Fox News figures suggest that clearing out backlogs at ports is a bad thing

As U.S. economy comes back from the pandemic, right-wing media distort White House message on what it means to have a “high class problem”

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday an agreement to keep the Port of Los Angeles open on a 24/7 basis, in order to solve a backlog of shipping and resulting goods shortages. The agreement has also involved coordination with key retailers and shipping companies to do business at the port during the expanded hours, with the goal, as the president explained, “to help speed up the delivery of goods all across America.”

Now, right-wing media outlets are attacking the administration for also pointing out the problem in question is a byproduct of the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, with consumer demand and disposable income returning to previous levels while global supply chains catch up.

On Wednesday night, White House chief of staff Ron Klain responded on Twitter to a point from Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and former economic adviser during the Obama administration, that these current problems would not even be happening in the first place if unemployment were still as high as it previously was in the pandemic:

The tweets have since been reported online by Fox News and the Daily Mail, which carried quotes from Republican spokespeople and members of Congress who misconstrued the phrase “high class problem” as if it were a slight against “everyday Americans” facing economic hardship — despite the tweet’s clear explanation that this referred to a complication in an economy now improving from the crisis.

Likewise, Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell said on Thursday’s edition of Mornings with Maria Bartiromo that there were “many taking issue” with Klain’s tweet in an interview with former GOP congressman turned Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz, who referred to Klain as Biden’s “master puppeteer.”

On Thursday’s edition of Outnumbered, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner rhetorically asked: “Who is he talking about — ‘high class problems’? I mean, I mentioned last hour, everybody needs diapers and feminine products and those things that often we don't say out loud. So, do you have to be rich to need a Kleenex?”

Responding to Faulkner, The Hill media columnist and Fox News contributor Joe Concha called for reporters to ask White House press secretary Jen Psaki a question — according to the misleading premise — “if she and the president agree with the perspective from the White House chief of staff that only the rich will suffer — because of a crisis this administration created, by the way. To your point, do rich people only buy gas to get to work, Harris, or to drive their kids to school?”

In turn, McDowell predicted that both Klain and Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell could soon be put out of their jobs, as the White House sought “a scapegoat” for inflation.

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Citation From the October 14, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered

Later in the segment, in response to a clip of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Faulkner made the economically illiterate statement that clearing out the economic bottlenecks at ports — and thus ameliorating goods shortages — could actually cause inflation to become worse.

“You’ve got to understand the industry enough to know if there are that many ships offshore, prices are going to go up when they get to port,” Faulkner said. “Because you’ve got to pay somebody to take them off. I mean, everything gets higher there. And maybe that doesn't touch Pete Buttigieg.”

The current shortages are in fact the the result of circumstances in which reopenings and continued COVID-19 waves are happening out of sync between different places, such as a port shutdown in China over the summer, while consumer demand has now increased in the West, along with key supply chain crunches such as microchip manufacturing and a domestic shortage of truckers that has gone on for years.

The overall problem was explained last week by The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson, who called the situation “something different, and quite strange” in comparison to an economic downturn: “The global supply chain is slowing down at the very moment when Americans are demanding that it go into overdrive.”

Thompson appeared Wednesday night on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, and compared the economic recovery process from the pandemic to a pinched garden hose. “When you turn on the hose and the water comes into the hose, and you pinch it for a while, when you let it go the hose goes crazy,” Thompson said, explaining that this effect was seen in a variety of areas from economics to interpersonal relations. “And so, I think that as the hose has come unpinched, we’re still figuring out exactly how to deal with its craziness.”

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Citation From the October 13, 2021, edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes

In addition, the idea from Fox that successfully unloading goods and clearing out shortages would itself be a problem was first aired Wednesday afternoon, prior to Klain’s tweet, by guest anchor Trace Gallagher on The Story with Martha MacCallum.

“We should also point out that — and nobody’s addressed this — as you know, the president talks about opening these ports 24/7, he wants truckers to work 24/7,” Gallagher said. “You know, look, the bottom line is these overnight shifts cost money. To get the longshoremen down to these docks, it costs money. And that means by getting these things open 24/7, that is only going to push these prices even higher, inflation goes up. That's also a concern among a lot of people in the retail sector.”

At the close of the interview, Gallagher also glossed over his guest’s explanation that passing the Biden administration’s infrastructure proposals would go a long way in helping to solve these problems going forward.

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GEOFF FREEMAN (PRESIDENT, CONSUMER BRANDS ASSOCIATION): This infrastructure bill that stalled on Capitol Hill is absolutely critical. If we want to get past problems like this, we've got to make these investments in our nation's infrastructure. What we're feeling today is part of the result of not doing that for too many years.

TRACE GALLAGHER (GUEST ANCHOR): Although you have a lot of critics saying you can upgrade the ports until you're blue in the face and it is not going to alleviate what is happening down there right now.

Of course, Fox figures like Gallagher and Faulkner are also questioning the exact measures that are being done to “alleviate what is happening down there right now.” positioning the network to oppose both short-term and long-term solutions to any continued economic problems.