A quick rundown of things that happened in 2013: income inequality continued to climb, food stamp benefits were cut, a major U.S. city declared bankruptcy, Congress once again brought the nation to the brink of economic apocalypse, and God (via the Pope) took capitalism to task.
It was quite a year on the economics and business beat, but sometimes we all got sidetracked. Below, a rundown of the slightly-more-frivolous stories to which everyone (yes, even U.S. News at times) may have overreacted.
Ben Bernanke Mentions Tapering Might Happen Sometime
When the Federal Reserve first announced QE3 in late 2012, it explained that maintaining the open-ended $85 billion monthly asset purchase program would be contingent on an improving labor market. And at a June press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted inflation seemed to be inching upward and that the labor market seemed set to improve, and therefore it might at some point be time to dial back the $85 billion monthly purchases.
"If the incoming data are broadly consistent with this forecast, the Committee currently anticipates that it would be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year," he said. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst day of the year the next day, dropping 350 points.
To be fair, it's not just that journalists and pundits overreacted to the news. Rather, much of the news was that investors soiled themselves at the notion that the Fed would cut back on its stimulus program when it judged the economy had improved sufficiently. Which was the plan from the beginning. (And as it turns out, the Fed hasn't decided to taper yet anyway.)
The ________ Shortage
We had our share of food-shortage-related panics of 2013: wine, massive turkeys, chicken wings, and Sriracha, to name a few.
One key reason why it's usually safe to breathe easy when shortage news breaks: many "shortages" actually end up being price bumps – and bumps that are not prohibitive for many customers. When weather hurts corn crops, as it did in 2012, it can cause the prices of meat to go up as corn is a popular animal feed.
This invariably spawns press releases about the imminent shortage of chicken wings or bacon. But even amid the "chicken wing shortage" (which coincided with Super Bowl Sunday), the National Chicken Council acknowledged that while prices might go up, there was in fact no shortage going on at the time. As Slate's Matt Yglesias eloquently explained during the famous bacon (non)shortage of 2012, "there shouldn't be any actual shortages precisely because prices will rise."
Sriracha was a different story. Irwindale, Calif., home of the Huy Fong Foods factory that produces Sriracha, asked a judge to shut down the factory because of the smells it produces. Aficionados can relax for now, as the judge ruled that the factory could stay open, but Huy Fong was also ordered to stop producing "anything that causes odors," meaning Sriracha lovers will simply have to wait and see what happens.
"Lean In" Backlash
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In," a book that was by turns a memoir, a manifesto, and a self-help book, took the nation by storm this year, spawning spirited debate about how women can succeed in the workplace.
And in the debate, a double standard emerged: that in writing an insightful book attempting to inspire women to career success in a male-dominated society, Sandberg should speak for every woman everywhere. As The Verge pointed out, no one would make a similar demand of a Jack Welch or a Warren Buffett.
The Manufacturing Renaissance
The manufacturing industry, which was ravaged by the recession, is bouncing back strongly by one measure – manufacturing output (represented by the blue line in the below graph) has nearly rebounded to pre-recession levels. However, manufacturing jobs (red line) had been slipping long before the downturn, thanks to a variety of factors like international competition and technological advances.