Since Jan. 20, 2021, many of us have wondered whether the policies of the Biden administration are driven by folly and stupidity, or whether they are deliberate attempts to wreak havoc on the United States of America. The foolish and tragic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the ongoing demolition of businesses and occupations by a prolonged pandemic and now by vaccine mandates, the shipping and trucking crisis, the skyrocketing inflation: Do these and so many other fiascoes, we ask ourselves, derive from ignorance or from calculation?
Two days ago a definitive answer to this question arrived in the mail.
U.S. retail sales increased in September, beating expectations amid growing inflation and supply chain disruptions, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday.
Retail sales increased 0.7% in September, beating experts’ estimates of 0.2%, according to the Census Bureau report. The number rose 0.8%, excluding auto sales, beating the 0.5% forecast.
Sales were up 13.9% compared to September 2020, and they increased 15.6% compared to September 2020, excluding auto sales, according to the Census Bureau.
Retail sales unexpectedly increased last month despite continued challenges facing the economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sales ticked up 0.7% in August relative to July and totaled $618.7 billion, according to a Census Bureau report published Thursday. E-commerce, furniture, general merchandise, building materials and energy purchases drove last month’s sales increase.
Dow Jones economists had expected sales to decline 0.8%, CNBC reported. In July retail sales posted a sharp 1.8% decline as coronavirus cases surged, the Census report said Thursday.
Prominent economic historian Niall Ferguson said current inflation could be in line with where it was in the 1960s during the period that preceded a decade of high consumer prices, CNBC reported.
“What is interesting about disasters is that one can lead to another,” Ferguson said in a Friday interview with CNBC. “You can go from a public health disaster to a fiscal, monetary and potentially inflationary disaster.”
During the 1960s, inflation stayed low before shooting up in the 1970s, according to government economic data. Consumer prices ultimately peaked in 1980 before rapidly declining.
The U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 5.2%, according to Department of Labor data released Friday.
The number of unemployed people decreased to 8.4 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Economists projected 720,000 Americans — roughly three times the actual number — would be added to payrolls prior to Friday’s report, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Despite the delta variant, there is still an opening up of the service sector of the U.S. economy,” Nationwide Mutual Insurance Chief Economist David Berson told the WSJ. “While that started some months ago, it’s not nearly complete.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve Bank and Congress have taken unprecedented steps to stabilize the economy after entire industries and sectors ground to a halt last year amidst the public health crisis. The Fed has kept interest rates near zero, created lending programs to pump trillions of dollars into the economy, and bought securities to support financial markets. Congress passed three major COVID-19 stimulus packages in response to the crisis: the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March 2020, the $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December 2020, and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March 2021.
A key index used by the Federal Reserve to measure inflation showed that consumer prices leapt quicker over the last 12 months than they have in three decades.
The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index surged 3.9% in the 12-month period between June 2020 and May, according to the Department of Commerce report released Friday. The PCE index excluding volatile food and energy prices increased 3.4%, the biggest leap since the 1990s, CNBC reported.
Energy prices increased 27.4% while food prices increased 0.4% over the last 12 months, the report showed.
While rapidly increasing consumer prices have triggered fears that the U.S. economy may enter into a period of stagflation, it is unlikely to hit 1970s levels, an economic report concluded.
The current condition of the U.S. economy has created some fear that prices may precipitously and uncontrollably rise while unemployment stays elevated, according to the report authored by Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Director Norbert Michel. But an analysis of inflation and employment data suggests Americans don’t need to overreact.
Massive government spending has decreased the value of the American dollar and triggered increased consumer prices, which economic experts said will only get worse.
Americans will continue to see higher prices across the board, from food and gasoline to home appliances and cars, as the federal government continues to propose more stimulus into the economy without an adequate plan to pay for it, according to several experts. Even if the government doesn’t pass legislation increasing taxes, higher prices ultimately amount to an “inflation tax,” some of the experts said.
“Over the past few months, we have seen an inflation rate that is much higher than where we’ve become accustomed to,” Heritage Foundation research fellow Joel Griffith told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “When we are going to the grocery store, going to the gas station, building our new home, we’re noticing that prices are really accelerating at a much faster clip than what we’re used to.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data Tuesday showing a sharp increase in consumer prices, especially gasoline, as many Americans struggle to make ends meet.
March saw a 0.6% increase in consumer prices, the largest spike in nearly a decade. That increase can be attributed in large part to a rise in inflation.