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American workers go into debt to buy groceries

Via Natalie Sherman and Nathalie Jimenez, BBC News, New York

BBC Stacey Ellis looks at the computerBBC

Stacey Ellis works two jobs, but needs to save

Stacey Ellis, a longtime Democrat from Pennsylvania, is certainly the kind of voter US President Joe Biden can count on.

But after four years of rising prices, her support has waned – and every time she shops at the supermarket, she is reminded of how things have changed for the worse.

Ms. Ellis works full time as a nursing assistant and has a part-time job.

But she needed to save. She moved stores, cut back on brand-name items like Dove soap and Stroehmann bread, and almost said goodbye to her favorite Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Still, Ms. Ellis has sometimes resorted to risky payday loans (short-term borrowing at high interest rates) as she grapples with a 25% increase in food prices since Mr. Biden took office in January 2021.

“Before inflation,” she said, “I didn’t have any debt, I didn’t have any credit cards, I never applied for payday loans or anything like that. But since inflation, I have to do all those things…. I’ve had to completely downgrade my life.”

Soaring grocery prices have outpaced a historic 20% cost-of-living increase in the wake of the pandemic, putting pressure on households across the country and fueling widespread economic and political discontent.

“I’m a Democrat,” said Ellis, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown. “I like voting for them. But the Republicans are doing a lot of talking right now and the Democrats are whispering.”

“I want someone to help me, to help the American people,” she added. “Joe Biden, where are you?”

For a president facing serious doubts about his age and fitness to serve another term, the cost of living poses a major challenge, threatening to depress voter turnout in an election that could be decided, like the previous two, by tens of thousands of votes in a handful of key states.

Getty Images People shop at Lincoln Market on June 12, 2023 in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. beautiful pictures

Food prices have increased 25% since Joe Biden took office

Nationwide, the average American spent more than 11% of their income on food, including restaurant meals, last year — a higher share than at any time since 1991.

Soaring food prices have hit young, low-income and minority households hard — key parts of the coalition that helped Mr. Biden win the White House in 2020.

But concerns about this issue are common: Pew Survey Earlier this year, it was found that 94% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about rising food and consumer goods prices.

The situation is almost identical to two years earlier, although the sharp rise in food prices in the United States and other countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has subsided.

Dylan Garcia, a 26-year-old security guard from Brooklyn, said he has never struggled to buy groceries as much as he does now.

Instead of the fresh and branded foods he once enjoyed, he now hoards ramen noodles and frozen vegetables — and eats them only twice a day because he can’t afford to buy more.

When it came to paying, he often used “buy now, pay later” schemes, which allowed him to pay off his bills in installments, but this led to mounting debt.

“I was stuck in a loop,” he said. “I felt insecure about having to pull out my phone at the checkout counter and having to use these programs. When they saw me, I felt embarrassed.”

Mr. Garcia, who has long voted Democratic, said his precarious financial situation has made him lose hope in politics and he does not plan to vote in the November election.

“I don’t think the government cares about our interests and I don’t think they care,” he said.

John Wirick, Trump voter Katie Walsh makeup John Wirick

Trump voter Katie Walsh says her cosmetics business is slowing down as people cut back

The White House has insisted that Mr. Biden has been involved in food affordability issues, fighting to increase food stamp benefits and other government aid, initiatives opposed by Republicans.

In last month’s presidential debate, the first question was about inflation, and Mr Biden sought to blame big companies, accusing them of raising prices too much – a statement that is hotly debated among economists.

But despite strong job creation and low unemployment, polls show voters still trust Mr Biden’s opponent, former President Donald Trump, more on economic issues.

On the CNN debate stage, the Republican White House nominee blamed Mr Biden for fuelling inflation, which the White House denies, saying: “It’s killing people. They can’t buy groceries anymore. They can’t.”

In contrast, the Trump campaign denied that his proposed policies — including a 10% tariff on all goods imported into the United States — would lead to higher prices, as many analysts predicted.

“We believe that a second Trump term would negatively impact the United States’ economic standing in the world and destabilize the U.S. domestic economy,” 16 Nobel laureates wrote in an open letter last month.

Republicans accused Mr. Biden of trying to mislead the public about the extent of the inflation problem, noting that Mr. Biden falsely claimed that inflation was at 9% when he took office. It was 1.4%.

Katie Walsh, a makeup artist in Pennsylvania, voted for Trump in 2020 and said she plans to vote for him again based on his economic record.

The 39-year-old said her family was struggling to keep up with inflation, especially since her business had slowed down as people had to cut back on spending due to rising prices.

“I know he’s a big talker,” she said of Mr. Trump. “But at least he knows how to run the economy.”

Stephen Lemelin flyerleaflets

Stephen Lemelin, a Michigan Democrat, said his grocery bill is going down.

Analysts say the economy is clearly important to voters, but it is unlikely to play a decisive role in the November election.

In 2022, when inflation was at its worst, Democrats did better than expected in the midterm elections, as concerns about abortion rights drove supporters to the polls.

This time, issues like immigration and capacity to hold office are also top of mind for many voters, while economic trends appear to be heading in the right direction.

Grocery prices have risen just 1% over the past 12 months, still within normal levels; and prices of some items, including rice, fish, apples, potatoes and milk, have even fallen slightly.

With major chains like Target, Amazon and Walmart announcing price cuts in recent weeks, there are signs that things could continue to improve.

Some analysts also expect wages, which have been rising but still lag behind overall price increases, to finally catch up this year, providing further support.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Sarah Foster, who tracks the economy for “Wage growth has slowed, price growth has slowed, but, you know, prices are slowing at a much faster rate than wages.”

Stephen Lemelin, a 49-year-old father of two from Michigan, another electoral battleground, said he was surprised to see the price drop on a recent trip to the supermarket.

Despite concerns about the economy, the military veteran said his support for Mr Biden, who won his vote in 2020, was never in doubt, as he saw Mr Trump as a threat to democracy.

“Nobody likes high interest rates or high inflation, but that’s not in the president’s control,” he said. “If you know politics, there’s really only one choice.”


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