The story of inflation between 1996 and 2016 is of rising prices in things that you need: Prices skyrocket for middle class goods and services.
Inflation is rarely discussed in the mainstream press. Most people wake up every day and simply believe that prices go up as a natural state. These deeply held assumptions usually crack when new revelations happen like centuries ago with new scientific discoveries showing that our planet is not the center of the universe. Yet somehow people hold on tightly refusing to acknowledge that inflation is caused directly by banks, governments, and central banks. It is interesting to look at inflation data over a 20 year period, form 1996 to 2016. What you will find in the data is that prices are soaring in the items people need, especially those items to enter into the middle class. Since wages are not keeping up, it is no surprise then that the middle class over this time has shrank into a minority class.
The Suburban Ghetto: Today one in three poor Americans, about 16.4 million people live in the suburbs.
We tend to think of the suburbs as middle class utopias. When people think of the American Dream they usually draw up a picture of a home with a picket white fence in the suburb. Poverty is usually left to inner cities and crammed multi-family dwellings. So it might come as a surprise that over the last decade the fastest growing segment of poverty occurred in the suburbs. It occurred in this market as people were driven out of city centers where prices surged and people were driven further outside of the city. In the past, this push out was usually done by choice for quality of life and family purposes. This time, it has happened by economic force and poverty in the suburbs is exploding. This goes hand in hand with the shrinking middle class.
The Millennial Conundrum: Millennials are bogged down by massive student debt and confiscatory housing prices.
Millennials are a critical group in terms of where the economy goes in the next few years. The economy largely relies on younger people to spend and purchase consumption items. Think of a young couple buying their first home. That in itself is a big purchase. Then comes big ticket items like refrigerators, a family car, bed, television, and all the trappings of filling a home. Baby boomers followed a very clear script when it came to this consumption behavior. Millennials on the other hand have not. They are largely constrained by a couple of major things that simply were not tied to the previous generation. And what could those be? Millennials are bogged down by student debt and confiscatory housing prices.
The Silent Majority, those Not in the Labor Force: 94,184,000 Adult Americans Not Participating in the Labor Force.
There are roughly 74.9 million baby boomers. Then you have approximately 75.4 million Millennials. Big groups that can sway the election. But how many people are not in the labor force? You have a whopping 94.2 million adult Americans that are not in the labor force. In other words the largest voting bloc of adults is going to be a group that isn’t employed. So think about what issues are going to matter to this group. It is a given that a large part of this cohort comes from older Americans. Those that are concerned with healthcare and Social Security. But you have many in this subsection of America that would like to work but simply cannot find work. We are talking about millions here. So it will be interesting to see how this group will vote one month from now.
The retirement gamble: 30 percent of American adults have no retirement savings. Half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
Retirement angst is a big deal. It probably feels like a bigger deal since older baby boomers are now entering into retirement age in wildebeest like droves. A time that was supposed to be spent sipping ice cold margaritas on the warm beaches of the world is now filled with working retail jobs or trying to pay the rising bills brought on by inflation. Many have now realized that the new retirement scenario means working until you die and are put deep into the ground. Many Americans do not have any sort of retirement savings. This actually makes sense given that half of the country lives paycheck to paycheck. Once the monthly expenses are accounted for, there is little left over to save for retirement. Millions of Americans are realizing that retirement is now one giant gamble.
We have a deeply held belief in America that if you work hard enough, anything is achievable. This is something built into the core of our nation. If you go back to the Great Depression, while other countries were overturning systems and shifting deeply held ideology, Americans held steady and went out and voted. The system remained with tweaks. Today, the idea of the middle class that emerged after World War II is still held very deeply. Yet there is a clear definition for middle class if we simply look at data. But people think they are middle class if they make $22k or $200k. The median household income in the U.S. is $56,000. That is the middle. Let us look at the figures here.
Venezuela provides a glimpse into the horrors of inflation gone wild: A dozen eggs cost $150 USD as hyper inflation wrecks economy.
The award for worst performing economy in 2016 would likely go to Venezuela. What could possibly go wrong when the government tries to control absolutely everything in a petro state? Apparently everything can go wrong and you now have runaway inflation. At this point Venezuela’s currency is in a death spiral of hyperinflation. A dozen eggs will cost you $150 U.S. dollars. Needless to say people are going without certain items and many people are actually on the verge of starving. So when you have people acting like inflation can never be a bad thing, just look at what is happening in Venezuela. Let us actually see what is going on in the country.