A quick thought on the worst inflation numbers since 1981

We all knew today’s new inflation numbers were going to be really bad, and 8.5 percent inflation over the course of a year, the worst since 1981, is the sort of number that can end up defining a presidency.

Compared to a year ago, you’re paying 48 percent more today for gasoline; 35.3 percent more for a used car; 21.6 percent more for your natural-gas bill; 13.7 percent more for meat, fish, and eggs; 12.5 percent more for a new car; 11.1 percent more for electricity; 10 percent more for food at home; 7.7 percent more for transportation; 6.9 percent more for food away from home; 6.8 percent more for apparel; and 5 percent more for shelter.

Americans aren’t in a bad mood just because gas is much more expensive. They’re in a bad mood because just about everything is more expensive.

Never mind taking steps to alter federal policy to fight inflation; President Biden has extraordinary difficulty talking about inflation. He infamously pledged last July that, “There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist.” In December, Biden assured Americans that they were at “the peak of the crisis. . . . It matters to people when you’re paying more for gas, although in some states we’ve got the price down below three bucks a gallon, but the point is it’s not gone down quickly enough. But I think it will.” As you have probably noticed, right now, the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.09.

In January, Biden boasted that, “We are making progress in slowing the rate of price increases.”

Then in February, Biden grew snippy with NBC News’ Lester Holt, accusing him of being a “wise guy” for quoting Biden’s earlier assurances back to the president.

(Then again, Biden is not alone; our Dominic Pino observed House speaker Nancy Pelosi contending that a ten-year, $3 trillion spending plan is what is needed to reduce inflation, and insisting that low unemployment causes high inflation.)

Inflation is not some obscure, eternal mystery, emerging from the sea like a kraken. The additional spike in energy prices driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated existing problems, but it did not create the inflationary spiral that currently ails us. Inflation occurs when too much money is chasing too few goods. The federal government threw about $6 trillion into the national economy during the pandemic and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, Biden’s approach to all problems is essentially to “just spend more money.”

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