Thanksgiving disaster on the horizon
Thanksgiving, perhaps even more than the Fourth of July, is the quintessential American celebration. Modern codification came to us as a fixed date, thanks to Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 during the Great Depression. Families struggling during our national nightmare had one day to feast and appreciate that, even during the darkest times, Americans had far more to be grateful for than not. This Thanksgiving, we hearken back to those difficult economic days. Policy failures will be responsible for tens of thousands of families getting stranded at airports, paying exorbitant gas prices, and encountering grocery store shortages. Americans face the most expensive Thanksgiving on record.
Annually, millions of passengers travel by plane to see family for Thanksgiving; in 2019, 26 million travelers and crew passed through U.S. airport screening in the 11-day period around the holiday. This year, waves of Americans could see their flights canceled or delayed because of a severe lack of workers within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In June the agency warned of serious staffing shortages at nearly 150 of the nation’s airports. The situation was so bad that TSA office employees were asked to volunteer at airports for up to 45 days.
Given these existing issues, the timing of President Biden’s Nov. 22 vaccine mandate for federal employees — just three days before Thanksgiving — could not be worse. As of October, only about 60 percent of TSA workers were vaccinated. If employees call in sick or organize a walkout days before the holiday, it would create a nationwide travel nightmare for potentially hundreds of thousands of people, leading to massive delays and waves of flights being canceled. President Biden could get stuck with a Reagan-air traffic controllers situation.
It is not just the TSA that is impacted by staffing shortages — airlines face similar challenges. The past few months have seen airlines such as Southwest and American cancel thousands of flights because of a shortage of workers; the latter is attempting to make due with just three-quarters of its pre-pandemic staff. The coming vaccine mandate for large private companies will make existing staffing issues that much more acute at a time when the airlines have no spare capacity, and it could spark a flood of resignations and layoffs. While most large airline workforces are mostly vaccinated — United reports more than 90 percent — even losing a small fraction of employees during the busiest travel period of the year would be disastrous. How many pilots will simply cash in their retirements instead of dealing with a sweeping federal mandate? How many mechanics or support staff will call in for a week or just quit?
Those who travel by car to see family this Thanksgiving will face burdens, as well. The cost of fuel is nearing an all-time high, impeding the ability for average families to drive long distances to see their loved ones. The increasing price of fuel (crude oil is anticipated at $120 next year) also leads to higher plane ticket costs and will drive up the price of most consumer goods and food. Plus, heating the family home will be much pricier.
Americans already are being pushed to the brink with inflated costs across the board. Food prices are at their highest point since the 1970s and global food prices increased 3 percent during just the month of October. Simultaneously, a worsening fertilizer shortage because of supply chain disruptions threatens to spike food costs even more. Prices are inflating across the board — a whole turkey doubled in price over the past two years. The New York Times said that 2021 could be the costliest Thanksgiving in history.
As if that weren’t difficult enough, the trucker and dock worker shortage easily could lead to empty store shelves and a lack of holiday favorites. The turkey may be there, albeit much more expensive, but some of the favorite drinks and side dishes may be absent until 2022 or beyond. Our supply chain crisis is deepening as cargo ships remain moored off the nation’s coasts. At the same time, the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate may cause even more truckers walking off the job. The American Trucking Associations reports that it fears loss of 37 percent of its drivers because of the mandate.
The responsibility of a Thanksgiving from hell lies squarely at the feet of poor federal policy put forward by Joe Biden’s administration. Far from the president’s 2020 campaign promises to stop the virus, our economic malaise soon will catch up with the average family. For a holiday based around plenty, many Americans long will remember the first holiday season since the Depression marked by higher prices, missing relatives, and missing dishes.
Instead of attempting to fix the scope of the problems straining families, the Biden administration has focused its efforts on attempting to diminish these problems. What will you believe: What White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tells you and what Chief of Staff Ron Klain retweets, or your “lying eyes”?
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.