Inflation? Only If You Look At Food, Water, Gas, Electricity And Everything Else

Wheelbarrow of MoneyHave you noticed that prices are going up rapidly?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  But Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the Obama administration and the mainstream media would have us believe that inflation is completely under control and exactly where it should be.  Perhaps if the highly manipulated numbers that they quote us were real, everything would be fine.  But of course the way that the inflation rate is calculated has been changed more than 20 times since the 1970s, and at this point it bears so little relation to reality that it is essentially meaningless.  Anyone that has to regularly pay for food, water, gas, electricity or anything else knows that inflation is too high.  In fact, if inflation was calculated the same way that it was back in 1980, the inflation rate would be close to 10 percent right now.

But you would never know that listening to Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.  In the video posted below, you can listen to her telling the media that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about…

And it is really hard to get too upset with Janet Yellen.

After all, she reminds many people of a sweet little grandmother.

But the reality of the matter is that she is simply not telling us the truth.  Everywhere we look, prices are aggressively moving higher.

Just the other day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the price index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs has just soared to a new all-time high.

This is something that I have repeatedly warned would happen.  Just check out this article and this article.

And it isn’t just meat prices that are going up.  One of the largest coffee producers in the entire world just announced that it is going to be raising coffee prices by 9 percent

It took the Fed long enough but finally even it succumbed to the reality of surging food prices when, as we reported previously, it hiked cafeteria prices at ground zero: the cafeteria of the Chicago Fed, stating that “prices continue to rise between 3% and 33%.” So with input costs rising across the board not just for the Fed, but certainly for food manufacturers everywhere, it was only a matter of time before the latter also threw in the towel and followed in the Fed’s footsteps. Which is what happened earlier today when J.M. Smucker Co. said it raised the prices on most of its coffee products by an average of 9% to reflect higher green-coffee costs.

Not that coffee isn’t expensive enough already.  It absolutely stuns me that some people are willing to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee.

I still remember the days when you could get a cup of coffee for 25 cents.

Also, I can’t get over how expensive groceries are becoming these days.  Earlier this month I took my wife over to the grocery store to do some shopping.  We are really ramping up our food storage this summer, and so we grabbed as much stuff on sale as we could find.  When we got our cart to the register, I was expecting the bill to be large, but I didn’t expect it to be over 300 dollars.

And remember, this was just for a single shopping cart and we had consciously tried to grab things that were significantly reduced from regular price.

I almost felt like asking the cashier which organ I should donate to pay the bill.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  Food prices are eventually going to go much, much higher than this.

Also, you should get ready to pay substantially more for water as well.

According to CNBC, one recent report warned that “your water bill will likely increase” in the coming months…

U.S. water utilities face a critical economic squeeze, according to a new report—and that will likely mean higher prices at the water tap for consumers.

A survey by water-engineering firm Black & Veatch of 368 water utility companies across the country shows that 66 percent of them are not generating enough revenue to cover their costs.

To make up for the financial shortfall, prices for water are heading upward, said Michael Orth, one of the co-authors of the report and senior vice president at Black & Veatch.

“People will have to pay more for water to make up the falling revenues,” he said. “And that’s likely to be more than the rate of inflation.”

Of even greater concern is what is happening to gas prices.

According to Bloomberg, the price of gasoline hasn’t been this high at this time of the year for six years…

Gasoline in the U.S. climbed this week, boosted by a surge in oil, and is expected to reach the highest level for this time of year since 2008.

The pump price averaged $3.686 a gallon yesterday, up 1.2 cents from a week earlier, data posted on the Energy Information Administration’s website late yesterday show. Oil, which accounts for two-thirds of the retail price of gasoline, gained $2.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the same period and $4.88 in the month ended yesterday.

The jump in crude, driven by concern that the crisis in Iraq will disrupt supplies, may boost pump prices by 10 cents a gallon at a time when they normally drop, according to forecasts including one from the EIA.

And the conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere could potentially send gas prices screaming far higher.

In fact, T. Boone Pickens recently told CNBC that if Baghdad falls to ISIS that the price of a barrel of oil could potentially hit $200.

Of course the big oil companies are not exactly complaining about this.  This week energy stocks are hitting record highs, and further escalation of the conflict in Iraq will probably send them even higher.

Meanwhile, a “bipartisan Senate proposal” (that means both Democrats and Republicans) would raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over the next two years.

Our politicians have such good timing, don’t they?

