Proponents of the Austrian School of Economics have been predicting that Obama’s lavish spending and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s money printing through his various quantitative easing schemes would cause price inflation in our economy. For their part, Keynesians have been highly critical of Austrians for this prediction claiming that current government fiscal and monetary policy will not lead to price inflation. They claim we have had 4 years of stimulus spending (however not enough for their liking) and quantitative easing, yet if you look at the government numbers on price inflation prices are not rising.
Well, I suppose if you trust in government like Keynesians do, you will follow its rigged statistics without asking questions. Over time the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has changed how its price inflation number is calculated. For a full review of how it has changed consult statistician John Williams’ site Shadow Government Statistics. Consistently, the BLS’s current calculating method has yielded a price inflation number averaging between two and three percent. However, if price inflation were still calculated the way it was before 1980, the price inflation average would be closer to ten percent. If it was calculated the way it was between 1980 and 1990 the number would be closer to six percent.
Comparing price inflation numbers of the 1970s with today is like comparing apples and oranges. Washington has changed the parameters of the measure making a comparison useless unless, like John Williams, you calculate the number using the old formulas.
The same is true about the current euphoria over the Dow’s breaking of its all-time high. In nominal dollars the Dow is at an all-time high. But, what good is it if the value of the Dow has lost its purchasing power?
Let’s look at USDA retail price data for beef for example. Currently, the value of the Dow will buy 3,332 pounds of beef at the retail level. But at 14,500 points that is about 20 percent less beef than the Dow could buy in January 2000 when its level was at 10,600 points.
But, what’s that, you are a vegetarian so the increased price of beef doesn’t matter to you?
Okay, well, the Dow’s value could currently purchase 15.35 tons of bananas. That sum would keep any troop of monkeys occupied for a while. But, it is the same amount of bananas the Dow could have purchased in February 2008 when it was only at 12,266 points and 60 percent less in 1999 when the Dow was around 10,000 points.
And who could argue against the fact that the price of gasoline affects the prices of all other goods and an increase thereof is the most harmful to the working class. Once again, price inflation can be seen by comparing the Dow’s current high with its previous value. At today’s current high value, the Dow could purchase 3,812 gallons of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. This is about the same amount it could have bought in January 2012 when the Dow was only worth 12,633 points. The short window of time, 15 months, is indicative of how price inflation does exist in a big way in our economy.
In the final analysis, Austrians are right and Keynesians are wrong. There is significant price inflation in our economy that has been caused by Obama’s prolific spending and Bernanke’s reckless money printing. In fact, the numbers are indicative that price inflation has been with us for a lot longer time. When will Keynesians realize this? Perhaps they will when the BLS publishes a true price inflation statistic.
Article first published as The Dow Is an Indicator of Price Inflation on Blogcritics.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina