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When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy! Social Unrest, Ben Bernanke, and Other Ramblings About Global Inflation and Angry Mamas

Much of my day might be spent changing poopy diapers and teaching my daughter how to say “please” and “thank you”… however that’s not to say that my thoughts and opinions can’t change the world. Just look at the massive, global unrest going today…this is not business as usual.  The anger… this time… is coming from a grassroots level. And the source of frustration is not an isolated incident.

Of course, no one likes corrupt governments and tyrannical monarchies. However, real uprisings are triggered by exasperation and desperation. And if there is a common thread among all the countries in turmoil right now… it is that their people are out of work and are struggling to put food on the table. And when a nation’s babies don’t have food on the table, Mama ain’t happy. And when Mama ain’t happy… ain’t nobody happy! We’ll come back to this…

Now, Fox News would like you to believe that North Africa and the surrounding countries are rioting because they desperately want to align with US political values, demanding “Human Rights”, “Reform and Liberalization”, and “Democracy”. What do I think? No, not really. People around the world are protesting because they see their governments and rulers living like fat cats…while they struggle just to get by…to have their basic needs met.  Protests in Libya began in February when demonstrators, fed up with delays, stormed a housing project that the government was half-heartedly funding and building. A basic need for shelter was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In Yemen, protesters are calling for their leader, Saleh, to be ousted, though he has ruled Yemen since 1978. So why the unrest now?  The younger, Shiite generation is buried in poverty and threatened by a water shortage. Again, basic needs not met. Demonstrators who forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from office recently cited numerous grievances about police corruption and abuses. Yet, many Egyptians will attest that the issues that really ignited the uprising were high unemployment, low wages and high food prices. Consumer price inflation in Egypt rose to 18 percent annually (prior to the ousting of Mubarak), up from 5 percent in 2006.

So back to Mama (yes…I am picturing Tyler Perry’s Madea right now with a baseball bat in hand saying, “I’m not bitter. I’m maaaaad as hell!”). And yes, while the phrasing of this blog may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, I do think that global leaders can draw some insight from the concept. Though young men may hold the immediate security threat in the streets, if we focus on the things that make Mama happy FIRST…the world might be a better place. So here is a suggestion to our world leaders from one lowly Mommy blogger…1) Ditch the rhetoric, 2) Stop threatening the world with your country’s oil and natural resources, and… 3) Get this inflation thing under control.

A recent news story about inflation in China tracked Mr. Ma’s fruit and vegetable shop, a few blocks from the Lama Temple in Beijing. In recent months, the prices of Ma’s products have soared. Eggs have gone from 7 yuan (US$1.07) to 10 yuan per kilogram (a 43% increase). Tomatoes have almost doubled in price, and cabbage, a Chinese diet staple, has tripled! In Uganda, the annual food price for February 2011 rose to 8.9 per cent, from 3.6 per cent in January 2011 (up 5.3% in one month)…thus, a kilogramme of bread costs Shs3,000, up from Shs2,300 in November 2010, a litre of cooking oil goes for Shs6,500, from Shs4, 000, a kilo of rice costs Shs2,500, up from Shs2,000 while a kilo of meat cost Shs7000, up from Shs5000.

In the United States, many of us are fortunate enough to absorb high food costs by decreasing our discretionary spending. However, lower income households do not have this option. So where does that put us as a nation?  Well, I can buy a government subsidized double cheeseburger at McDonald’s for $1…yet one, healthy bell pepper at my local grocery store costs $2.79. A simple head of broccoli? $2.49, or $3.99 for organic.  A head of cauliflower? $3.99.  And we wonder why Americans struggle with obesity? Ugh! I am sure that you all could come up with examples from your own recent shopping experiences, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better soon. Just this week Kimberly-Clark, Heinz, Nike, and Kraft Foods all announced upcoming price hikes. So, we can expect to pay 3-7% more for Huggies diapers, 7% more for toilet paper, and 20% more for Maxwell House coffee (okay…ick! On the MHC. However you get the point…and I haven’t even touched upon  the Incredible Shrinking Packages, or the “hidden” recession price hikes). And fuel? Anyone in California want to start this discussion? The sad thing is… you won’t get much sympathy from your friends in Europe. Leading the world’s top three most expensive gas countries:  1. Netherlands — $8.83/gal  2. Denmark — $8.73/gal  3. Germany and Greece — $8.52/gal.

So what to do with all this angst? Well, first I might suggest that we establish a new global organization called M.A.B.B…. or Mothers Against Ben Bernanke (or maybe M.A.G.I., Mothers Against Global Inflation, can be our back-up). The first order of business?  To identify our cause….because 99.999999% of mothers out there are too busy to care about what the Fed is doing. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact that every time Ben and his buddies print more money, they are simultaneously taking it out of your wallet and your child’s piggy bank (this includes the piggy banks of kids around the world, too….since many currencies are pegged to the dollar). To make matters worse, the banks that are given this money (in today’s dollars that are worth more) will then probably buy a bunch of Government bonds and loan it back to you… charging interest (in addition to making risky trades with their basically free money to make even more money).  It’s all very confusing, I know. And I also know that every, single member of the Fed is a million times smarter than me…however, I still think that their policies benefit “the greater system” and not “the greater good”.  The distribution of wealth in this country is becoming alarmingly skewed.

So though my nap-time ramblings might be worth about 2 cents (in today’s dollars), I do have a tender heart for the world’s people struggling to buy food and put fuel in their vehicles….and that is why they are protesting.  Though “Democracy” is a nice buzz word to throw around in the media, nations have be rocked to the core to take to the streets in the kind of numbers we’re seeing.

And who lies at the core of most families? Umm? Mom. Someone once said, “True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes”.  That is how I view everyday Moms doing everyday things around the world. While men might be the face of revolution and change (soldiers and police pointing their guns and politicians wielding their fists)…I can’t help but to think that women across the globe are mightily, yet quietly, channeling their discontent, influencing those around them, and shaping nations as we speak.

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