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Inflation is Deflating the American Dream

The latest inflation report reveals that inflation is slowing, but it remains at a 40-year high. 

The stock market rose, as softer-than-expected inflation rate gave investors hope the Federal Reserve may not have to raise its target rate quite as fast. A 7.7-percent increase in prices over the last year shouldn’t make people hopeful. Many Americans can’t afford soaring living expenses, however, and the economy will worsen before there’s any relief. 

Adding to this struggle are inflation-adjusted average weekly earnings, which are down 4 percent over the last year, and have been declining for nearly two years. This deflating of the American Dream is the result of big-government policies, creating too much money chasing too few goods. 

Just the necessity of food is a struggle. Food prices at work and school are up 95 percent. Eggs are up 43 percent, and chicken, 15 percent. Gasoline to drive to the store is up nearly 18 percent and electricity, 14 percent, so even making meals at home can rock the budget.

To cope with less purchasing power, Americans are not only saving less, they’re also accruing credit card debt, to a record high of nearly $1 trillion. Even in states with comparatively low cost of living, like Texas, people with full-time jobs can’t make ends meet for their families and are showing up at food banks for help. 

Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. 

The Fed’s meager strategy for fighting inflation hasn’t included aggressively cutting its $8.6 trillion balance sheet. The balance sheet is only about 3.8 percent less than its record high in April 2022, after more than doubling during the pandemic.

This overprinting of money affects many markets, as those dollars aren’t evenly distributed across the economy, resulting in distorted price signals. The Federal reserve adding assets to its balance sheet (by buying Treasury debt, agency debt, and mortgage-backed securities) kept interest rates artificially low. Those markets are starting to correct, as mortgage rates have risen to 20-year highs of around 7 percent. 

The Fed created the current inflationary situation (too much money), which was fueled by Congress’s deficit spending, and exacerbated by Biden’s overregulation (too few goods and services). 

Now, the false “boom” is busting. Hardworking families and entrepreneurs bear the brunt.

To combat the problem it helped create, the Fed is raising its target federal funds rate, which has grown at the fastest pace since Paul Volcker was Chairman in the early 1980s. Volcker understood that the Fed’s balance sheet mattered most, which seems to be overlooked by the Fed and many economists today. 

The Fed’s hike of 75 basis points on November 2 brought the top of the target range to 4 percent, which was the fourth consecutive 75-basis-point hike, after rates were held at essentially zero for two years. The Fed signaled that it will slow target rate hikes to likely 50 basis points in December, pushing the top rate to 4.5 percent by the end of 2022. This would be the highest rate in 15 years.

The Fed’s attempt to correct elevated inflation comes too late to avert the economic consequences of keeping the target rate too low for too long. As a result, Americans are suffering from persistent inflation, higher interest rates, and a prolonged, deeper economic recession. 

What should be done? We need pro-growth policies.

The executive branch should focus on cutting regulations. Congress should prioritize making the Trump-era tax cuts permanent, cutting the corporate tax rate, and passing spending limits to help balance the budget. The Fed, the source of so much money mischief, should adhere to a monetary rule that will cut its balance sheet as much as possible, hopefully down to nothing.

These pro-growth, liberty-oriented policies will unleash the economic potential of the productive private sector and get people back working again at well-paid jobs, while substantially reducing inflation.Big-government policies must end before they send us further down the road to serfdom. Our newly elected officials have a responsibility to prioritize fighting inflation, and restoring the American Dream.

Vance Ginn

Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is founder and president of Ginn Economic Consulting, LLC. He is chief economist at Pelican Institute for Public Policy and senior fellow at Young Americans for Liberty. He previously served as the associate director for economic policy of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, 2019-20.

Follow him on Twitter @VanceGinn

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