Skip to comments.Hidden inflation
Posted on 07/14/2007 11:02:40 AM PDT by bruinbirdman
I usually try to be timely, but this week in this column I admit I'm way behind. I unearthed a report released more than two years ago, but which contains such informational dynamite, its contents are worth dissecting even two years hence. So here goes.
I've often wondered why inflation is so clearly rampaging well beyond levels reported by the federal government. Case in point: On a fairly regular basis I buy 10 pound bags of carrots at my local Harris Teeter grocery store. When I started buying them two summers ago, a 10-pound bag was retailing for $3.99. It is now selling for $5.99.
I'm sure each and every one of you, dear readers, has a similar story. Or many, many, many such stories. How did we get to the point where $4 isn't shocking as the tab for a cup of coffee (or a coffee drink, as renamed by Starbucks.) How is it that when regular gas drops from $3.50 per gallon to $2.85 (as it recently did at my local gas station in suburban Washington, DC) we feel as if we're getting a bargain?
I've racked my brain trying to reconcile Labor Department reports of inflation running in the 2-3 percent range, while watching as housing, food, clothing, and transportation costs rise by double digits each quarter. Is the government hiding something? I'm no conspiracy theorist, so that explanation seems not to fit.
Here's one explanation, however, that might. In January 2005, Bear Stearns issued a report on America's growing underground labor force. It said in relevant part:
"The growing extralegal system in the United States has distorted economic statistics and government budget projections. The stealth labor force has enhanced many of the economic releases that investors follow closely. Payroll numbers understate true job growth and inflation has been artificially dampened by this seemingly endless supply of low-wage workers.....Real estate prices have been boosted by the foreign population infusion. The productivity miracle may be exaggerated because the government is incorporating the output of millions of illegal immigrants but not counting their full labor input."
In other words, illegal immigration and the underground, cash economy it creates has become so powerful a force, it artificially dampens inflation rates, boosts real estate inflation (putting home ownership beyond the ken of young Americans) and reduces the wages of the average American.
Wow, that's blockbuster news. This part of the report was barely publicized when it came out two years ago. Reporters noted its finding that there are something like 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, compared with the popularly-cited 10 million figure. A Google search on the Internet revealed references to the inflation finding in Barron's and the Wall Street Journal.
The inflation finding should have been trumpeted on the front pages of the nation's major newspapers, on cable networks and on news Web sites. Instead, it was fairly buried. Did major news outlets bury this angle fearing its contents were not politically correct? Perhaps. But the American public may be getting the message nonetheless.
The U.S. Senate recently killed President Bush's signature effort at immigration reform that would have, in essence, granted amnesty over time to those here illegally. Senators reacted to polls showing the legislation was wildly unpopular with the American public.
Perhaps the public is beginning to wake up to the U.S. environmental destruction wrought by unfettered illegal immigration. The equation is simple. More people equals more development and consumption, more pollution and less open space.
Now we have another, this time financial, equation to contemplate. Unfettered illegal immigration boosts inflation while hiding the effects from the general public. Bear Stearns' experts could be wrong. But I doubt it. By "outing" this hidden impact of illegal immigration, let's hope we build the political will to end it, or at least slow it down.
IMO, the underground cash economy goes far beyond illegal immigrants. It is a problem so rampant that once again, just as with illegal immigration over the last 40 years, politicians are loath to acknowledge it.
How do we know inflation is not a problem? .... because Washington tells us so.
My wife does the shopping and she does not agree.
Do you think this issue will be raised in either party’s ‘debates’? Nah, it would kill their fund raising to take a position. Positions taken in debates are only for fund raising.
As a general rule, for instance, food and fuel prices are not included in the inflation rate. To do so would require increasing interest rates as oil and gasoline prices increase.
And, yeah, illegal immigrants keep inflation down. Why do you think "everybody" works in an office?
In one analysis of the good labor statistics the reviewer acknowledge that falling employment of illegal aliens in the construction industry was not reported, but was a significant factor.
The goberment is trying to minimize the stated impact of illegals on our economy..underground and otherwise.
It is time for us to take power back.
She is right. Food inflation in the US is running at an 8%+ rate based on the latest stats.
Nearly everything you buy at a retail store is shipped in by truck. The store is probably operating at about 6% margin and can't afford to absorb the additional fuel costs and nether can the trucking company. So the rising cost of fuel is ultimately paid by the customer. That applies to everything and not just food.
My wife does almost all of our grocery shopping, but I stopped in Safeway for a couple of items recently. I notices all the little sale flags on the aisles were in increments of one dollar! I couldn’t believe my eyes. All coinage, not just pennies, is suddenly almost worthless.
