the United States right now is a mess, and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. And for the president, it might get really bad.

The consensus among political analysts is the 2022 midterm elections, which take place in November, are favorable for Republicans. There are legitimate reasons why Democrats fear they will lose their majority in the House of Representatives and also become the minority party in the Senate. 

Recent data posted by the popular website suggest the House of Representatives is likely to flip with many Democrats lagging in recent polls; meanwhile, Republicans are already favored to win 19 of the 34 Senate races contested in November. 

Placing America's economic chaos right now solely on the president is not fair, but Biden lacks the vision or the energy that Clinton showed 30 years ago, which is required to fix the problem. If indeed "it's the economy, stupid," then Republicans could be roughly two years away from controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress. 

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