CNN’s common struggling household raised eyebrows with milk consumption, however there are larger issues


The week’s grocery whole: $310. Krista Stotler estimates that in March, they’d have spent solely $150 to $200 on every week’s groceries. That’s an astonishing quantity! It’s additionally way out of line with data on rising grocery prices. It’s completely true that grocery costs have risen in latest months, however meat has risen essentially the most—by15.7% between August 2019 and September 2021. Dairy had gone up by 5.2% in that point. It’s a big quantity, however based mostly on the obtainable information it’s exhausting to see the way it’s doubling anybody’s grocery payments. It could have been good to see CNN dig into that.

One particular supplied: “A gallon of milk was $1.99,” in line with Krista Stotler, in a line tweeted by CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “Now it is $2.79. Properly, while you purchase 12 gallons every week occasions 4 weeks, that is some huge cash.”

Okay, initially, maintain up now. TWELVE GALLONS of milk each week? This can be a massive household however that’s greater than a gallon of milk per particular person. At that charge, perhaps they need to look into simply shopping for a cow.

However there are points extra critical than this household’s milk-guzzling preferences. There are massive questions in regards to the numbers right here. Nationally, even when you don’t regulate for inflation, the common worth of a gallon of milk has not been as little as $1.99 in more than 25 years. Milk costs could also be properly under the nationwide common within the particular a part of Texas the place the Stotlers reside, besides, in January 2021, the common milk worth in Dallas was $2.86 a gallon, and has now risen to $3.22. Again in March, the bottom common worth for a gallon of milk throughout the cities the USDA tracks was $2.52, in Wichita, Kansas. The typical worth for a gallon of milk in Wichita in $2.79. So Wichita went to the $2.79 an hour Krista Stotler lamented—but it surely was a rise of nearly one-third the rise she cited. Regardless of the milk costs the Stotlers have been paying in March, the rise they’re claiming to have seen is properly above the will increase being seen most locations.

CNN might even have gotten into the query of how milk costs are set. Milk pricing is highly regulated. Dairy farming is heavily subsidized by the federal government. Milk costs don’t simply occur, and generally, in recent times, the “downside” for dairy farmers has been too much milk. If milk costs are rising, the query of why could be an fascinating one, and folks may be taught loads about how meals will get to their tables and about how the financial system works. Apparently that’s not as fascinating as a household strolling round a grocery store.

So, , decisions have been made right here by CNN to uncritically air the Stotlers’ reported will increase in pricing although these have been a lot, a lot larger than the obtainable market information would recommend, and to go away off any context about pricing. And by speaking in regards to the worth improve throughout 12 gallons per week for 4 weeks, it’s inflated but once more.

However decisions have been additionally made right here by CNN to characteristic this household, a household that, certain, is searching for offers, however searching for offers at a Kroger, not at a reduction retailer. They seem to drive a really massive SUV and reside in a home with a kitchen massive sufficient to accommodate their massive household, with a patio and an enormous previous gasoline grill. It’s related that middle-class households are feeling the pinch, however the truth that CNN presents this explicit household’s struggles as a significant story displays so many closely racialized assumptions about who deserves our sympathy and about whose grocery budgeting woes are proof of a major problem within the financial system.

The federal minimal wage—which is the minimal wage in Texas—has been caught at $7.25 an hour for greater than a decade. I’m going to go forward and guess that CNN might have discovered individuals in Texas for whom grocery worth will increase (even when they’re not really 80 cents per gallon of milk) could be considerably extra of a hardship. However these persons are not seen as those whose tales are the relatable family-being-squeezed tales. When the media tells their tales, it’s extra more likely to be about insurance policies just like the minimal wage or the Supplemental Vitamin Help Program or about charity. The pure “that is our relatable wrestle” reporting goes to households just like the Stotlers, who’re presumed to talk on to CNN’s viewers and to be typically above reproach (a big Black household, even with adopted kids, could be more likely to attract “if you happen to can’t afford that many children you shouldn’t have them” kind of criticism).

CNN took simply in regards to the shallowest doable strategy to the difficulty of grocery costs and the financial squeeze on households. It’s nothing in opposition to the Stotlers (nevertheless questionable their characterizations of worth will increase could also be), however this story doesn’t improve our data or understanding of what’s happening within the U.S. financial system in the present day.