Despite the fanfare, inflation is not conquered


Key Points

  • September CPI numbers show inflation is still on the rise. 
  • Core inflation hit a 40 year high.
  • Local communities are the key to paving the way for economic success. 

In September, President Joe Biden prematurely declared victory over inflation as he held a celebration event over the party-line passage of the Inflation Reduction Act that required the Vice President of the United States to cast the deciding vote in the Senate.

Perhaps they were fooled by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers for July and August. In July, the CPI dropped just a tiny bit to 295.271 from the seasonally-adjusted index of 295.328 for June, which rounds to an inflation rate of 0.0%. Although the unadjusted index slightly decreased again in August, the seasonal adjusted number rose by only 0.1% that calculates to 1.4% when annualized.

But, alas, inflation rates typically fluctuate from month to month, and what’s important is the longer-term trend.

When the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the CPI numbers for September, it became all too clear that we must continue to suffer through rising prices — because inflation has not yet been tamed. 

The overall monthly inflation rate rose 0.4% when seasonally adjusted, that is 4.7% when annualized. Yet again, the inflation reading came in hotter than expected, with consensus estimates being around 0.3% for the September reading. The year-over-year inflation rate stands at 8.3%. 

Worse, inflation has become ingrained in our economy with no indication that it’s going away anytime soon. Here are a few reasons why we still need to be worried. 

1.The core inflation rate hit a 40 year high

The reason economists look at the core inflation rate is to gauge how widely inflation has spread throughout the economy. They get the rate by subtracting the cost of energy and food from the index, but not because energy and food prices are unimportant. But because of their volatility. 

The core inflation rate was 6.7% in September over the previous year – the highest it’s been in forty years. It increased 0.6% in September, which calculates to an annual rate of 7.1%. This alarming trend demonstrates just how ingrained inflation has become in our economy. 

“But policy is only one piece of the puzzle. The other even more important piece is the community-level response.”

“But policy is only one piece of the puzzle. The other even more important piece is the community-level response.”


2. Energy prices are down — sort of — but food prices up

One piece of good news is that energy prices went down in September. However, this is of little consolation because the prices are still 19.9% higher than last year and 49.7% higher than two years ago.

There is no good news for food prices. You can’t go to the grocery store anymore without noticing the impact of inflation, and the CPI numbers bear this out. Food prices in general are up 11.2% over last year, or 16.3% higher than two years ago. As anyone can tell you, this is just the general price increase. Consumers can experience higher prices depending on what foods they buy. Cereals and bakery goods are up 16.2% from last year, and dairy products are up 15.9%

Although economists like focusing on core inflation, energy and food prices are necessities that impact most people, especially lower income families and seniors living on fixed incomes.  

3. Inflation isn’t going away anytime soon

When reading the tea leaves, there aren’t many indications to expect inflation will abate any time soon. The recent droughts and man-made obstacles to food production, such as Russia’s war on the Ukraine and the irresponsible farm policy changes in the Netherlands, will impact food supply, which, of course, will have a direct impact on food prices and its availability. 

As winter approaches the northern hemisphere, the demand for energy will increase. Here again, the war in Ukraine is culpable for disrupting energy supply to Europe. Moreover, not only did the Biden Administration fail to convince OPEC to increase production, but OPEC, which by the way includes Russia, is doing the exact opposite. They are cutting back on oil production. 

In the meantime, current U.S. energy policy is more concerned about climate change than energy independence — that we were just two short years ago. The Administration’s release of petroleum from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve did help ease prices, but now the reserve is at the lowest level since 1984. How much lower will the Administration allow it to go?

Because it impacts economic behavior, core inflation is even harder to solve. People – whether acting on behalf of their businesses or as an employee or as a consumer – incorporate their expectations of higher prices into their personal actions. This only fuels inflation more. Consider this fact: Although many businesses are experiencing higher revenue, their costs are also up. Importantly, and unfortunately, for many of them, their profits are down. All these factors exacerbate inflation while slowing economic growth, which harms everyone.  

The way forward is through local communities

Our nation’s inflationary environment is bad. Everyone knows that. The big question is what to do about it. On the policy front, we need a paradigm shift in Washington, D.C., to focus on enacting policies that encourage private investment, savings, and free trade while cutting back on deficit spending.

But policy is only one piece of the puzzle. The other even more important piece is the community-level response.

Here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, our focus is primarily on these bottom-up solutions. Our neighbors — particularly those on the economic margins — are suffering from high inflation and need help. That’s where programs like BETTER WORK come in. They help the poor and impoverished get the skills and training needed to find a job and pursue a career, while ensuring they also find safe and affordable housing, reliable transportation, childcare services, and any other essential that’s needed.

We also know that economic prosperity is challenging when your home life is in shambles. That’s why GCO prioritizes healthy family relationships through our Elevate workshops throughout the community and our Strengthen Families Program in local schools. On that note, prosperity is impossible without a good education, so we prioritize policies that will bring the broadest range of educational options to the most people, regardless of their background, income level, or zip code.

The way back from our high inflationary environment is going to be a long trip. But with the right policies in place and with an attitude that prioritizes on-the-ground help for our neighbors, we can lighten the burden for our neighbors during the journey.

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