This Day On The Street
Continue to site
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Stagflation Is Here: Today's Unspoken Reality

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stagflation is a term coined in the '70s. It means high levels of inflation in a stagnant or sputtering economy. Sadly, while unrecognized by today's media and political factions, Stagflation is a reality.

Ingrained Inflation

The following appears in the Federal Reserve's policy committee statement following the late July meetings:

Inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the committee's 2% longer-run goal. ...

The fact that today's Fed is actually espousing inflation is truly scary. Their traditional role is that of inflation fighter, not inflation enabler. Worse, the inflation measure used is significantly biased to the downside.

The accompanying table shows the impact of various levels of inflation over 10- and 20-year periods.

As seen from the table, even low rates of inflation lead to unacceptable results over time. But the 5% and especially the 10% scenarios are true wealth killers.

While the "official" CPI inflation rate appears low today, it is based on a flawed methodology, which, over time, has caused it to be close to meaningless as a measure of the cost of maintaining a standard of living.

In 1983 and again in 1995/96, the calculation of the CPI was modified to reflect a much lower inflation rate. While this has saved the government a huge sum in entitlement costs, the recipients of such entitlements have suffered significant standard-of-living reductions. (See the work of John Williams at Shadowstats.com and Ed Butowsky at Chapwood Investments for details on how the CPI understates true inflation.)

Ed Butowsky and his firm, Chapwood Investments, regularly survey the top 500 items on which Americans spend their after-tax dollars. According to Butowsky, the "CPI increase from 2008-2012 was a total of 10.2%, but our research has shown that for many cities, the cost-of-living increase was more than that for just 2012."

Look at the 10.0% row in the table to see the devastation that a continuation of this level of inflation will cause.

Stagnation

Inflation is bad enough, but it is worse when inflation is rapid and there is no economic growth. In July, the "official" U.3 Unemployment Rate fell from 7.6% to 7.4%, not because there was a lot of job creation, but because of the way long-term discouraged workers are counted and because the labor force participation rate shrank to 63.4% from 63.5%. Had the labor force participation rate remained at the prefinancial crisis level (66%), the U.3 Unemployment Rate would be 11%! July's U.6 Unemployment Rate, which recognizes the part-time issue, stands at 14%.

Non-farm payroll employment including both full-time and part-time jobs, is still two million below the '08 peak. As played up on several blog sites (e.g. Zerohedge) and even in the mainstream media, of the 953,000 jobs created in 2013, 731,000 or 77% were part-time.

Some blame this on the approaching full implementation of Obamacare. While proof is only by association, it appears that the part-time issue has worsened as the full implementation date draws near.

Stagflation

Inflation appears already ingrained with double-digit rates common in most major metropolitan areas. With a biased CPI measurement, there is little media mention of rising prices. Unfortunately, both monetary and fiscal policies continue to promote higher inflation levels, while the economy continues to sputter, barely producing positive growth (if, indeed, even those numbers are to be believed). The labor market, the real measure of the country's economic engine, continues in neutral, at best.

As in the 70s, today we have stagflation. Back then, political campaign buttons read "W.I.P." -- Whip Inflation Now -- as the politicians recognized a need for action. Today we are told that the labor markets are strengthening and that inflation is benign. Clearly there is little recognition of the stagflation issue and even less resolve to combat it.

By Robert Barone in Reno, NV



This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Robert Barone is a partner, economist and portfolio manager at Universal Value Advisors, an investment advisory firm in Reno, NV.

He previously held positions as an economist for Cleveland Trust Company and as professor of finance at the University of Nevada. During his tenure at Comstock Bancorp in 1996 he became a Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, serving as its Chair in 2004.

Barone also served as Director of AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah and a Director of its associated insurance company. He currently serves on AAA's Finance and Investment Committee. Along with his son Joshua, he founded Adagio Trust Company in 2000. Barone received a Ph.D. in Economics from Georgetown University.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
AAPL $132.04 0.00%
FB $80.55 0.00%
GOOG $539.79 0.00%
TSLA $247.43 0.00%
YHOO $43.38 0.00%

Markets

DOW 18,162.99 +121.45 0.67%
S&P 500 2,123.48 +19.28 0.92%
NASDAQ 5,106.5930 +73.8420 1.47%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs