Tuesday, April 9

Scott Frostman: Out of control inflation not a priority for Washington or Madison


Oof. You stand a bit confused at the checkout counter, perplexed at the rising cost of your grocery bill. It was tough enough to see certain items in short supply amid supply chain disruptions and delays. Now you recoil at the big jump in costs. You wonder how you’re going to keep up.

Few folks keep check registers anymore, but likely frequently check their banking online to keep tabs on their shrinking wallets. The rampant, runaway inflation we are experiencing today is rapidly making life worse for all, with no apparent end in sight. Inflation is a nasty tax inflicted on all, especially those who struggle to make ends meet.

Widely reported on July 13, the current rate of inflation nationwide is 9.1%, the highest in more than 40 years. We haven’t seen this type of economic mess since the early 1980s, when then-President Ronald Reagan had to swiftly address the “malaise” — to use President Jimmy Carter’s own words — left by Carter. For most of the past 40 years, inflation has remained largely in check, and not been much of an issue.

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There was also an interesting analysis done by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee which sought to determine rates of inflation in each state to determine potential regional impacts. The data showed Wisconsin’s inflation rate between January 2021 and June 2022 at 14.5%, with an estimated jump in average costs per household of $707 per month, almost $8,500 annualized. Wisconsin’s overall rate is in the middle of the pack when compared to other states, but we are all feeling the impacts.

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Where is Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers amid these challenges? Admittedly, there is far less any state, or state official can do to curb inflationary pressures. It does not stop the need for Evers to bring the case to the White House to ease the cumbersome regulatory environment hampering the supply chain, or to lobby for energy independence. Don’t expect any such commentary to come out of the governor’s office. I would also ask: has anyone seen or heard from Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, these past few months? Perhaps we should be thankful she didn’t pretend to get handcuffed at a pro-abortion rally like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and a group of her colleagues.

In Washington, D.C., much of the attention of the Biden administration is focused elsewhere, perhaps like the one-time Roman Emperor who spent time fiddling. Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg seems fixated on recommending that Americans buy electric cars, without accounting for the fact most Americans can’t afford them, and we are still in the infant stages of preparedness with respect to charging stations, technology to drive long distances, and not wait for hours for batteries to recharge.

President Joe Biden was a study in contradictions after visiting Saudi Arabia in the hopes of convincing the Saudis to boost oil production. More raw materials available in the United States would be a big step toward easing inflationary pressures. Rather than pursue any such measures to boost production here at home, Biden chose to hit up the Saudis. Just a few days later, in stark contrast, he announced executive actions aimed at combating climate change. A July 21 USA Today story outlined some of the initiatives, heavy on the renewables without addressing the immediate needs of the U.S. economy.

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With inflation spinning out of control, our economy may well be headed for a significant downturn. A July 20 CNBC story stated, “as inflation continues to increase, so does the probability of a recession, according to several recent economic forecasts. That means more layoffs, fewer jobs and higher interest rates may soon be on the horizon.“

Even the folks at CNN are getting restless, with a story July 25 titled, “Biden faces moment of truth on the economy this week,” which quoted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, “this is not an economy that’s in recession, but we’re in a period of transition in which growth is slowing.” It’s no wonder why Biden’s approval ratings are in the 30s. He’s clearly out of his depth when working with the economy.

What does that mean for all of us here in Wisconsin as we reel from the dizzying price increases? There’s been far too little attention to economic conditions, far too much time in virtue signaling. In 1992, Bill Clinton advisor James Carville coined the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid,” meaning current economic conditions had more impact on voting decisions than any other. We have the opportunity in November to make some real positive changes in the governor’s chair, and control of the Congress. Let’s make that happen.

Frostman lives in Baraboo: [email protected].

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