Trump Said There Was No Inflation in September. Now We Know He Was Right.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fist while departing the White House on October 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump is scheduled to travel to Florida today before returning to Washington later this evening. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty

President Donald Trump said in September that the Federal Reserve could cut interest rates, bringing down the cost of servicing government debt, because there is “no inflation.”

On Thursday, the Labor Department updated the Consumer Price Index and it showed that the president was correct: there was no inflation in September.

“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in September on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.1 percent in August, ” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly update on consumer prices.”Increases in the indexes for shelter and food were offset by declines in the indexes for energy and used cars and trucks to result in the seasonally adjusted all items index being flat.”

This is not some illusion of statistics. There were price changes faced by American households. But the upward price pressures on rent and home purchases, two of the biggest gainers in CPI, were offset by falling prices for gasoline and home energy costs. The price of a new car fell 0.3 percent in September. The price of pork rose, perhaps because of heavy demand from China, while the price of fruits and vegetables fell. Hamburger meat prices fell but the prices of buns rose. The price of coffee fell but the price of juice rose.

In other words, the flatness of prices in September fairly reflects the real costs faced by American households.

This may mollify concerns of those at the Federal Reserve who are concerned that further interest rates could push inflation too high. The Fed cut rates twice this year without creating any significant upward pressure on prices. Indeed, the flat numbers for September may indicate that the U.S. economy would be experiencing deflation if the Fed had not turned around its plan to gradually raise rates this year.

The government’s Producer Price Index, a different measure of inflation released on Tuesday, showed prices paid for goods and services fell in September. The two indexes generally move in sync but can depart at times because they measure inflation in different ways. The CPI measures prices paid by consumers while the PPI measures prices received by businesses.

 

 

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