🎶 It’s the most wonderful timeee of the year!/
With sad children yelling/
And empty store shelving/
You’ll be of poor cheeeeeer!/
It’s the MOST im-pov-erished timeeee of the yeeeaar! 🎶
The end of October beckons, which, in our consumerist insta-culture, means the Christmas season will soon command our festive attention. Once November 1st hits, angels exitus, witches reditus. My local Walmart is already stocking rows of gondolas with Christmas decor. The first inflatable chimney with Santa’s rear end sticking skyward appeared before the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Even as Christmas accouterments slowly overtake the leafy liminal space reserved for ghouls, ghosts, and tons upon tons of Reese’s peanut-butter-stuffed pumpkins, something is amiss this year. And it could put a big lump of coal in Joe Biden’s stocking on his first Yuletide as President.
Nearly two years after the COVID-19 virus reoriented economic production toward more at-home deliverability, a veritable goods shortage is imminent, if not already here. A convergence of factors is interrupting America’s most durable and inelastic product: the supply chain. The relentless coordination of commodity conveyance has hit a few snags, none of which is easily fixable. A stevedore shortage, a lack of lorry drivers, not enough low-wage grunts to unload the trailers, record demand, surging inflation—the interplay of these factors is, besides wreaking economic discord, making Biden a political victim of circumstance.
The federal unemployment bonus has expired. The jobless rate is falling. Yet the labor force as a body is shrinking. The anticipated hiring bloom following the bout of COVID inoculations has wilted. The Wall Street Journal reports that workers, having stuffed their wallets with emergency dole checks, are in no hurry to re-punch a timeclock. With most Americans fully vaccinated, and fatal COVID cases fitfully decreasing, consumer spending is going in the opposite, more optimistic direction. This is creating the problematic dynamic of what economists call too many dollars chasing goods. Without supply to meet bellying demand, prices are jumping, or shelves are staying denuded.
That brings us to Noel and the prospect of a bare floor beneath the tinseled Frasier Fir come Christmas morning—a modern-day horror-en-scène.
Cue the next carol:
🎶 Up on the housetop reindeer pause/
Out jumps glum ol’ Santa Claus/
Down through the chimney without any toys/
Not one for the little ones’ Christmas joys.🎶
🎶Ho ho ho, nothing in tow/
Ho ho ho, toys a no-show/
Up on the housetop, zip, zero, zilch/
No joy down chimney, a Christmas filch. 🎶
The Biden Administration is shrewdly, even flippantly, downplaying the “everything shortage” ahead of the December buystravaganza, which formally kicks off the day after Thanksgiving. An unnamed White House official told Reuters “there will be things that people can’t get” during the shopping season. When asked if the Biden Administration will ensure every American child has a very, merry Christmas, Press Secretary Psaki went full Grinch: “We are not the Postal Service, or UPS, or Fed-Ex. We cannot guarantee.”
Psaki’s non-assurance is unquestionably true—government can’t promise and deliver a fancy holiday all wrapped up with a bow on top. But if you try telling that to Bernie-voting, socialist-fond millennials, you’re liable to hear more crying than a tween deprived of a PlayStation on Christmas morning.
The reliably pro-Biden media is also hard at work trying to soften the gift supply shock. “Don’t rant about short-staffed stores and supply chain woes. Try to lower expectations,” ran one Washington Post headline, which is a fitting message for a holiday based on selflessness and charity, but will provoke resentment anyway. Americans don’t like to hear about curtailing their consumerist appetite—even if the slightest pull back might, in turn, bring compounding curative ecological benefits. If President Biden were to give a national address urging us to forgo the $150 Lego Millennium Falcon sets and instead remember the true reason for the season—the redemption of mankind through the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth—he’d be signing his own political death certificate. Jimmy Carter attempted something similar and was rewarded with a swift boot from his post. Biden was a junior senator then, and no doubt took careful note.
Christmas, or, more accurately, the collective act of gift splurging on the 25th day of the last month of the year, is one of the few shared activities Americans still do. Yes, it’s costly and materialistic, a sublimation of Homo Economicus into enfleshed caritas. But everyone loves Christmas, except those anhedonic, screechy, nose-ringed anti-Christian bigots who sue every year to remove crèches from town squares. And nobody likes them. Christmas, on the other hand, is almost universally revered and celebrated, even by non-believers. Should it pass without its full decked-hall splendor, complete with maxed out credit cards that won’t get paid off until the summer, something unrecoverable will be lost. The gumdrop truism still holds: Christmas comes but once a year. Americans don’t want to defer their holly jollies for another calendar cycle.
It matters little of what Biden has done on the pandemic, on race relations, on climate change, on social-welfare policy, or on foreign policy. If he botches Christmas, either consciously or inadvertently, his political fortunes, and those of his party, will go south faster than a pitying of turtle doves in November. The reason being that a holiday like Christmas precedes politics. It was celebrated before the country’s founding, and will be observed long after America falls. The federal government, and the myriad of state and municipalities, adjust their operations around the day. Schools close for an entire week or more. Even big-box retailers shut their doors in recognition.
Not all politics flow from culture; and politics, while looming increasingly large in life, doesn’t touch on everything. Despite its politicization by one former sex-pestist Fox News anchor, Christmas still remains a nationwide commemoration outside the government’s pales. Even after Charles Dickens stripped Christmas of its Christian significance in the popular imagination, the holiday spirit of graciousness, forgiveness, and magnanimity remains.
Joe Biden can’t mend all the economic disjunctions that threaten a less-than-plentiful Christmas overnight. Some factors are beyond his control. The President isn’t blameless, either—his woefully inexperienced Transportation Secretary couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger while on paternity leave as ports jammed up and supply lines disintegrated. No matter what, Biden will be blamed for a present shortage. All the overtime wage Santa pays the elves won’t matter if FedEx trailers aren’t making it off the warehouse lot.
One more carol to close!
🎶 Strings of streetlights, even stoplights/
Blink a bright red and green/
As the shoppers slog home empty-handed/
Hear the snow crunch, see the kids harrumph/
This is Santa’s let down scene./
And above all the sorrow you’ll hearrrrrr./
Clinker bellssssss, clinker bellssssss./
It’s gift-less time in the cityyyyy. 🎶
Some events supersede socio-political affairs, dragging political actors along their vicissitudes. These occessions are a reminder that real culture is more important than the state. Holidays, rituals, family gatherings, sport rivalries, religious worship—these are the truly enriching things that create and hold together a society.
In two months’ time, if Joe Biden can’t give us some figgy pudding, few Americans will wish him a merry Christmas, or gift the Democrats a vote next year.