Prices are rising faster than at any time in the last 39 years. An entire generation of Americans have never witnessed this kind of monetary mischief and likely don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes. But believe it or not, it’s all very simple—and downright insidious.
As measured by the U.S. Department of Labor’s consumer price index (CPI), the general level of prices was 6.8% higher in November 2021 than a year prior.
The rocket-powered inflation ride of 2021 has been Orwellian.
It started out with a denial of the inflation menace, then transitioned into tacit acknowledgement of the problem with the euphemism of “transitory” inflation. More recently, the White House has asserted that inflation is “a good thing” despite all evidence to the contrary.
If Orwell’s 1984 is any indication, the talking points may soon change yet again to say “there has always been inflation.”
All of this misses the truth that inflation comes from one place: the Federal Reserve (Fed). The Fed can convert debt—like Treasury bonds—into newly created money. This devalues existing dollars, and the effect is rising prices.
The simple solution is for the Fed to cease its purchasing of debt, including government bonds.
But as a prodigal Congress shackles the nation with ever-increasing deficits and debt, it provides the Fed with ample fuel for this inflation fire. As the independence of the Fed erodes over time—and as Modern Monetary Theory takes hold—the Fed seems less concerned with stable prices and more concerned with buying bonds to cover Congress’ deficits.
The Fed has ignored inflation—to the nation’s peril and Congress’ glee.
Inflation is a hidden tax that quietly confiscates Americans’ wealth and transfers it to the federal government, which can spend more without explicitly raising taxes.
But the hidden nature of this inflationary tax is not the only insidious ingredient in the mix. Inflation falls heaviest on those who are least able to afford price increases—those with low and fixed incomes.
Meanwhile, those with assets—like stocks—are better able to weather the inflationary storm as their assets increase in price. But even the wealthy are not immune to the hidden tax; there is no safe harbor from the storm of price increases.
And those price increases over the last year has been steep—especially for energy—with gasoline prices up 58.1% and home heating oil prices up 59.3%.
If you’re traveling, hotel prices are up 25.5% and rental vehicle prices are up 37.2%. If you take your own vehicle instead, just remember that tire prices are up 11.1%.
Things are no better if you stay home: furniture and bedding prices have risen 11.8% and laundry appliance prices are up 9.2%.
And if you intend to eat, be prepared for more sticker shock. Bacon prices are 21.0% higher, canned vegetable prices 6.5% higher, and beef roast prices 26.4% higher.
For those who predicted these multi-decade inflation highs, it is a pyrrhic victory. There is no joy in seeing Americans paying more for everything, including necessities like food, clothing, and housing.
Furthermore, it did not take a crystal ball to see this train wreck coming down the tracks. All it took was a cursory knowledge of history, basic economics, and common sense—all of which are in short supply in Washington, D.C.