Inflation Allegory

I just heard another sound bite with President (and candidate) Biden touting his administration’s success in bringing inflation down. The 2019 inflation rate was 1.81%, a decrease of 0.63% from 2018. The inflation rate for 2020 was 1.23%, despite or because of Covid. The 2021 inflation rate was 4.7%. The inflation rate for 2022 was 8.0%. The inflation rate for 2023 was 3.4%. As of today, the 12 month rate of inflation is 3.5%… While there is no denying that going from 8.0% to 3.5% is better, it does not make the 8.0% rate (that occurred two years after he took office) go away.

So, here’s my favorite explanatory allegory… explained in pounds. Fat pounds, not British pounds…

Skinny ’21
Inflated ’24

Lets say your heathy weight is 160 lb. You’ve maintained that weight for years, but at your annual check-up in 2021, your doctor notes, “You’ve put on 4.7 lb. You need to keep an eye on that.” You note it. You watch your weight, but at your 2022 check-up, your Doctor’s not happy. “You’ve put on another 8 lb since your last visit. Here’s some diet and exercise suggestions to get this under control.” You make an effort. You weigh yourself before going to your 2023 check-up. You’ve gained another 3.4 lb. What do you think the chances are that the Doctor congratulates you on ONLY gaining another 3.4 lb? Hmmmm… Zilch. Nada. Not gonna happen. He’s going to tell you to get your ass to the gym and get a lock for the refrigerator because in the last three years, you’ve gained 4.7 + 8.0 + 3.4 = 16.1 pounds! You now weigh 176 lb!

Inflation accumulates in a similar matter. Even at the Fed’s target 2.0%, that means things are 2% more expensive every year, so what costs $1.00 this year would cost $1.02 next year and $1.04 the next year.

Inflation is equivalent to a regressive tax, as in the less net worth you have, the harder you’re hit by it. If you have $10 to your name and inflation is 8%, you have to spend it for whatever you can afford at the inflated rate. If you have $1,000,000, your spending money is affected in the same way, but inflation increases the value of your house, stock portfolio and provides a higher interest rate for you at the bank. All the things you have when you’re worth $1,000,000 that you didn’t have when you were worth $10. Makes it damn hard to get from $10 to $1,000,000!

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