Ugh.

And our electricity rates are going up too.  The electricity price index just set a brand new record high and there are no signs of relief on the horizon…

The electricity price index and the average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity both hit records for May, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average price for a KWH hit 13.6 cents during the month, up about 3.8 percent from 13.1 cents in May 2013.

The seasonally adjusted electricity price index rose from 201.431 in May 2013 to 208.655 in May 2014—an increase of about 3.6 percent.

If our paychecks were increasing at the same rate as inflation, perhaps most families would be able to weather all of this.

Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.

As I wrote about recently, median household income in the U.S. is now about 7 percent lower than it was in the year 2000 after adjusting for inflation.

And if realistic inflation numbers were used instead of the government-manipulated ones, it would look a lot worse than that.

Inflation is a hidden tax that all of us pay, and it is systematically eviscerating the middle class.

So what are prices like in your neck of the woods?

Is your family feeling the pain of inflation?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The Corn Is Dying All Over America

All over America the corn is dying.  If drought conditions persist in the middle part of the country, wheat and soybeans will be next.  Weeks of intense heat combined with extraordinarily dry conditions have brought many U.S. corn farmers to the brink of total disaster.  If there is not significant rainfall soon, many farmers will be financially ruined.  This period of time is particularly important for corn because this is when pollination is supposed to happen.  But the unprecedented heat and the extremely dry conditions are playing havoc with that process.  With each passing day things get even worse.  We have seen the price of a bushel of corn soar 41 percent since June 14th.  That is an astounding rise.  You may not eat much corn directly, but it is important to realize that corn or corn syrup is just about in everything these days.  Just look at your food labels.  In the United States today, approximately 75 percent of all processed foods contain corn.  So a huge rise in the price of corn is going to be felt all over the supermarket.  Corn is also widely used to feed livestock, and if this crisis continues we are going to see a significant rise in meat and dairy prices as well.  Food prices in America have already been rising at a steady pace, and so this is definitely not welcome news.

The weather conditions in the middle part of the country during the last couple of months have been highly unusual.  The following is from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times….

It’s not that the Midwest hasn’t been extremely hot before, and it’s not that it hasn’t been incredibly dry.

But it’s unusual for a vast swath of the Midwest to be so very hot and so very dry for so very long — particularly this early in the summer.

The current heat wave — which is spurring comparisons to the catastrophic heat of 1936 —  is “out of whack,” meteorologist Jim Keeney said Friday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Corn crops typically pollinate and mature in June and early July.  That is why this time of the year is so vitally important for corn.  We have reached a make it or break it moment.

The following is how an Accuweather.com report described what is happening right now….

Either heat or drought can stress the stalks, but both can basically shut down the pollination process. When this happens few, small or no ears of corn form.

According to AccuWeather.com Agricultural Meteorologists, you can’t raise a corn crop with less than an inch of rain over six weeks, combined with 100-degree and higher temperatures. However, these conditions have taken place in much of the southern corn belt through the week of July 4, 2012.

If pollination does not happen, corn farmers might as well give up.

Just check out what agricultural economist Chris Hurt said the other day….

“Pollination problems just can’t be overcome, even if the weather turns. There’s no turning back. There’s just failure.”

At this point, half of all corn in the state of Indiana is already in poor shape.

With each passing day, the condition of the corn gets even worse.

As a recent article in the Chicago Tribune detailed, many farmers feel completely helpless at the moment….

Dave Kestel, who farms about 1,300 acres in Manhattan about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, said he feels helpless.

“Every day you get out there and it’s the same heat and cloudless sky,” he said. “You see your corn just withering out there, knowing you can’t do anything about it.”

The United States is suffering from a severe lack of rain.  Just look at the chart posted below.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the country is experiencing drought conditions right now….

These drought conditions have also played a major role in the huge number of wildfires that we have seen lately.

There are a few northern states that are not feeling the drought right now, but otherwise the rest of the country is extremely dry.

So what does all of this mean for you and I?

A recent article by Holly Deyo summarized why we should all be praying for rain….

Since 75% of grocery store products use corn as a key ingredient, expect food prices to skyrocket. Corn is also a staple in many fast foods. Corn is in ethanol and the main food source or chickens. In addition to this, maize is in many things that aren’t obvious like adhesives, aluminum, aspirin, clothing starch, cosmetics, cough syrup, dry cell batteries, envelopes, fiberglass insulation, gelatin capsules, ink, insecticides, paint, penicillin, powders, rugs and carpets, stamps, talcum, toothpaste, wallpaper, and vitamins. That’s just for starters…

This is a huge heads up for you to purchase corn-using products NOW before these conditions reflect in grocery goods. It will be a narrow window of opportunity.