But for those of us who don't eat or drive/need heat or lighting....Things ARE GREAT! /sarc....LOL..
Food and fuel are not included in the Fed inflation stats because if they did that inflation would be 10-30% a year and general panic would hit the streets. In the interest of not stimulating inflation even farther, food and fuel are ignored.
Yes, fuel is an issue. Also gov’t mandated ethanol production increases has sent corn costs and other commodities through the roof. ie. need much more corn for ethanol, the price goes up, farmers switch from planting soybeans to corn for the better price, reducing the supply of soybeans, making the price go up. We are in the early stages of a 10 year cascading food inflation as a result. Have you seen how much ethanol production is going to increase in the next 10 years? In the hundreds of percent.
How do we know inflation is not a problem? .... because Washington tells us so.
Someone, a year or two back posted something quoting Mr. Samuelson to the effect that there has been “virtually no inflation in this country since 1982”, the person who posted this professed to actually believe it! What kind of vacuum does someone live in to believe such garbage? The effective inflation rate for the average worker is much worse than the official figures without a doubt.
There’s another kind of hidden inflation the marketeers call “packaging to price”.
In the old days, Hershey bars used to get bigger or smaller, depending upon the price of cocoa while the price stayed the same.
Nowadays, it is incrementalism. A can of tuna at 6 1/2 oz cost, say 50c. Soon the contents are down to 6 1/8 oz for the same price. The other day I checked and a 6 oz can was on “sale” at 50c.
You keep getting less and less for the same amount of money so the govt can say “prices are steady”.
The real blockbuster news is that those lines were written by Bonnie Erbe, a longtime hardcore media leftist. There really has been an opinion shift on illegal immigration, and the actual public discussion of the issue is a political earthquake.
The average worker wants to spend his earnings. If he were to learn how to save and invest, he, too, could beat inflation. I have no sympathy for someone who complains about inflation, real or not. There are always ways to beat it.
Fierce international competition and low labor costs due to open markets are fueling this effect. Additionally, due to increased efficiency, companies are becoming more efficient and creating more for less.
True, some prices such as fuel are rising due to short supply, but this is balanced by other areas where prices are remaining unusually low (take the price of a DVD player, for example).
There must be a way to calculate the number of black market workers based upon the official number of jobs, the population or working age citizens, the official unemployment rate, the increase or lack of increase in wage rates and the GDP. I believe the illegal immigrant population must be more like 30-40 million.
We saw a similar wage stagnation effect in the 60’s and 70’s when the economy had to absorb the large numbers of women moving into the workforce who had been freed up by the birth control pill. It took more than a decade to absorb that worker influx and begin wage increases again. Figure a 1960’s-1970’s population of about 200 million. Half female, 100,000,000. Maybe half too old or too young to work, 50,000,000. Maybe half of those enter the workforce who would not have 20 years earlier, leave us with additional worker population of maybe 25 million. (I have to admit, I pulled all these numbers out of my hat)
We see a similar lack of wage growth today which leads me to believe the illegal worker population is more than 30 million.
Commodity prices (oil, metals, food, lumber) are up. The stock market is up. Real estate values are up. Foreign Currencies are up. The Federal Reserve has stopped publishing some of it’s money supply growth numbers. I believe the dollar is being devalued.
If interest rates were held steady this should cause inflation. Well interest rates are being held steady and yet we don’t have inflation. How can this be? Because there’s been a massive deflation of manufactured goods prices.
You can buy manufactured products at a fraction of their price of a couple of decades ago. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. increased productivity due to computer technology. It took many years for computers to fulfill their promise of lowing the cost of work. Now they do.
2. Third world manufacturing. China, Indonesia, India are all competing for our manufacturing jobs with much lower labor costs. First our jobs moved from the Rust Belt to the Southeast U.S. Then our jobs moved to Mexico. Then our jobs moved China.
This deflation of manufactured goods combined with the inflation of raw materials aggregate to give us the steady inflation numbers we see today.
A smart man would have moved his investments out of dollars and into another currency a couple of years ago. (Kind of like Warren Buffett suggested a couple of years ago. Douh!)
The standard inflation indicator for Mrs. Housewife used to be a lb. of bacon or a loaf of bread.
Today, my standard is the cost of a gig of memory (not RAM) on a PC. I remember when it was easily calculated at $50/gig.
While I do all the grocery shopping notice all prices, and take advantage of sales, food is not even considered a budget item.
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