Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How bad is inflation rate?

According to Morningstar writer Bill Bergman says it's "bad and getting worse," both the BLS consumer and producer rates. For the last six months, "the average annualized change in the PPI has been 13%--and the highest rate for any such six-month interval since mid-1980," Bergman says. The annualized rate for the CPI is "also coming in north of 10%."

Libertarian novelist - journalist Vin Suprynowicz, basing his calculations on the coin collector's guide the Krause, estimates "the Fed has been creating new 'dollars' at an annualized rate of 15 to 17 percent all year."

We'd have a better idea, of course, if the Fed still published M3, which they discontinued in 2006.

Why does government consistently report inflation low? In other words, why does government lie to us about inflation?

First, they’re locked into all kinds of “Cost of Living Adjustments” for government workers, Social Security recipients, etc. If they admitted inflation was 16 percent, they’d have to give everyone a 16 percent raise this year, another 16 percent next year, a third 16 percent raise in 2010 – which adds up not to 48 percent, but to 56 percent, compounding even more in the fourth and fifth years.

Bankruptcy would suddenly look much closer.

But there’s a far more important reason. If you believe inflation is 5.6 percent, choosing between a “low-risk” bank savings account that promises a 5 or 6 percent return, and a “higher-risk” stock market investment promising an 8 or 9 percent rate of return (remember, “Big Oil” is demonized today for earning “outrageous, windfall” 7 percent profits), seems like a reasonable exercise.

But faced with a 16 percent rate of inflation, such choices are a joke. Either “choice” will net you a hefty annual loss – most of your buying power will be gone in 10 to 15 years. At that point, the only kinds of “investments” that still make sense are those that offer “returns on investment” generally associated with drug dealing and playing the Megabucks.

In such a climate, what sense does it make to invest in any dollar-denominated paper instrument – or even to open a new business? Not much.

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