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Empty Shelves and Empty Wallets: No End in Sight as Supply Chain Bottleneck Drives Cost of Living Higher

Cargo containers sit stacked at the Port of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in San Pedro, Calif. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The unprecedented backlog of ships waiting to unload their cargo containers at U.S ports is moving at a snail's pace. 

Experts anticipate the bottleneck issue will outlast the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There are more than 70 container ships waiting to unload goods at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. These are the largest ports in the nation, which have now become a chokehold to the global supply chain. 

In comparison, all the major ports on the East Coast process a little more than 8 million containers combined (New York, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia).

"It's like running your car at 100 miles every day, that car is going to show wear and tear," said Joe Harris, spokesman for the Port of Virginia. "The industry is being run every day at 100 miles an hour." 

Even though the Port of Virginia is operating at 80 percent, the "sweet-spot" as Harris calls it, warehouses are full. Truck drivers are short on supply, and the ships just keep coming. Virginia is soaking up some of the congestion from the West Coast. 

Harris said the reason the West Coast is so congested is that it's the closest route from China. 

The supply chain bottleneck is driving up inflation. Store shelves are bare and you've likely felt the impact in your wallet. Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst with Bankrate.com says the problem has become self-evident among the poor.

"Inflation takes its worst toll on those who are on the lowest ladder of income and wealth," Hamrick explained. "For those who are well to do, it's not an issue. But for the middle class and those in lower class income, that's where the toll is taken and it's like they can't get a break."

During a CNN town hall meeting Thursday night in Baltimore, Md., President Biden said he was considering deploying the National Guard to help with the issue. That is yet to be seen. 

In the meantime, Joe Harris says patience is key. "It's going to take patience and understanding," Harris said. "If you know someone in the port industry, thank them. Those folks are working hard and they are working hard for the American economy."

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