These thoughts are being echoed by many agricultural economists as well.  According to Businessweek, the outlook for U.S. food prices is bleak….

“When people look at rising prices for hamburger, butter, eggs and other protein sources from higher corn costs, that’s when more money ends up in the food basket,” said Minneapolis- based Michael Swanson, a senior agricultural economist at Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. farm lender. “We were hoping for a break, and we aren’t going to get it.”

Unfortunately, the fact that the corn is dying all over America is not just a problem for the United States.

As Businessweek also recently noted, the fate of U.S. corn affects the entire globe….

When rain doesn’t fall in Iowa, it’s not just Des Moines that starts fretting. Food buyers from Addis Ababa to Beijing all are touched by the fate of the corn crop in the U.S., the world’s breadbasket in an era when crop shortages mean riots.

This year they have reason to be concerned. Stockpiles of corn in the U.S. tumbled 48 percent between March and June, the biggest drop since 1996, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week. And that was before drought hit the Midwest.

The United States is the world’s biggest exporter of corn by far, and if there is a massive corn crop failure in America it is going to be felt to the four corners of the earth.

Just check out what Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization, said the other day….

“Everyone watches the U.S. because they can rely on it. Without it, the world would starve.”

Back in February, I wrote an article that suggested that we could see dust bowl conditions return to the middle part of this country in the years ahead.

A lot of people were skeptical of that article.

Not quite as many people are skeptical today.

The following is from a recent article posted on MSNBC entitled “Fears of new Dust Bowl as heat, drought shrivel corn in Midwest“….

Crop insurance agents and agricultural economists are watching closely, a few comparing the situation with the devastating drought of 1988, when corn yields shriveled significantly, while some farmers have begun alluding, unhappily, to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Far more is at stake in the coming pivotal days: with the brief, delicate phase of pollination imminent in many states, miles and miles of corn will rise or fall on whether rain soon appears and temperatures moderate.

As I wrote about last week, if the weather does not turn around soon the implications are going to be staggering.

Even if we got some significant rainfall at this point a tremendous amount of damage has already been done according to the Washington Post….

Jay Armstrong, owner and operator of Armstong Farms in Kansas, flew his small plane over a portion of the affected area and landed with the impression that the potential damage is far worse than is commonly understood.

“At this time of year, when you look down in a place like Indiana or Illinois, you should see just lush green fields,” Armstrong said. “I saw bare soil. I just thought to myself, the market has no idea what’s coming.”

So is there significant rain in the forecast?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

The National Weather Service says that the corn belt will experience “above-normal temperatures” and “below-normal rainfall” over the next week.

At this point it does not look like there will be any significant rainfall for the foreseeable future….

“We got a break in the temperatures over the weekend but no rain of significance is in sight for next seven days,” said Jim Keeney, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service the US central region based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Needless to say, that is really bad news.

Right now we just have more heat and more dryness to look forward to.  The skies are like iron and the earth is like brass.  We like to think that we have conquered nature, but at moments such as these we see that is not true at all.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about all of the reasons why we should be concerned about the second half of 2012.  In that article I did not even mention drought and crop failures.  Sometimes major problems have a way of piling on top of themselves.

The U.S. economy is already in bad enough shape without adding major crop failures to the mix.  This is something that we just don’t need right now.

But it looks like we are going to have to deal with it.  Unless there is a major change in the weather, food prices are going to go up even more and large numbers of farmers and ranchers are going to be absolutely devastated.

Let us all pray for rain.  We desperately need it.

Did The Price Of Oil Help Cause The Financial Crisis Of 2008? Will Surging Oil Prices Soon Spark Another Financial Crisis?

