Inflation Warnings Increase in Wake of Washington’s Fiscal Folly
Congressional Democrats, the Biden administration, and the Federal Reserve are all pushing the same message: there’s nothing to fear about the growing national debt, or the possibility inflation may roar back to life.
All this carefree dismissal of the potential carnage of Washington’s spending spree, coupled with continued suppression of interest rates and rapid monetization of the debt has some old Washington hands – who were tasked with fighting inflation in the 1970s – very worried.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, William Walker, who served as deputy director of the federal Cost of Living Council from 1972- 1974, says inflation was “no mere inconvenience; it was a catastrophe:”
During the first quarter of 1973, consumer food prices shot up at an annual rate of nearly 30% and the wholesale price index for farm products rose at an annual rate of 52%. Red-meat prices surged at an annual rate of 90% during the first quarter. Home heating oil prices nearly doubled in that quarter alone, and soybean prices rose to record highs
The Journal reported recently that “commodity markets are roaring” and noted dramatic increases in prices of crude oil, copper and nickel as examples of what some predict to be “a supercycle . . . when prices of livestock, grains, metals, oil and gas all climb for years, even decades.”
That article that could have been written in the spring of 1973, when demand also exploded, putting such severe pressure on supplies that within a matter of months, prices of virtually all commodities—foodstuffs, minerals and petroleum—would soar. By the summer, the rate of inflation had shot up to 11%. It would continue at near double-digit annual rates until 1980, when the Federal Reserve, led by Paul Volcker, raised interest rates to nearly 20%. That crushed inflation but ushered in a harsh recession.
Walker warns that once inflation gets going, there is no easy or painless way to defeat it. That’s made doubly difficult given the galloping rise in federal debt, which replaces private sector growth with government IOUs.
Image Credit: By Jericho [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons