Slow on the Uptake

I just looked through the latest edition of The Atlantic and discovered an article discussing why popular perceptions about the state of the economy don’t match the statistics. The bottom line in the article was that the statistics don’t match “the reality” the average person sees.

Inflation may have leveled out, but the higher prices it caused remain, particularly for food and home utilities. Also, interest rates for mortgages, car loans, and credit cards are still much higher than five years ago.


I pointed this out four months ago []

There’s another aspect of this as well. It’s not just about asking the right questions, but asking the right people.

I’m well aware of the increase in food prices, because I’m the one who does the grocery shopping, but I suspect that, in most households, it’s more likely to be a woman who does the shopping… and who’s the angriest about those higher prices.

Some costs don’t hit some people. Someone younger who’s renting or house-hunting is definitely going to be unhappy about the prices of houses or rents. Someone with a fixed low-rate mortgage or who’s paid off the mortgage won’t be as concerned, although they may balk at the price of electricity or natural gas. Likewise, someone trying to get a college education or an advanced degree – or parents helping a young adult – will be more directly impacted than someone not having to worry about education costs.

And, as I pointed out earlier, many of the costs that worry people aren’t fully factored into the “favorable” economic statistics, which is why so many people don’t believe the numbers.

But I do wonder why those smart writers at The Atlantic took so long to figure it out, though.

7 thoughts on “Slow on the Uptake”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    “But I do wonder why those smart writers at The Atlantic took so long to figure it out, though.”

    Their bias slows their recognition (or at least acknowledgement) of problems that don’t fit it.

    Not saying they don’t write some good stories, but that where there’s a political angle, they may take sides above and beyond the reasonable.

    Nearly all media at least understate or postpone stories that don’t fit their narrative, but most lean more left than right. Something that takes no sides but simply presents evidence and information in an evenhanded manner is almost unheard-of.

    1. Jerico says:

      “Something that takes no sides but simply presents evidence and information in an evenhanded manner is almost unheard-of.”

      I would have to agree with this statement. Even as a mechanical engineer, most of my technical reports show bias towards one particular process or supplier. I think the best neutral report I’ve seen was the write-up after I got an MRI on my lower spine. Bias in writing always exists, it’s just a question of how to minimize it. Unfortunately I do not have an answer for that.

  2. Postagoras says:

    The Atlantic is a fine magazine, no question. But I’m not surprised that they were lagging behind you, Mr. Modesitt. After all, who else has written about governing through Order, and Chaos, Image, and Talent, Time Management (literally), Grand Illusions, and Singing Soprano?

  3. Grey says:

    I think the rise interest rates is a big one as even if the retail price has not grown, the cost of financing it has and may make it seem unaffordable.

    I have seen in a few places the suggestion that why many younger people are angry is that what they are considering a cost increase refers to the fallout from venture capitalists no longer subsidizing the delivery/convenience apps (Door Dash, Uber, etc.) to build market share, and passing the actual cost onto the retail customers. Who wouldn’t think inflation was out of control when suddenly it costs you $15 to have a cup of coffee delivered to your house?

  4. Tom says:

    Why shouldn’t a cup of coffee delivered to my house cast $15.00?

    The Atlantic FEBRUARY 14, 2024 article LEM refers to is probably:

    Perhaps we have succumbed to our need for “entertainment” and the associated belief that ‘celebrities know best’? The late pickup by The Atlantic is just a throw back to what the media used to be like –a source of information rather than purely entertainment.

    In the March 2023 edition of The Atlantic we also had:

    It may indeed take a “bloodbath” to return to reality if the percentage of “The Poor” in the US double or triples and the driving force is hunger. Trump of course will do the right thing: he will advise via SOTU “Let them eat cake”.

  5. Pence says:

    Off Topic; I’ve just finished re-listening to the Grand Illusion books. They resonate so much with my experiences with local politics.
    I hope we will see more of Decker.

    1. Tom says:

      Just a thought; no answer expected.

      If Dekker were in the present US Senate representing the state of say Colorado, what would we expect him to do and how could he do it given the make-up of the US Congress today?

      If Dekker were a US Representative, or even the President, he would be helpless.

      At this time the only power that can guide the USA and counter the SCOTUS and the the House are the Senate and our Civilian Security apparatus: but neither has the manpower to protect the Voting Officials and infrastructure; especially in the Red States.

      The Military will and must stay out of the equation. They have to take care of the potential external enemy.

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