Oil prices are starting to spin out of control once again.  In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February hit 91.89 dollars a barrel on Friday.  New York crude moved above 88 dollars a barrel on Friday.  Many analysts believe that 100 dollar oil is a virtual certainty now.  In fact, many economists are convinced that oil is going to start moving well beyond the 100 dollar mark.  So what happened the last time oil went well above 100 dollars a barrel?  Oh, that’s right, we had a major financial crisis.  Not that subprime mortgages, rampant corruption on Wall Street and out of control debt didn’t play major roles in precipitating the financial crisis as well, but the truth is that most economists have not given the price of oil the proper credit for the role that it played in almost crashing the world economy.  In July 2008, the price of oil hit a record high of over $147 a barrel.  A couple months later all hell broke loose on world financial markets.  The truth is that having the price of oil that high created horrific imbalances in the global economy.  Fortunately the price of oil took a huge nosedive after hitting that record high, and it can be argued that lower oil prices helped stabilize the world economy.  So now that oil prices are on a relentless march upward again, what can we expect this time?

Well, what we can expect is more economic trouble.  The truth is that oil is the “blood” of our economy.  Without oil nothing moves and virtually no economic activity would take place.  Our entire economic system is based on the ability to cheaply and efficiently move people and products.  An increase in the price of oil puts inflationary pressure on virtually everything else in our society.  Without cheap oil, the entire game changes.

The chart below shows what the price of oil has done since 1950 (although it doesn’t include the most recent data).  With the price of oil marching towards 100 dollars a barrel again, many people are wondering what this is going to mean for the U.S. economic “recovery”….


Just think about it.  What is it going to do to U.S. households when they have to start spending four, five or even six dollars on a gallon of gas?

What is it going to do to our trucking and shipping costs?

What is it going to do to the price of food?  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food inflation in the United States was already 1 1/2 times higher than the overall rate of inflation during the past year.  But that is nothing compared to what is coming.

During 2010, the price of just about every major agricultural commodity has shot up dramatically.  These price increases are just starting to filter down to the consumer level.  So what is going to happen if oil shoots up to 100, 120 or even 150 dollars a barrel?

Demand for oil is only going to continue to increase.  Do you know who the number one consumer of energy on the globe is today?  For about a hundred years it was the United States, but now it is China.  Other emerging markets are starting to gobble up oil at a voracious pace as well.

Not that the price of oil isn’t highly manipulated.  Of course it is.  The truth is that the price of oil should not be nearly as high as it currently is.  Unfortunately, you and I have very little say on the matter.

If the price of oil keep going higher, it is really going to start having a dramatic impact on global economic activity at some point.  Meanwhile, oil producers and the big global oil companies will pull in record profits, and radical “environmentalists” will love it because people will be forced to start using less oil.

When it comes to oil, there are a lot of “agendas” out there, and unfortunately it looks like the pendulum is swinging back towards those who have “agendas” that favor a very high price for oil.

So what does that mean for all of us?

It is going to mean higher prices at the pump, higher prices at the supermarket and higher prices for almost everything else that we buy.

If the price of oil causes a significant slowdown in economic activity, it could also mean that a whole bunch of us may lose our jobs.

In an article that I published yesterday entitled “Tipping Point: 25 Signs That The Coming Financial Collapse Is Now Closer Than Ever“, I didn’t even mention that price of oil.  There are just so many danger signs in the world economy right now that it is easy to overlook some of them.

Yes, it is time to start ringing the alarms.

The ratio of corporate insider stock selling to corporate insider stock buying is at the highest it has been in nearly four years.  This is so similar to what happened just prior to the last financial crisis.  The corporate insiders are seeing the writing on the wall and they are flocking for the exits.

Many savvy investors are getting out of paper and are looking for hard assets to put their money in.  For example, China is buying gold like there is no tomorrow.  The Chinese seem to sense that something is coming.  But of course they are not alone.  All over the world top economists are warning that we are flirting with disaster.

On Friday, Moody’s slashed Ireland’s credit rating by five notches to Baa1, and is warning that even more downgrades may follow.

Just think about that for a moment.

Moody’s didn’t just downgrade Irish debt a little – what Moody’s basically did was take out a big wooden mallet and pummel it into oblivion.

Irish debt is now considered little more than garbage in world financial markets now.  Unfortunately, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and a bunch of other European nations are also headed down the same road.

The truth is that the euro is much closer to a major collapse than most Americans would ever dream.

The world financial system is teetering on the brink of another major financial crisis, and rising oil prices certainly are not going to help that.

If the price of oil breaks the 100 dollar mark, it will be time to become seriously alarmed.

If the price of oil breaks the 150 dollar mark in 2011 it will be time to push the panic button.

Let’s hope that the price of oil stabilizes for a while, but unfortunately that is probably not going to happen.

The truth is that the economic outlook for 2011 is bleak at best, especially if the price of oil continues to skyrocket.

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