Remember the olden days when everyone talked about inflation like it was a fleeting moment in time? This month, March, is an economic anniversary, though maybe not the fun kind. It’s been about a year since the Fed started raising interest rates to curb inflation and about two years since we started talking about inflation in the first place. A great deal has happened in the economy since.
“There were a lot of people ranging from Jerome Powell all the way down to me who dismissed this as a transitory blip that would soon go away,” said Laurence Ball, an economist at Johns Hopkins.
The T word, “transitory” was not the name of the game. But Ball said even though inflation remains sticky, “it doesn’t look as though we’ve gotten into this pernicious spiral of inflation’s high so it’s expected to stay high.”
That’s what happened during the 1970s: The Great Inflation period that lasted almost two decades.
“So in that sense a year is not very long,” said Sebastian Mallaby, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s long compared to other bouts of raising interest rates.”
If faith is lost in our full faith and creditMay 26, 2023
Why don’t we know when the U.S. will run out of money?May 25, 2023
Atlanta Fed CEO on the debt limit debacle and curbing inflationMay 24, 2023
He is referring to about the mid 90s to around the year 2000, and again around 2005 when inflation rates were both lower and less widespread. And Anil Kashyap, an economist at the University of Chicago, said the Fed dealt with the problem differently.
“The Fed was more preemptive. There was like two years where every meeting, they boosted the interest rate by 25 basis points,” he said. According to him, this time around, the Fed wanted to see inflation to believe it, so to speak, and not cool the economy too quickly after Covid and its supply chain snarls.
“I think we’re paying a little bit of a price for that now,” Kashyap said. “I think we’ll be talking about this next year as well.”
That would bring us to three years of inflation — an anniversary that seems pretty solid. But in the grand scheme of inflation history, it doesn’t exactly qualify as a long-term relationship.