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Double Take: Inflation for Majority of Economy at Record Lows
CNBC ^ | 04/20/2011 | John Melloy

Posted on 04/22/2011 10:04:07 AM PDT by Uncle Miltie

Day after day the American public is inundated with media stories about surging food and gas prices, but if they want the real inflation story, they should ask a bartender.

The rate of change in prices for a beer or cocktail at the local pub—a component of the Consumer Price Index—is actually decelerating from a year ago. In fact, the annual change in prices for data processing, recreation, lodging, medical services and tuition are all showing a downward trend, according to David Rosenberg’s analysis of the government’s CPI data.

With all the hubbub about $100 oil, surging food prices, along with the comparisons to the 1970s, Rosenberg, who is chief economist & strategist at Gluskin Sheff, is trying to make the point that the U.S. is now primarily a service economy, with these industries accounting for much of our employment and two-thirds of our spending.

“Service sector inflation is now running at historical lows of little more than one percent, and here we are about to enter the third year of a statistical economic recovery,” said Rosenberg, formerly the economist at Merrill Lynch where he made his name by going against the perma-bullish Wall Street crowd. “Service sector inflation used to be sticky, because this area of the economy years ago was dominated by unions, was protected by entry barriers, and did not face much in the way of competitive pressures.”

“The times have changed,” wrote Rosenberg in a note to clients Tuesday.

Oil prices topped $110 a barrel and wheat added to its more than 60 percent 12-month gain on Tuesday. But the economist knocks down the notion that higher prices for these commodities will spark inflation for the rest of the economy. He argues that if service providers try to pass through prices to cover these higher input costs, the consumer will just stop spending, leading to demand destruction and a deflationary recession.

“Commodity-based economies have a serious inflation problem because food and energy are so crucial to that smokestack, low-income model,” said Steve Cortes of Veracruz LLC. “But in a services-based economy like the U.S., many areas are outright deflating, like technology — and many more key areas churning sideways: professional services, brokerage of all kinds, hotels. Inflationary periods like the 1970s start with wage inflation, which is sorely missing from this recovery.”

Indeed, Rosenberg found there is an 88 percent correlation between wages and inflation —and wages today, adjusted for productivity gains, are declining on an annual basis. Don’t look for that to change any time soon with unemployment still above 8 percent. Maybe that’s why the Federal Reserve says it has a dual mandate of stable prices and full employment.

Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is taking big hits from economists, leaders of nations, and even other members of the central bank’s Open Market Committee, for keeping rates effectively negative through his ongoing purchases of Treasury securities, the infamous ‘QE2.’ They say this easy money is responsible for the spike in commodities, which overshadows the slack in services, housing, and wages, and will lead to out-of-control inflation.

But what Rosenberg and others are saying is that Bernanke is shooting blanks. The Fed may be printing money, but it’s not multiplying through the economy like it once did. That’s because banks are not using it to extend credit, said the economist. Also, our economy has generally become more resistant to the Fed’s reflation powers because of productivity gains from technology and globalization, the doves say.

“The money multiplier has been broken for quite some time, and recently it is going lower,” said Brian Kelly, of Brian Kelly Capital, citing money supply data that for every $1 pumped into the economy only 76 cents is being created. “In effect, monetary policy has been losing its potency for 30 years. What the Fed is doing now is stepping on the gas while the tires spin in the mud.”

To be sure, the overall CPI index released last week showed a 2.7 percent annual increase in March, the biggest jump since December 2009. Excluding food and energy, prices increased by 1.2 percent.

“The U.S. has never had deflation with rising money supply and stock prices,” said Joe Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. “In fact, last quarter the CPI rose over 5 percent, the PPI was up 13 percent, and inflation expectations were well above 3 percent. This is not the stuff of deflation.”

It seems the majority of economists and investors are in the Lavorgna camp and expect the Fed to ease off the pedal this year. Still, there are new factors that could swing the inflation vs. deflation argument back in Rosenberg’s favor, and Bernanke’s, for that matter.

Standard & Poor’s cut their outlook Monday on U.S. debt to negative. If the country is going to keep its triple-A rating and the low borrowing costs that come with it, Congress is going to be forced to do a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes, the agency said.

Rosenberg’s argument is not that far-fetched because “the U.S. recovery has been far more tepid than normally the case,” said Sean Egan, President of Egan-Jones Ratings, who changed their U.S. outlook to negative back in March. “And sovereign-crisis related austerity measures and tax increases are deflationary.”


