President Trump and his conservative base love to boast about the economy. Although no one man is responsible for the growth of the world’s greatest economic power, I won’t begrudge the President. We’re heading toward a critical election year. If a strong economy helps him, so be it. But in all fairness, the retail landscape demonstrates that such strength is a façade.
According to CNBC contributor Lauren Thomas, this year saw a record number of retail store closures. Thomas writes:
In the U.S., retailers this year have announced plans to shut more than 9,300 locations. That’s up more than 50% from the total announced closures in 2018, which amounted to 5,844, Coresight said. Previously, the record was for the 8,069 store closures announced in 2017.
Bankruptcies continued to be a driving force. This included announcements from Sears, Forever 21, Payless ShoeSource and Destination Maternity.
Naturally, experts attribute (or blame, depending on your perspective) the shift in the retail landscape on Amazon. Starting life as an online bookstore, Amazon has evolved to disrupt nearly every segment in the retail space. While this may represent the unmitigated progress of capitalism, it certainly adds a footnote to our so-called economic recovery.
After all, if our country is doing so well, why the need for store closures?
Retail Landscape Challenges Point to a Greater Flaw
Like I won’t begrudge Trump, I also won’t begrudge Amazon for its success. According to the principles of free market capitalism, Amazon should continue its course unfettered.
Interestingly, though, Trump has lobbed his fair share of criticisms against Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos. While the conflict may not have materialized if Trump remained in real estate, he’s now POTUS. Invariably, Bezos and Amazon negatively impact Trump’s conservative base due to automation and business closures.
Thus, the power of the internet and digitalization may have exposed the upper limits of capitalism. Yes, capitalism rewards success, as it should. But is there a limit to how successful one entity can be before it impacts the whole?
That’s why I don’t view Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s signature policy proposal for universal basic income as socialism. Rather, it might be the only sensible solution to what we’re seeing in the retail landscape. As Amazon and its ilk become ever more powerful, they’ll disrupt and consolidate several other industries.
As prior government initiatives have proven, we cannot stop progress and success. That’s highly irresponsible and ineffective. But we can’t just sit around and do nothing. Otherwise, our entire economy might collapse under its own weight.