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Port: There is no such thing as a free lunch

All those trillions in economic intervention mean little if they're offset by higher prices.

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. — Our nation's decades-long campaign of economic interventionism, turned up to extraordinary levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, was not a free lunch.

There's a bill coming due, and I'm not just talking about our exploding levels of national debt, which is up more than 41% from January 2017 when former President Donald Trump took office , according to U.S. Treasury figures, and will likely grow faster alongside President Joe Biden's expansive and expensive policy agenda .

I'm talking about inflation.

You can feel it, can't you?

The consumer price index jumped 2.6% last month compared to a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest increase in something like a decade.

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Inflation for some of our most necessary spending — on food and energy — was even higher.
"The food index rose 3.5% over the last 12 months, while the energy index increased 13.2% over that period," the BLS reports.

Gasoline prices are spiking — there are forecasts of shortages over the summer travel season — even as the Biden administration launches a regulatory war on oil producers.

Utility bills are growing — 29 states just saw a year-over-year increase in average utility costs — and our electrical grids are increasingly unreliable, even as the politicians prosecute a campaign of subsidies and regulatory favoritism for intermittent "green" energy like wind and solar, driving baseload power plants like coal and even nuclear into shutdown.

Biden is promising tax hikes too, which will also put upward pressure on prices.

And then there are the stimulus checks. There's no question that for millions of Americans, those deposits were a lifesaver in a terrible time, but the government can't just print trillions of new dollars in currency and send them out into the world without side effects.

Lawrence Summers — a former treasury secretary for Bill Clinton and economic adviser to Barack Obama , so hardly some right-wing demagogue — wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post in February that Biden's stimulus might cause "inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation, with consequences for the value of the dollar and financial stability."

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This is called demand-pull inflation . Yes, you have more money in your wallet, but so does everyone else, and all that money is chasing the same goods.

It's a recipe for inflation even in the best of times, but couple it with a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc with production and supply chains, and suddenly you've got a real problem.

Keep in mind, the stimulus payments don't represent ongoing income for Americans, but the higher prices we're facing are likely permanent, and wage growth isn't likely to catch up to them any time soon.

We've had our lunch, but now the bill is coming.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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