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Extended News; Government
KEYWORDS: bernanke; deflation; economy; employment; government; inflation; money; moneymultiplier; multiplier; unemployment; wages
This is a Free Fire Zone for the inflationistas.

For a more pointy headed intellectual tit for tat, see here:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2705333/posts

1 posted on 04/22/2011 10:04:11 AM PDT by Uncle Miltie
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Well, if most of my paycheck went to hotels, bars and the like, then I’d be fine. However, most of MY paycheck goes to Walmart, Kroger and Shell. Therefore, I DO hurt when inflation hits hard in just those “small” areas.


2 posted on 04/22/2011 10:07:04 AM PDT by Arkansas Toothpick
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To: Uncle Miltie
In fact, the annual change in prices for data processing, recreation, lodging, medical services and tuition are all showing a downward trend,

Really.

Tuition is going up across the board from what I have seen, for example. Likewise medical services.

I wonder if this is due to the fact that fewer people can afford to send their kids to college or go to the doctor than any real decrease in unit costs.

3 posted on 04/22/2011 10:07:22 AM PDT by dirtboy
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To: Uncle Miltie

yes- inflation is at an all time low; anyone that’s recently filled up their car with gas or went to the grocery store will agree with this....just like unemployment is only 8.9%...

i really hope obozo and the rats use these as talking points....


4 posted on 04/22/2011 10:07:46 AM PDT by God luvs America (When the silent majority speaks the earth trembles!)
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To: Uncle Miltie

You may be unemployed, can’t afford gas to get to a job interview, and grocery prices are going up but hey, beers cheap!


5 posted on 04/22/2011 10:10:18 AM PDT by Lurker (The avalanche has begun. The pebbles no longer have a vote.)
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To: Uncle Miltie

Time Again for.........


6 posted on 04/22/2011 10:10:33 AM PDT by ChildOfThe60s ( If you can remember the 60s....you weren't really there)
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To: Uncle Miltie

In fact, the annual change in prices for data processing, recreation, lodging, medical services and tuition are all showing a downward trend,

Too many people out of work that cannot afford to purchase unnecessary services,and in some cases necessary services.


7 posted on 04/22/2011 10:13:30 AM PDT by chainsaw ("The government cannot give to anyone anything that it does not first take from someone else.")
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To: dirtboy
medical services

How about some methodology? Is the author using declining medicare fee rates as proof that medical services are going down? Wouldn't be surprised.

Oh wait, leftist liars & eggheads don't have to produce methodology, facts and evidence for their claims.

8 posted on 04/22/2011 10:15:45 AM PDT by ChildOfThe60s ( If you can remember the 60s....you weren't really there)
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To: dirtboy

Tuition and medical services have been increasing at rates well above the CPI for two decades now. They’ve never in that time slowed down.


9 posted on 04/22/2011 10:16:34 AM PDT by NVDave
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To: Uncle Miltie

And, since I like to point out economic history (as well as the bankrupt methodology of economists of all stripes), I’ll observe this:

There was a time during the Great Depression, a period of time which most all economists can agree was strongly deflationary, when commodity prices were rising rather strongly due to deliberate destruction of supply by the FDR administration.

It IS possible to have commodity inflation while the money supply is collapsing. There’s quite a lot of economic theory which is simply twaddle and bunkum, and one of these things is the definition of inflation. For example, the monetarists would like to define inflation only in terms of the money supply. OK, well, in that case, we’re having inflation. Buuuuuttt.... there’s one little fly in the ointment: there’s still a huge supply of debt on bank balance sheets the world ‘round that is marginal to non-performing, and if we really held bankers to actual, you know, accounting standards, we’d see that the money supply might not be growing, it might be shrinking as we declared huge amounts of debt to be bad and in default. It isn’t just US mortgages I’m talking about - I’m also talking about things like Greek sovereign debt, other corporate debt, etc.


10 posted on 04/22/2011 10:22:48 AM PDT by NVDave
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To: Uncle Miltie

We’ll, when gas prices go up I start to eliminate things like bars and restaurants, travel, etc. to compensate for it.


11 posted on 04/22/2011 10:23:01 AM PDT by 20 years too late
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To: Uncle Miltie
The third oldest trick in the book.

1. Take some statistic that's increasing and for which it's a bad thing, like the budget, the defecit, CPI, etc.

2. So it's increasing and that's bad news. Now, observe its rate of change. If that's negative, pimp that as good news.

3. But maybe the rate of change his holding steady, or maybe it's even positive. So, take the rate of change of the rate of change, and maybe that's negative or steady. If so, that's the good news you can spout.

