We are starting to hear ritualistic grumblings from the Federal Reserve that they are preparing to raise interest rates, in order to stave-off inflation. And yet, anyone who buys groceries, energy, and gasoline knows deep inside that we have had serious inflation, and that it seems harder and harder to stay on an even playing field, let alone to get ahead these days.
Every poll validates that the overwhelming majority of Americans can sense our economy is not nearly as rosy as we are being told by our political leadership.
If you read my bio below, you will see that I am a degreed Mechanical Engineer. My decision to get this degree has always been coupled to several factors, one of which is math. Math has come relatively easy for me. When my curriculum included a college Engineering Economics and Statistics course, it was an easy ‘A.’ I utilize this knowledge to evaluate data and stats when policymakers seem to be misleading us.
Out of intellectual curiosity, I decided to look into the inflation rate, based on the U.S. government’s published numbers. I used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website and its Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculators to compute inflation, going back to 1990. I further chose to use the CPI option, which includes volatile items such as the price of food. What I ultimately found was jaw dropping.
Year-in and year-out, the inflation Index seems relatively benign at 1-3%. However, if you take the BLS’ numbers, and compound them annually, our dollar, has devalued a whopping 46.12% since 1990. Today’s dollar is officially worth 53.88 cents in purchasing power, compared to the 1990 dollar. In 25 years, we have seen our buying power devalue by almost half.
Normally, inflation is not a problem. Property value increases and interest rates on savings are hedges against inflationary pressures. However, the bursting of the housing bubble wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars of homeowner’s real estate investments, and banks have been providing abysmally small interest rates for our “mattress money.”
Bank interest has been a joke, oft-times reaching as low as 0.1%. They continue to hover below 1% for standard savings accounts; 2% for certificates and money market accounts. To make matters worse, in a survey taken by CBS News in 2013, 76% of American live paycheck to paycheck and have no rainy day stash.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has doubled the rate of inflation, rising 84.4% during that same 25 years. If you have been heavily invested in the stock market long term, your dollars have been relatively unscathed — provided your risk performed well.
Moreover, the household median income of Americans has crashed. Median Income is the benchmark where half of American wage earners are below, and the other half are above. In 1990, the Median Income was $51,735. In 2013 (the last year the stat is available), it was $51,939. When inflation is factored into the mix, wages for Americans have been a disaster. If wages had kept-up with inflation, the Median Income would be approximately $76,000.
The bottom line is simple. Our buying power has declined dramatically. Add the increases in regulatory costs and taxes, quantity inflation (buying less for the same price) or quality inflation (reductions in the durability of goods), the current economy has been an unmitigated disaster for the poor and middle class.
I am not going to debate the root causes here, only validate the underlying suspicions of the majority of Americans. We are being fleeced by a banking system and Federal Reserve that are corrupt, by the bipartisan political enablers of these corrupt banks, and by those who have led us into this economic sewer.
We need to unify to fight this travesty, not point fingers. This has happened during Republican majorities and Democratic super majorities. Blaming one party or the other is a waste of time, and EXACTLY what each party wants to occur — having us at each other’s throats while they continue to protect their special interest financiers.
Do not play into their game. Understand this is not a Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Liberal problem – it is a social and financial problem for all of America.
As we enter this next election cycle, ask candidates to provide their specific plans to deal with this middle-class killer. Don’t allow them to speak in platitudes, outlines, and vague notions.
Where would this author start on this issue? I would demand an audit of the 101-year-old Federal Reserve and a subsequent dialogue for its continued existence.