Inflation was flat in October from the previous month, providing a hopeful sign that stubbornly high prices are easing their grip on the U.S. economy and giving a potential green light to the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates.
The consumer price index, which measures a broad basket of commonly used goods and services, increased 3.2% from a year ago despite being unchanged for the month, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from the Labor Department on Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for respective readings of 0.1% and 3.3%.
“Stubbornly high prices” is such an odd phrase in this context. Inflation has been at pretty much the modern historical average for more than a year now, so unless you want some good old fashioned deflation (spoiler: you really really don’t) prices are going to remain “stubbornly high” in a nominal sense.
This raises once again the question of why so many people think the economy is terrible. One factor is the psychology of price inflation versus wage inflation: You see price inflation every time you go to buy eggs or a caramel double espresso americano latte marked with a hint of foam, but wage inflation is something people experience maybe once a year and then immediately forget about. Also, another huge factor is that people hate losing — paying higher prices — more than they love winning — getting a raise.
Beyond that, certain markers of upper middle class status in America — home ownership, college degrees, decent health insurance (thanks Jean Calvin!) — have risen in price much faster than the average durable or consumable, which gives people a lot of economic anxiety (the real kind, not the I’m a racist in a Youngstown diner kind).
Also causing actual economic anxiety: increasing precarity. You may be “fine” at the moment, but because the Lords of Capital need to grow their already unimaginable wealth even further and faster, your job may disappear at any moment, after being given to a foreigner or a robot. Thus does the magic of the market (blessed be its name) create a nation of hundreds of millions of legitimately stressed and unhappy people, despite that hint of foam, the IPhone that can instantly find that Donovan song about how if the elders of our time remain blind etc.
But underlying all of this, of course, is a massive media propaganda machine, designed to exacerbate all these legitimate anxieties, for the purposes of advancing the cause of reactionary authoritarianism, lightly infused with an extract of revenant fascism (a vegan version is now available).
The most insidious part of that machine is that many people working for it remain blissfully unaware of what it is, and what they’re spending their lives doing.
Also, Joe Biden is old.