Speechless on Core CPI

by: Barry Ritholtz

I did a really crappy job Thursday night responding to Jason Trennert's comments on inflation. Mostly because I was stunned that, at this point, anyone is seriously going to argue that inflation is benign.

I am paraphrasing, but Jason (an otherwise very nice guy) said words to the effect of "The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, Core PCE, showed little or no inflation (+1.4%)."

Meanwhile, Gold, Crude Oil, soft commodities and the CRB Index all rallied to new highs as the US Dollar $ declined to new lows. The front page of Friday's WSJ had an article: Historic Surge In Grain Prices Roils Markets ... but there's no inflation.

I wonder what people will be saying when the September CPI comes out. It will be substantially higher due to soaring energy and food prices this month. Oh, wait, that's not in the core (never mind).

No Inflation here:

Gee, I wonder why the Fed prefers Core PCE as an inflation measure -- instead of what is occurring in the real world?

Ironically, while Wall Street pundits and economists lap up obviously defective government data, the rest of the country is having none of it: According to this recent Gallup poll, public trust in the Federal Government -- across the board, on nearly every issue -- is at or near all time lows.

The government now ranks lower than it did post-Watergate:

"A new Gallup poll reveals that, as the organization puts it, Americans now "express less trust in the federal government than at any point in the past decade, and trust in many federal government institutions is now lower than it was during the Watergate era, generally recognized as the low point in American history for trust in government."

Among the findings: Barely half trust the government to handle international problems, the lowest number ever. And less than half express faith in the government handling domestic issues, the lowest findings since 1976.

Faith in the executive branch has fallen to 43% -- only 3% higher than it was just before President Nixon's resignation in 1974. At the same time, trust in Congress, at 50%, is its lowest ever.

Gallup has asked about trust in government since 1972. It conducted this year's poll Sept. 14-16 and found the following:

-- Barely half of Americans, 51%, say they have a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in the federal government to handle international problems.

-- Less than half of Americans, 47%, now have at least a fair amount of trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems."

The apportionment of this can be debated. I put about 60% of it on the White House -- primarily Iraq, Katrina, and the bifurcated economy -- and 40% on the Congress.

When the GOP controlled the legislative branch, they were either spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors on shore leave, chasing interns, or having gay sex in airport bathrooms. You know, the business of the people.

Now that the Democrats control Congress, they appear to this Independent to be nearly as bumbling and incompetent as the executive branch.

It almost makes you think Mark Twain was right: "Why Vote? It only encourages them!"

GALLUP: Trust in Federal Government, On Nearly All Issues, Hits New Low
Even Less Than in Watergate Era
E&P, September 27, 2007 10:30 AM ET

Low Trust in Federal Government Rivals Watergate Era Levels
Trust in state, local governments holding steady
Jeffrey M. Jones
GALLUP NEWS SERVICE, September 26, 2007

Historic Surge In Grain Prices Roils Markets
SCOTT KILMANWSJ, September 28, 2007; Page A1

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