The Bloomberg article, which gained viral status last weekend, came from Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor and board member of the leftist think-tank the Economic Policy Institute. Her biography advertises a book that she claims provides “a commonsense blueprint to save for retirement.” However, given the Bloomberg article’s contents, whether one would consider it “a commonsense blueprint” represents a very open question.
‘Let Them Eat Lentils!‘
The problems start with the article’s title: “Inflation Stings Most If You Earn Less Than $300K. Here’s How to Deal.” Since nearly 90 percent of Americans don’t earn a salary half as high as $300,000, this title seemed highly patronizing. However, as a regular writer for this and other publications, I also recognize that authors often don’t write article titles—editors do.
But the content of the article proved no better. Consider these verbatim excerpts from the article, on how people can adapt to inflation:
- “If your income is more than $289,000 a year, the run-up in gas prices may be alarming—but it’s unlikely to hammer your overall finances.”
- “Adjustment [to inflation] is hard for people without savings or choices.”
- “To deal with gas prices, it’s worth reconsidering public transportation if it’s an option where you live.”
- “When it comes to food, don’t be afraid to explore. Prices for animal-based food products will certainly increase…. Though your palate may not be used to it, tasty meat substitutes include vegetables (where prices are up a little over 4%, or lentils and beans, which are up about 9%). Plan to cut out the middle creature and consume plants directly.”
- “Stay away from buying in bulk—you usually don’t save any more by buying more. Sure, there may be great deals, but most consumers wind up falling for the tricks that entice them to spend more.”
- “If you’re one of the many Americans who became a new pet owner during the pandemic, you might want to rethink those costly pet medical needs. It may sound harsh, but researchers actually don’t recommend pet chemotherapy—which can cost up to $10,000—for ethical reasons.”
In short: To save money and avoid the inflation pinch, Ghilarducci advises people to take transit; consume lentils instead of chicken or beef (chub night, anyone?); not buy bulk products, even though they (normally) have the lowest cost per unit; and let beloved family pets die.
She Said What?
The level of cognitive dissonance in the article boggles the mind. To start by quoting an income level of $289,000 seems astonishing, seeing that the Economic Policy Institute—that is, the organization on whose board Ghilarducci sits—notes that such an income level would place a household in the top 1 percent in many states.
The advice to take transit will prove of little help to people in most rural areas, where public transportation either does not exist or requires such long waits as to make it impractical and counter-productive. An Associated Press reporter, commenting on the article, noted that even urban and minority communities often lack access to public transport.
On the other hand, one can almost ask why Ghilarducci didn’t go further. For instance, if she wanted to continue with her patronizing “advice,” she could have discussed how having pets increases households’ carbon footprints.
Also worth noting: The owner of the outlet that ran the article, Bloomberg publisher Michael Bloomberg, allegedly advised one of his female employees who told him she was pregnant: “Kill it.” Given this back story, it’s surprising that Ghilarducci “only” advised euthanizing pets needing costly care.
The Ruling Class Is Out-of-Touch
Reading through the article, Ghilarducci’s lack of familiarity with life outside of New York, Washington, San Francisco, and a few other liberal, elite enclaves becomes apparent. One can almost picture her look of befuddlement when told that no, most Americans do not have easy access to Acela service, or that ordinary families actually can (and do) save money buying in bulk because they 1) take the time to plan their weekly meals in advance and 2) only dine out at restaurants for a special occasion.
Not two months ago, I noted that “the disconnect between wealthy elites—of both parties—and the people they represent will only grow, with potentially disastrous effects on the nature of our society and the fate of the democratic experiment.” The Bloomberg article, and the reaction to it, proved that point better than I could have argued myself.