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Things That Did and Did Not Happen in 2022

The beginning of the year prompts us to take stock of the past twelve months of war, economic turmoil, and disease.

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(Nik Waller Productions/Shutterstock)

Looking back at 2022, at what did and did not happen, really tells us what was important—hindsight and all that.

Things That Did Not Happen in 2022

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Joe Biden explaining why the U.S. is at war in Ukraine.

Nuclear war.

Regime change in Russia.

Ukraine winning the war.

The Russians running out of missiles, men, or tires.

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American diplomacy trying to conclude the war in Ukraine.

Things That Did Happen in 2022

Inflation climbed at the fastest pace in 40 years across the economy, driven in large part by higher energy prices, themselves driven in large part by Joe Biden's energy policy toward Russia and inability to use obsequiousness to get OPEC to pump more oil (while leasing less federal land for oil and gas drilling than any president since the end of World War II). 

The last time inflation reached over 9 percent was in 1981, when Ronald Reagan took over from Jimmy Carter. Fueling the current inflationary jump was the energy index, which rose 7.5 percent compared to a year ago and contributed nearly half of the overall increase in inflation. That index includes prices for fuel, oil, gasoline and electricity, and it’s up 41.6 percent for the year, the largest 12-month increase since April 1980.

The consumer price index was 9.1 percent higher earlier this summer than it was last. There are fears that sources of strength in the economy—such as the labor market and consumer spending—won’t be enough to fend off another recession. Yet the Fed may need to work more forcefully to slow the economy by raising interest rates, which the central bank has done multiple times this year already. Biden called on Americans to sacrifice, especially at the gas pump, to help win the war against Putin in Ukraine.

Among the things causing the greatest pain are the highest gas prices ever recorded in the United States, which topped $5 a gallon across the country at one point. Gas purchases on their own may make up only a relatively small portion of most families’ budgets, but the spike in gas, oil, and diesel prices has left businesses with higher costs that will force them to raise prices on their customers and pull back on new investments. It risks a slowdown in consumer spending, as households cut back on other expenditures. Energy is so crucial to the functioning of the economy broadly that the price increases in the energy sector bring along higher prices in many other sectors, only adding to inflation.

Meanwhile, U.S.-imposed energy sanctions played to Russia’s favor economically as oil prices rose. Things may come to a head as Germany’s winter sets in and that natural gas from Russia is missed. But that is a domestic German problem that the U.S. is likely to simply pooh-pooh away—and the one-time economic powerhouse and U.S. competitor Germany showed its first negative foreign trade imbalance since 1991, a nice bonus for America. Things got so loose that “someone” felt the need to blow up the Nordstrom 2 pipeline to make the point with Germany that it may have to do without Russian energy to maintain the fiction that sanctions will bring an end to war.

There can be no denying the greatest rise in food prices since May 1979, during the Carter administration. The biggest price rises were in the most basic of goods: Egg prices soared 39.8 percent, flour 23.3 percent, milk 17 percent, and the price of bread jumped 16.2 percent. Chicken prices jumped 16.6 percent, while meat rose over six percent. Fruits and vegetables together are up 9.4 percent. Overall, grocery prices jumped 13.5 percent. And don't look for relief eating out; restaurant menu prices increased 7.7 percent.

Why is everything so expensive? Food prices are affected by global events, such as the war in Ukraine, which affect the costs of wheat and other core commodities. Prices are biting above their weight because of the largest decline in real wages in four decades, since, you guessed it, the Carter days.

Declines across the stock market have affected not only those who invest or passively hold stock in 401(k)s, but the parent companies they work for and shop with. "This time last year, January 3, the first day of market trading in 2022, looked like just another day in a stock rally that began when Barack Obama was still president," according to the New York Times. "The S&P 500 hit a record high. Tesla rose 13.5 percent and came close to its own all-time peak."

The U.S. is also suffering from the second biggest home price correction of the post-WWII era, with 55 percent of Americans saying they cannot afford to buy their home in today's market. Meanwhile, rent is up over 7 percent.

That day turned out to be the end of a market that for over a decade had gone mostly in one direction, the S&P 500 rising more than 600 percent since March 2009. The S&P 500 began the year’s final trading session of the year almost 20 percent below where it was at peak. The year overall was the worst annual performance since when the housing crisis in 2008 took down the market. Central banks drove markets this year because of inflation, which was also pushed by energy prices and massive spending in Ukraine.

There is some good news to add to the economic dullness and dismalness. NPR reports 70 percent of Americans polled support continuing a range of economic and military assistance to Ukraine. Those polled also supported the statement "that they might have to pay higher gas and food prices if we continue to assist Ukraine," and said "we should stick with Ukraine for as long as it takes rather than urge them to cede some territory to create a cease-fire." 

And the Blackrock investment firm has agreed to help rebuild Ukraine after peace breaks out. Blackrock already coordinates Ukrainian investment in the U.S.

Oh, and there's more that happened in 2022 to remember. Many large cities experienced their worst crime waves since the 1990s. Covid-19 remains a part of life. The southern border is a mess. Diseases of despair, suicide, alcohol, and drug overdoses have driven a drop in our life expectancy. But we're not gonna blame all that on Biden, too, right?

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