Inflation- Alive and Well
For years, the central planners at the Federal Reserve have assured us that inflation is dormant, if not dead. Federal Reserve Governor Ben Bernanke, during a recent speech in Washington, took pains to emphasize that inflation is “Under very good control.” But considering the relentless increase in the money supply engineered by the Fed over the last decade, one wonders whether Mr. Bernanke, Chairman Greenspan, and company protest too much.
Austrian- school economists demonstrate that true inflation is monetary inflation. True inflation therefore can be measured by an increase in the money supply. Mr. Greenspan and Fed policy makers have more than doubled the M3 money supply in less than ten years. While Treasury printing presses can print unlimited dollars, there are natural limits to economic growth. This flood of newly minted US currency can only increase consumer prices in the long term, as more and more dollars chase available goods and services.
Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, explains that Federal Reserve governors are incapable of telling us the truth about inflation for a very simple reason- they’re the ones causing it:
“The Federal Reserve always promises that it’s working to bring down inflation, but as Murray N. Rothbard shows in The Case Against the Fed, it never does. Since the Fed came into being, the dollar’s value has plummeted to less than a penny, and even at a 3% inflation rate, prices will tend to double every 25 years… The Fed wants to cover its crimes by appearing more successful at ‘battling inflation.’ What the Fed doesn’t want to talk about is the real cause of inflation: not greedy consumers, avaricious workers, or price-gouging corporations, but the central bank itself, and its power and practice of creating money out of thin air.”
The Treasury department parrots the Fed line that consumer prices, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), are under control. But even some Keynesian economists admit that CPI grossly understates true inflation. The most glaring problem is that CPI excludes housing prices, instead tracking rents. The Fed’s easy credit policies have created an artificial mortgage boom, enabling many Americans who would not have met credit standards 30 years ago to buy houses. So demand for rentals has diminished, causing rental housing prices to drop and distorting the CPI downward. However, everyone knows the cost of purchasing a home has increased dramatically in the last ten years. Home prices in many regions have more than doubled in just five years. So price inflation certainly is alive and well when to comes to the largest purchase most Americans make.
The prices of many other goods and services, including medical care and energy, also have increased substantially in the past decade. Commodity prices in particular have risen recently. In fact, broad indexes show commodities have risen 49% since last spring! The price of gold, steel, lumber, coal, lead, soybeans, corn, and rice have all spiked over the past year. When raw materials and basic consumables rise in price, all of us feel the effects in our pocketbooks. Mr. Greenspan may dismiss commodities as mere “physical” assets in his vision of an increasingly “conceptual” economy, but the markets are showing their preference for hard assets over fiat dollars and dollar-denominated equities.