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Gus Carlson is a New York-based columnist for The Globe and Mail.

Jamie Dimon is the anti-Chicken Little – a prominent voice who says the sky is not falling, despite the current mess.

JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive predicted this week that current pains caused by continuing supply-chain delays and disruptions will be short-lived, mainly because consumers continue to spend at record rates.

“I should never do this, but I’ll make a forecast,” Mr. Dimon said during a virtual appearance earlier this week at the annual meeting of the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based financial services trade group. “This will not be an issue next year at all. This is the worst part of it.”

Mr. Dimon said he based his comments on strong consumer spending, up 20 per cent from prepandemic levels. Consumers are shifting spending around supply chain and pandemic impacts – instead of cars, which are in short supply, they are redecorating their houses; instead of overseas vacations, which remain hampered by COVID-19 travel restrictions, they are travelling domestically.

That may be true for high-net-worth clients, but consumers closer to the ground are feeling acorns falling on their heads, as the flow of products through North American ports stalls, hamstrung by shortages of truck drivers to deliver goods and broader labour pinches, and creeping inflation driving up prices for everything from gas to groceries.

Just ask the Uber driver. He will tell you his daily fill-up now costs at least 25 per cent more than it did a month ago. He has upped the number of hours he drives each week and makes more income. But it is a somewhat pyrrhic victory – the more he drives, the more gas he uses, and the higher his fuel costs.

Or ask the pensioner at the grocery store. She says she now pays US$9.99 a pound for ham cold cuts, up from US$7.99 a month ago. Perishables are now more expensive and harder to find. And staples such as toilet paper and paper towels are in short supply – and in some stores, there are limits on how much each customer can buy.

And there’s the unlucky motorist who needs a new tire. His local garage says he will have to wait – the replacement is stranded with thousands of other tires in a regional warehouse because there are not enough truck drivers to deliver it. When it does arrive, it will cost more. And those snow tires he ordered for the winter? Don’t count on them arriving until the spring thaw – or maybe even summer.

To be sure, consumers are having to make choices, as the list of affected goods grows and prices rise. Some products, such as gas, food and some household products, are essentials.

Gas prices nationwide in the U.S. are up an average of 30 per cent from a year ago. Canadian snowbirds making their annual migration south by car will feel the pinch. On the I-95 corridor on the U.S. East Coast, for example, drivers can expect to pay between US$3 and US$3.50 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas. That means the 2,600-kilometre trip from Montreal to Hollywood, Fla. – assuming gas mileage of 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the gallon – will cost more than CDN$250 (US$200) for the fuel alone.

Other non-essential products may need to be bought well in advance or cut from must-have lists in the near term.

Butterball, the big North Carolina-based purveyor of turkeys, warns that smaller turkeys may be harder to find this year, as pandemic concerns continue to drive down the size of U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday gatherings and drive up demand for smaller birds.

Christmas trees – both real and fabricated – as well as holiday decorations, will be in short supply. Traditional homemade trimmings such as strings of popcorn or iced gingerbread men may make a comeback this year.

Toys, athletic shoes and sports equipment are all predicted to be scarce, as are most major brands of cellphones – or anything reliant on computer chips. Parents with teenagers may find the shortage of these devices as much a blessing as a curse, however.

Even certain brands of Scotch whisky may be hard to find. That fact, combined with an anticipated scarcity of carbonated drinks, may drive faithful Scotch-and-soda drinkers to seek other options.

But there is reason to hope Mr. Dimon may be right. This week, U.S. President Joe Biden met with leaders of major companies – including FedEx, UPS, Walmart and Target – and labour unions to discuss the issue. He also met with the heads of key ports, capped by a directive to open the Port of Los Angeles on a 24/7 basis, joining the Port of Long Beach in operating around the clock.

Mr. Biden called the expansion of the ports “a first key step” in transforming the country’s freight and transportation system, adding that many other countries run their ports non-stop.

Many major retailers have been trying to find workarounds to the port situation, which has seen hundreds of ships stalled at anchor off the country’s coasts. Some are hiring smaller boats to offload stranded cargo.

To ease the shortage of truckers, many states are streamlining the process for drivers to get commercial licences. And major retailers are literally taking to the streets to find drivers, putting recruiting messages on tractor-trailers that include e-mail addresses for applications.

Perhaps these measures will make Mr. Dimon’s prediction come true and support his view that the current supply-chain issues will simply elongate the recovery, not derail it. In the meantime, consumers will feel the squeeze of what will probably be a very Grinch-y holiday season.

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