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Putin’s Price Hike

By Steve SavilleMarket OverviewMay 16, 2022 01:52AM ET
Putin’s Price Hike
By Steve Saville   |  May 16, 2022 01:52AM ET
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Central banks and governments rarely, if ever, take responsibility for obvious inflation problems. They never have to, because by the time an inflation problem becomes obvious, a lot of time will have transpired since the implementation of the policies that caused it.

Furthermore, due to the aforementioned time between cause and effect, it generally will be possible for policymakers to point the finger of blame at external influences from the more recent past.

A great example is the Biden Administration’s references to the current US inflation problem as “Putin’s price hike.”

The foundation for today’s inflation was laid many years ago by a central bank that reacted to every bout of serious economic and/or stock market weakness by pumping up the money supply, but it was in 2020 that ‘the rubber hit the road’ so to speak. Beginning in March of 2020, this is what happened:

  1. The government shut down large sections of the economy in reaction to a pandemic. This was a heavy-handed, low-tech and short-sighted political decision that gave scant consideration to the collateral damage it would cause to both the economy and public health. Unfortunately, an economy isn’t like an engine that can be stopped and then restarted with no ill effects. On the contrary, many supply chains will be permanently broken when large sections of the economy are shut down. Establishing new supply chains often will take time (at least several months and perhaps even years), and in the interim there will be shortages.
  2. The government-driven economic collapse prompted the Fed to create several trillion new dollars out of nothing, thus expanding the total US money supply by 40% in one year. This is the single most important contributor to the current inflation problem, and yet the Fed generally is portrayed as the solution to the problem rather than the primary cause of it.
  3. To mitigate the extreme short-term hardship caused by its own actions, the government distributed to individuals and businesses a substantial portion of the new money created by the Fed. In effect, the government showered the population with money, and as a result, the 2020 recession coincided with a rapid increase in personal income. Nothing like this had ever happened before.

Summing up the above, as part of a reaction to COVID-19, the government caused the supply of many goods to shrink, and at the same time the government teamed up with the Fed to engineer a large increase in the monetary demand for goods. This created an obvious “inflation” problem well before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The major inflation problem that existed prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has since become worse, but not due to the invasion itself. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could not have made a significant difference to inflation in the US or in most other parts of the world if not for the economic sanctions imposed against Russia. The sanctions have added to the problem.

The anti-Russia sanctions have done new damage to supply chains and deprived the world of critical resources, but to what end? Economic sanctions have never worked in the past and there is no reason to expect that this time will be different.

In fact, the evidence to date indicates that the sanctions have not only done nothing to help innocent Ukrainians or discourage the perpetrators of the war (in Russia, Putin is now more popular than ever), but also caused hardship for innocent people throughout the world.

In conclusion, the current US inflation problem was caused by the combination of a huge increase in the US money supply, US government programs that effectively showered the population with money, supply disruptions caused by COVID-related lockdowns, and additional supply disruptions caused by a raft of anti-Russia sanctions that have no chance of achieving anything positive.

That is, the “inflation” that has become the primary focus of US policymakers is the result of domestic US policy choices. Therefore, calling it “Putin’s price hike” is disingenuous to put it mildly.

Putin’s Price Hike

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Putin’s Price Hike

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Comments (3)
Kristof Naessens
Kristof Naessens May 16, 2022 3:41AM ET
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The inconvenient truth
Ogo Pogo
Ogo Pogo May 16, 2022 3:24AM ET
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Spot on. Such a good summary of what has been happening since 2020. This needs to be reposted weekly.
Sevantilal Patel
Sevantilal Patel May 16, 2022 3:21AM ET
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perfect dig for the root cause.
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