The Atlantic Daily: The Big Wait

All kinds of things are out of stock. Why? Then: So … about the “bad art friend.”

It’s not just toilet paper anymore. Pandemic pressure on the global supply chain is causing disruptions and shortages of a diverse assortment of items, such as books, furniture, wood, and COVID tests.

“Americans are settling into a new phase of the pandemic economy,” my colleague Derek Thompson writes. “This is the Everything Shortage.”

  • The global supply chain is a disaster. And not just one part of it, either. “Every stage of this international assembly line is breaking down in its own unique way,” Derek explains.

  • At its core are people. “Labor is the ghost in the machine,” Amanda Mull writes. “The pandemic has tied the supply chain in knots because it represents an existential threat to the lives of the humans who toil in it.”

  • Even returns are a nasty mess. “Retailers of all kinds have always had to deal with returns, but processing this much miscellaneous, maybe-used, maybe-useless stuff is an invention of the past 15 years of American consumerism,” Amanda writes in her latest “Material World” column.

A practical tip from Derek: USPS is raising its rates for the holiday season. Start your gift shopping early “to avoid paying those surcharges and suffering the yuletide wrath of disappointed children.”

A bright pink background and a medieval woman holding a cell phone

(Getty; The Atlantic)

What to read if … you can’t stop talking about “Bad Art Friend”:

Neither can we. “Dawn Dorland could be the patron saint of this god-awful, morally incomprehensible social-media age,” our staff writer Elizabeth Bruenig argues.

If you missed the viral New York Times Magazine article, you’ve got some catching up to do.

The news in three sentences:

(1) The Senate reached a compromise on the debt ceiling, deciding to circle back to it in December. (2) Pfizer sought FDA authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. (3) A new Senate report details how Donald Trump planned to use the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election results.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Put on a podcast. For a break from the pandemic blues, our staff writer Katherine J. Wu recommends Short Wave’s “The Mysterious Ice Worm.”

Find more picks from our staff.

A break from the news:

How many episodes of a show should you watch before giving up? Our culture writer did the research, and the answer is four.