Economic ‘Romance’ Between Manchin, Yellen Could Yet Save America

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We had a new batch of economic numbers today showing clearly that this economy does not need one more dollar of stimulus. One of the numbers shows we have way too many dollars floating around and causing inflation. So hold on to your seat belts. Despite rising prices, consumers are buying, and buying, and buying.

Retail sales for October, which came out today, are up 1.7% for the month and 16% for the past 12 months. Sixteen percent. That is a big number. That is a number that suggests all these wonderful folks buying everything are already stimulated. On inflation, despite a steady king dollar, import prices jumped in October by 1.2%. Or 10.7% year over year.

Think of it this way. All the emergency relief — $4 trillion last year, $2 trillion this year, maybe another $4 trillion coming — all that cash has gone into people’s pockets and they bought out our retail store shelves and have also gone shopping in China. These emergency relief packages could have been labeled china stimulus.

Bear that in mind with regards to President Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Import inflation is rising significantly. Let’s not forget a couple days ago. We had a Consumer Price Index that was up 6.2% year over year. Biggest in 31 years. Rounding it out today is a big increase in industrial production and manufacturing.

Now this is unambiguously good. This is the supply side of the economy. Especially investments in new business equipment to sustain the workforce. Create jobs. Productivity and higher wages. Business equipment is up 6% for the last 12 months. Total production up 5%. So let me suggest that the October-December fourth quarter could be a remarkable combination of 8% growth and 8% inflation.

That would be a 16% increase in total spending in the economy. Those would be remarkable numbers. It would be a complete utter inflation prone blowout. Reminiscent of the 1970s. That’s what we’re looking at. So anybody that tells you that these Biden spending bills are necessary to help the economy is out of his or her mind.

Which brings me back to yesterday’s riff regarding Janet Yellen. The treasury secretary blamed a lot of the inflation on the pandemic related shortage of goods. She said there’s no problem with services, which, of course, is the bulk of the economy nowadays. So I went back and looked at the Institute of Supply Managers services survey for October.

It turns out not only are they booming but their prices are roaring. Service inflation up 32% over the past year. Nearly identical to goods inflation — up 31%. It may be a little boring, but numbers tell a story. And I love story-telling. As these data points come in, it is clear that we are overspending, over-money printing, over-inflating, and well, we’re just over.

So I’m going to come back to my point in yesterday’s column. Janet Yellen says inflation will peter down in the second half of next year. I think she’s too optimistic. Let’s, though, leave it there. Senator Joe Manchin, my favorite Democrat, has been saying all spending should be paused until inflation comes down.

So when you put the two together. Build Back Better and any other spending bill should be paused until next year’s second half. Which of course coincides with an election — and is why I, per yesterday’s riff, I see an economic romance here. Ms. Yellen and Senator Manchin. A lovely couple. With an important message. No new spending until at least the second half of next year. An economic romance. I like that.

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