Issues & Insights
Boris Yeltsin marvels at overflowing grocery stores in 1989. (YouTube screenshot.)

Biden’s Empty-Shelf America Is A Country Boris Yeltsin Wouldn’t Recognize

In 1989, Boris Yeltsin visited a Randalls supermarket in Texas. He was astonished at what he saw: shelves, coolers, and freezers bursting with groceries. Were the late Russian president to visit today, he would find many of America’s stores having a lot in common with those of the centrally planned Soviet Union, where the inventory was chronically low, the customers morose.

According to reports of the day, Yeltsin, then still a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, “roamed the aisles of Randalls nodding his head in amazement,” declaring that “even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev.”

“He told his fellow Russians in his entourage that if their people, who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets, ‘there would be a revolution,’” the Houston Chronicle said in a sort of “remember when” article a few years back.

Yeltsin’s biographer said that afterward he “was despondent” and “couldn’t stop thinking about the plentiful food at the grocery store and what his countrymen had to subsist on in Russia.”

“​​For a long time, on the plane to Miami,” after the visit, “he sat motionless, his head in his hands,” Leon Aron wrote in his biography, “Yeltsin, A Revolutionary Life.” 

“What have they done to our poor people?” Yeltsin asked. 

“On his return to Moscow,” Aron wrote, “Yeltsin would confess the pain he had felt after the Houston excursion: the ‘pain for all of us, for our country so rich, so talented and so exhausted by incessant experiments.’” 

The New York Times said in its Yeltsin obituary that an aide reportedly saw that in the grocery store visit “the last vestige of Bolshevism collapsed” inside of the man.

Today it’s U.S. consumers who, if not depressed, are at least frustrated by the state of affairs in stores in which they’ve come to expect to be filled with goods. The wide-open spaces have even trended on Twitter under #BareShelvesBiden and #EmptyShelvesJoe.  

We admit: The supply chain breakdown is global. It can’t be fully pinned on President Joe Biden and his party. But poor public policies advanced (and protected, in the case of productivity-killing union work rules) by Democrats and private-sector policies driven by big-government pressure have left U.S. retailers looking like Moscow’s GUM department store failing to serve its “grim customers” in the Soviet era. Too many “incessant experiments” in the form of generous “rescue” spending that have stripped some of their incentive to work; lockdowns which bit big chunks out of the economy; and vaccine mandates and unrelenting pandemic fearmongering that have created labor shortages across multiple industries within the supply chain.

Biden declared “problem solved” three days before Christmas when he said “Packages are moving. Gifts are being delivered. Shelves are not empty.”

Yet here we are well into 2022, and store shelves are looking worse than a Christmas stripped of its ornaments and tossed on the curb in the middle of January. While we’re far better off than the USSR was on its best days, the trend doesn’t inspire confidence.

Were Yeltsin still alive, he would feel pain for an America that’s performing far below its history as well as its capabilities.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.

12 comments

  • Congratulations and jubilations, Joe Xiden. You have single handedly achieved the socialist downfall of the USA. Well, perhaps not entirely alone. With a little bit of help from Zuckerberg and his private election companies, and Soros, buying up AGs, and therefore, justice. Then there are contributions from Xi Jinping and Ukraine, via the fragrant Hunter. Who else has contributed ? A wise man acknowledges his donors. A lesson the mafia taught . But then, no one in their right mind can accuse you of wisdom.

  • I just returned from a three week trip to Mexico. I went to Puerto Vallarta, Matawan, Loretto, Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, and I tapas.

    I visited grocery stores in every city.

    There were no empty shelves.

    I must conclude that Mexicans are more adept atcapitzlism than Americans.

    • They are while we have tried old Communist Alzheimer JOE and the Communist/Democrat in complete control of our Gov and nation.

  • No mention of the fact that things were worse under Trump. These folks will make any misrepresentation necessary to make Biden look bad.

  • But Bernie must be in heaven (or the Bolshevik equivalent) – the stores are starting to get that trendy “Soviet” vibe!

  • “We admit: The supply chain breakdown is global. It can’t be fully pinned on President Joe Biden and his party.”
    I’d like to recommend that the I&I Editorial Board take a more careful/thorough look at Biden’s (and his henchmen/women/whatever in Congress) policies in re the petroleum, agriculture, and trucking/transportation industries and connect the dots.

  • On day one, Biden declared war on fossil fuel with an Executive Order. He did this before any infrastructure was in place to support his grand Green Energy plan.
    Stupid!
    Now, the USA and Canada are pushing mandates that truckers have to be vaccinated to cross the border. Even though truck drivers rarely come into contact with the public, or their cargo.
    More Stupid.
    When will we see the moderate, sensible, results-oriented governance he pledge to provide to Americans during his campaign?
    I guess we’re the stupid Biden depended on to get elected?

  • I hate to disagree but even when we were in full lockdown when COVID was hitting the hardest under Trump our grocery stores were full. We had a short term run on toilet paper but that was soon solve. It was only when the country gave full power to the incompetent COMMUNISTS/DEMOCRATS including Alzheimer JOE that things begin to fall apart. First they destroyed our energy independence and set gas and energy prices on a course to double and then double again. That started the massive increase in food and other prices throughout the economy. Then with the economy already recovering they printed trillions upon trillions to pay people NOT to work. Then they started with their filthy NAZI like mandates firing people who refused to knuckle under to their fascist like orders. Democrats did this both at the Federal Level and in the BLUE States, and now we see the results. MORE PEOPLE Have died from COVID under them than Trump and they did that while halfway destroying our economy, our supply chain, and causing massive long term price increases that aren’t going away. Thanks to them OIL is trading in the Mid $80s which means more energy price increases are in the pipeline, and of course they shut down the Keystone pipeline the cheapest and safest way to transport oil and gas. What Yeltsin realized the Communist had done to Russia we repeated when we put them in control of the USA. We did it to ourselves folks, or I should say every idiot that voted for Alzheimer JOE or any Communist/Democrat in 2020 did it to our nation. It will get worse America as long as they have control. They hate America and only want to seize power. Wait and see what happens if they succeed? Where we are now will seem like paradise.

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