The Biden Administration is advising Americans not to panic over a worse-than-anticipated June inflation report. Is good news on the horizon?
“Inflation rose 9.1% in June, even more than expected, as consumer pressures intensify,” is how CNBC broke the bad news President Joe Biden’s office had warned was coming this week.
“On Wednesday, we have new CPI and inflation data, and we expect the headline number, which includes gas and food, to be highly elevated, mainly because gas prices were so elevated in June,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.
“Gas and food prices continue to be heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine,” Jean-Pierre added.
The White House stressed that this “headline number”, which indeed is making headlines on traditional and social media, is, “backward looking,” and doesn’t reflect the fact that, “the average retail price of gas was 11% higher in June than it was in May, and the cost of gas in July is already down 7% percent from the June peak.”
“That elevated price in June is both out of date to where the market is today and out of date to what American consumers, more importantly, are actually experiencing today,” said one senior White House official during a conference call with reporters.
National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Biden Council of Economic Advisors chair Cecilia Rouse agree, cautioning consumer price index data, “will largely not reflect the substantial declines in gas prices we’ve seen since the middle of June,” and stressing, “gas prices can be expected to decline in the weeks ahead,” if current trends continue.
President Joe Biden has committed to doing everything he can to lower fuel prices in the U.S., up to and including a visit to Saudi Arabia and parlance with controversial Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Many nations and world leaders, including the U.S. and the Biden Administration, have been cold-shouldering the oil-rich nation, and its leaders since the highly-publicized and brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
President Biden’s willingness to extend a hand of diplomacy and friendship is laudable. Hopefully, this action and others the Biden Administration has taken recently will continue to bring down the price of gasoline.
For many low-income Americans and households walking the tightrope from paycheck to paycheck, however, the elevated inflation number which has been such an unexpected and unpleasant surprise to economists, didn’t come as a shock at all.
News networks gently breaking the news that stubbornly high fuel prices have contributed mightily to runaway inflation are a bit late to the party. Most American consumers already know, and have long known, that almost everything they buy is shipped from far, far away.
Most already understand what “shipping” entails: Commercial trucking, container ships, air freight, freight trains. Most know what powers all of the above.
We’ve driven on highways; those 18-wheelers are pretty hard to miss. Not to mention, most people living in America from rural California to the heartland know only too well the goods they buy aren’t being produced anywhere near their communities.
Not anymore. Not for a long time.
Family farms, small scale operations, independent fishing fleets, animal agriculture; all have been nearly swallowed up by the corporate excesses of globalization.
Globalization hollowed out the manufacturing base in the U.S. as well- which is why so many of the things we buy have to, by necessity, be shipped via petroleum from 10,000 miles away.
Given these empirical truths, it is impossible to believe Americans are just now- thanks to the AP- beginning to understand how shipping costs are baked into everything they buy.
Shipping costs go up, prices go up: It’s simple.
Most companies don’t exist to serve some ephemeral, humanitarian goal of making the world a better place. Or rather, most companies, their owners and their managers, believe successfully making, marketing and selling their superior product to achieve maximum profitability- helping customers, providing gainful employment, paying taxes and contributing as much as possible to the GDP- is making the world a better place in a very practical and practicable sense.
Companies may not exist purely to make money; if they don’t make money, they cease to exist.
Closing the doors means no more widgets, no more commercial and payroll taxes, no more payroll. Failing to turn a profit means failing*.
(*see, “too-big-to-fail bailouts”)
Most businesses aren’t eligible for fancy bailouts. Which means, when operating costs go up- for instance, when raw materials go up, shipping costs go up, etc.- prices must go up accordingly.
Recently, most of us have gotten two types of communications from the people and companies with who we routinely do business: 1.) long, abjectly apologetic messages going into painstaking and pained detail about why their prices are going up, and, 2.) messages about their prices going up.
Most of us know someone operating a small or midsize business; small and mid-size businesses are the true economic engine of our Republic; not corporations which, let’s say, spread their wealth all over the world.
Small businesses aren’t doing well after 2.5+ and counting years of COVID19, mitigation measures, labor shortages, and supply chain issues. These latest economic strains may be too much to bear.
For many, the recent inflation report didn’t seem inflated at all: If anything, it seemed low and does not adequately reflect the true pain American families and businesses are feeling in this economic pinch.
Inflation may have soared a whopping 9.1%; it may indeed be on its way down. The price of gas is giving way, albeit grudgingly, penny by penny.
But prices haven’t gone up 9.1%. In some cases, for example rent, prices have gone up 30%. Cumulatively, from the grocery store to the utilities office, from the gas pump to the drive-thru, the sum total of all these price increases is making American consumers apoplectic with economic anxiety.
Any attempts to parse some good news piecemeal out of this morass is doomed to failure; the only place a rent increase can be separated from an increase in the cost of food is on paper.
In real life, American consumers are suffering both, and then some. And they’re not looking at a spreadsheet, so they’re not likely to forget it.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)