4. Unfortunately, when the increase is exponential, all rates of change are positive. Not to despair, however. Simply redefine (read: make up) the data series that you started with, and brag about how it's not increasing in the first place.

12 posted on 04/22/2011 10:25:48 AM PDT by Erasmus (I love "The Raven," but then what do I know? I'm just a poetaster.)
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To: Uncle Miltie

One reason the money multiplier has little effect (inflation) in the United States is because people like me, when we have an extra dollar laying around, move it out of the country. We do not believe that Fiscal, Monetary, or Economic policy of the Federal Government will help the U.S. So I invest in Foreign stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.

The Inflation associated with excess money supply therefore shows up in Chinese housing bubbles, world-wide gold and oil prices, food prices (world-wide commodities), Emerging Markets’ stock prices, etc.

The U.S. would (in my opinion) be suffering massive inflation, except that people like me help export inflation elsewhere. We run in fear of our government.


13 posted on 04/22/2011 10:27:35 AM PDT by Uncle Miltie (0bamanomics: Trickle Up Poverty.)
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To: ChildOfThe60s
I think this guy is confusing demand destruction with deflation as I speculated earlier:

“Commodity-based economies have a serious inflation problem because food and energy are so crucial to that smokestack, low-income model,” said Steve Cortes of Veracruz LLC. “But in a services-based economy like the U.S., many areas are outright deflating, like technology — and many more key areas churning sideways: professional services, brokerage of all kinds, hotels. Inflationary periods like the 1970s start with wage inflation, which is sorely missing from this recovery.”

Technology is always a wild card because the CPI tracks the relative increase in value of technology as deflationary - a better computer costing the same as last year's means deflation.

Whereas in services such as hotels and brokerages, I think it is just plain demand destruction that is holding down costs.

14 posted on 04/22/2011 10:46:12 AM PDT by dirtboy
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To: Uncle Miltie

I cannot make any sense of anything this article states. Why is that?


15 posted on 04/22/2011 10:47:13 AM PDT by SteveH (First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.)
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To: Uncle Miltie

What is going on is biflation. Everything you need to survive is going up (food, clothing, oil). Every asset you have is deflating (house, value of money money, wages).

In short it is screwflation, as in you are screwed no matter what.


16 posted on 04/22/2011 10:48:12 AM PDT by DaxtonBrown (HARRY: Money Mob & Influence (See my Expose on Reid on amazon.com written by me!))
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To: Uncle Miltie

Guess I’ll have to start substituting liquor for bread, eggs, milk, cheese......

/s


17 posted on 04/22/2011 10:53:09 AM PDT by Red in Blue PA (Let's apply the "reasonable man" standard to gun laws. How many would stand?)
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To: SteveH
I cannot make any sense of anything this article states.

My wife always figures that if she can't make sense of what they are saying, odds are they are bs'ing.

She's usually right.

18 posted on 04/22/2011 10:53:34 AM PDT by dirtboy
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To: Red in Blue PA
Guess I’ll have to start substituting liquor for bread, eggs, milk, cheese......

Hope. Change. Cirrhosis.

19 posted on 04/22/2011 10:54:43 AM PDT by dirtboy
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To: Uncle Miltie

hurt not the oil and the wine


20 posted on 04/22/2011 10:54:51 AM PDT by captmar-vell
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To: dirtboy

Death by liquor or by Smart Car.

Your choice.


21 posted on 04/22/2011 10:56:00 AM PDT by Red in Blue PA (Let's apply the "reasonable man" standard to gun laws. How many would stand?)
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To: Uncle Miltie

The article makes sense to me and I agree with it. There are plenty of items I purchase that have not experienced any significant price increases.

You can’t have inflation just because prices in a few sectors are soaring. This is one of the largest purchases you can make, and for years I have seen very little inflation in the sector. I remember in the early 1980s, every year the auto manufacturers would cite large price increases in comparable models. Currently, price increases are mild with some models lowering in MSRP. The 2011 Dodge Challenger is actually down in MSRP from the 2010, down from $30,860 for the 10 to $29,670 for the 11, despite some 11 MY improvements.

I don’t see inflation. I worry it is coming because all government policies are designed to create it, but so far they have been unsuccessful in the face of the massive deleveraging of the past few years. I have faith they will get it, but it is not here yet.

The high commodity prices in food and energy could be due to speculation and the 0% prime lending rate, as much as due to incflation. I do have faith in the government’s ability to debase the US dollar and cause inflation, but I sure don’t see it yet.

You will know it when it is here. It won’t affect some sectors and not others. It will be a general price increase widespread and of sufficient order to trigger wage inflation. Today we have NO wage inflation. I am no economist so I can’t answer the chicken & egg question which comes first, but I do know enough to know that you can’t have sincere inflation without wage inflation accompanying it. If incomes don’t rise, there can’t be the flow of money needed to maintain a vicious cycle of ever increasing prices.

What we have now is people have incomes that are fixed or falling, so they are simply cutting back in other areas to pay the increses in food and energy. That is NOT inflation.

But it is coming. You will definitely know it when it is here. Your pay will be up but your spending will be WAY up and your lifestyle will be steadily falling. You’ll be making more each year and asking why you never get ahead because you are being squeezed more financially despite the pay increses.

The article is right. We don’t have inflation yet. We have price increases in necessities and stagnation/disinflation in luxuries.

The article is also correct that the Fed’s monetized debt money is not moving - its just sitting in the banks for now. But some day it is coming into play and when it does, it will be a violent flow of money and then WHAM! double-digit inflation!

When we get real inflation, you will definitely know it. You won’t be talking about milk prices and gas. You’ll ask why your new gas barbecue doubled in price. Why Chinese shoes are suddenly so expensive. Why hotel prices are way up all of a sudden. Why the price of lumber and brick and ready-mix has soared. Why carpet prices leapt up. Why big screen TVs are suddenly priced out of reach - instead of being the dirt cheap bargain they are today.

No, when we get real, sustained double-digit inflation you will definitely know it. It won’t be limited to just food and energy and healthcare.


22 posted on 04/22/2011 11:51:05 AM PDT by Freedom_Is_Not_Free (Don't confuse Obama's evil for incompetence.)
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To: dirtboy

Yeah, I’d like to see where tuition is going down, because mine has gone up every single year since I started college. Sometimes as much as 10% in a single year.


23 posted on 04/22/2011 12:44:13 PM PDT by Mike3689
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To: Uncle Miltie

Come to think of it, is this weighted by how much people spend in particular areas? I’m pretty positive I spend a lot more on rent, electricity, food, and gas than I do on buying new cars or new computers. And I don’t go to bars anymore, because I don’t have the spare cash.


24 posted on 04/22/2011 12:52:12 PM PDT by Mike3689
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To: God luvs America; All

Inflation is an increase in the over all price level not increases in one or two sectors.

Oil prices are high because we have an administration that is opposed to creating new supplies for energy.

Food prices are high as much because of the diversion of food stocks into our gas tanks because the administration refuses to allow more drilling. These are not the result of monetary mischief (as Milton Friedman called one of his books.)

As long as housing prices are in a massive deflation I don’t see how real inflation can occur.


25 posted on 04/22/2011 1:13:57 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: NVDave

While I can’t explain how the conclusion that medical services prices were declining, the past increases in both medicine and education were driven by demand increases not inflation.


26 posted on 04/22/2011 1:16:10 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: NVDave

Destruction of supplies during the great depression were not examples of inflation just the removal of supply. Paying farmers not to grow things is also removal of supply.

Inflation is a GENERAL increase in the overall price level not increases in one or two areas. And inflation is a monetary phenomenon. You cannot have an increase in the overall price level without an increase in the money supply.

You are correct to point out that there are other aspects than mere creation of excess money to worry about. Velocity of circulation of the money is also a variable in the P*Q=M*V equation as is productivity. But generally both the latter and velocity are things which change more slowly and over a longer term.


27 posted on 04/22/2011 1:23:04 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: dirtboy

Are you saying that demand is dropping for those areas? Not that some one is actually trying to destroy demand?

Technological improvements are always “deflationary” in the sense of increasing productivity so Q increases given the same other inputs.


28 posted on 04/22/2011 1:27:58 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: Freedom_Is_Not_Free
Your analysis is essentially correct.

And those sectors which are most problematic and visible: food and energy are showing increases in prices because of the policies which reduce supplies. Burning corn to run our cars and impeding the oil and gas sector from increasing supplies are the main culprits rather than the increased money supply.

29 posted on 04/22/2011 1:33:29 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: Mike3689

Yes the price indexes are weighted.


30 posted on 04/22/2011 1:34:43 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: arrogantsob
Are you saying that demand is dropping for those areas? Not that some one is actually trying to destroy demand?

I am saying the demand is dropping in such a manner that it is not just short-term adjustments to market forces but broader cultural changes to where some of that demand will be long in coming back, if ever.

31 posted on 04/22/2011 1:46:47 PM PDT by dirtboy
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To: dirtboy
So you are talking about actual shifts in the demand curve. What are the determinants of this shift in your view? Cultural? Age related? Disgust with materialism and the desire to not be such a burden to Mother Earth?
32 posted on 04/22/2011 2:03:02 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: Mike3689

Hang in there. When I realized I no longer was paying tuition for my boys my disposable income increased a lot.

But it was worth it as yours will be.


33 posted on 04/22/2011 2:05:12 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: Uncle Miltie

Yes, you can get deflation in items that are not necessary, while getting hyperinflation in “necessity” items. The 1930’s was a strong case of this, and the 1970’s exhibited similar behavior in the inflationary pressures.

Necessities will skyrocket in costs, but other items will either stay the same in price, or fall. You will see many of those businesses fold because they can’t make enough money to cover their material and shipping costs.


34 posted on 04/22/2011 2:05:23 PM PDT by Thunder90 (Fighting for truth and the American way... http://citizensfortruthandtheamericanway.blogspot.com/)
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To: arrogantsob

You might want to have a look at the velocity charts before putting too much faith in the idea that velocity changes slowly.

Velocity fell into the basement in a very short amount of time in 2008. It has’t really come back out since.


35 posted on 04/22/2011 2:24:07 PM PDT by NVDave
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To: NVDave

Perhaps we are seeing evidence of the “liguidity trap” that Keynes theorized about in the 30s when monetary policy seemed to be ineffective.

I did not mean to imply that velocity does not on occasion change radically.

That change supports my contention that the price increases in energy and fuel are not primarily drive by monetary policy.


36 posted on 04/22/2011 2:33:20 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: NVDave

Perhaps we are seeing evidence of the “liguidity trap” that Keynes theorized about in the 30s when monetary policy seemed to be ineffective.

I did not mean to imply that velocity does not on occasion change radically.

That change supports my contention that the price increases in energy and fuel are not primarily driven by monetary policy.


37 posted on 04/22/2011 2:33:36 PM PDT by arrogantsob
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To: arrogantsob

I think we are seeing a liquidity trap. Check out the reserves of Federal Reserve member banks... and then check out the rates of loans being made in the commercial sector(s).

I think the evidence points to a lot of the new liquidity being created by the Fed is being stacked up on bank balance sheets in excess reserves. Since the current policy rewards excess reserves and there is less risk in keeping excess reserves than in making new loans, the low-risk play by bankers would be to pile up reserves and sleep on them.

re: price increases in fuel/energy: I think that the declining value of the dollar and the fungibility of oil makes it a good currency hedge vs. the US dollar. If we were playing with billions of dollars, why would we want to deal with the complexity and volatility of the gold market, where we would/could suffer precipitous declines as were seen in the early 80’s? With oil, we know that there is an increasing pool of consumers who need oil, therefore it is a lower risk dollar devaluation play than gold/silver/etc.


38 posted on 04/22/2011 2:42:45 PM PDT by NVDave
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To: arrogantsob
What are the determinants of this shift in your view?

Raw economic reality in our post-bubble world.

A lot of consumer spending was generated by home-equity loans. Most of that is gone now.

Unemployment and underemployment is rampant. Unemployed and underemployed persons consume far less luxuries and investment advice and medical care.

And the very notion of retirement is changing as we face the yawning gap in entitlement obligations.

Basically, there simply is a lot less discretionary income than there was just 4 years ago, and I don't see all that much of it coming back any time soon.

39 posted on 04/22/2011 5:16:41 PM PDT by dirtboy
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To: dirtboy
Inflationary periods like the 1970s start with wage inflation, which is sorely missing from this recovery.”

Wage inflation is not occurring now because of jobs destruction. This is not like the 70s. People who want to draw comparisons to the 70s are going to be blindsided. We have massive commodities inflation because the US is openly debasing its currency to finance insane deficit spending. Investors have no hope that the dollar is going to turn around, and very little that it will even survive.

This is inflation caused by crazy and destructive monetary policy. Rein in spending and allow interest rates to rise to their natural market based level. Commodities prices will drop rapidly. No chance of this happening, of course.

40 posted on 04/22/2011 7:07:59 PM PDT by ChildOfThe60s ( If you can remember the 60s....you weren't really there)
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