March CPI: Desperate Housewives Want to Know Where the Government Shops

You have to be a creative type to work at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No other reason would explain how this governmental agency is able to churn out consumer price statistics that in no way correlate to the cost of living in America today.

The March Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in up 0.3%, up 4.0% year over year. Excluding food and energy costs (in real life you’d be dead), was up 0.2%. On a year over year basis, “core” inflation is up 2.4%. Despite Core being 0.4% above the Federal Reserve’s inflation “comfort” level, as CNBC’s Fed apologist Steve Liesman said, the Fed is “waiting”.

Waiting for what? For rioting over food and energy costs to break out on the streets here? If inflation is still able to leak through these manipulated numbers, you know that inflation is totally out of control. And the price of commodities reflect that as speculation increases as a hedge against runaway inflation.

With the Moon (food/domestic needs) in analytical Virgo today, let’s pick apart some of the components from the March CPI:

Food Index: up 5.3% in the first quarter of 2008 (In 2007, it was up 4.7%). Grocery store prices increased at an annual rate of 5.9%. Bread was up 2.1%, an increase of 14.7% year over year. Cereal and bakery products increased 1.3%. Produce increased 0.1%, nonalcoholic beverages up 0.3%. The numbers get totally ridiculous when the Bureau claims that the cost of meats/poultry/seafood and Eggs was “virtually unchanged”, and Milk dropped 2.2%. At this point, housewives reading this must be wondering where these people shop. As today’s Wall Street Journal points out, the lower cost of meat is a temporary phenomenon as farmers are slaughtering their livestock due to the high cost of feed.

Household Costs: The cost of shelter increased 0.1%, and Rent/OER by 0.2%. Rather than calculating the cost to purchase a home, OER (Owner’s Equivalent Rent) calculates the monthly rent you’d receive if you put your home out for rent. (But then where would you live?) The cost to sleep (bedding) increased 1.7%. For people who still had money left to decorate, it cost 0.5% more.

Utilities increased 2.0%, Electricity 0.8%, Natural Gas 4.6%, and Fuel Oil 10.1% (up 48.4% year over year). Talk wasn’t cheap, as local calls increased 0.5% and long distance calls by 0.2%. (Costs for mobile phones remained unchanged.)

Internet costs are lumped in with computers, peripherals, and software accessories, which the government claimed dropped 0.1%. Does that mean I can tell my ISP to lower my monthly charge? I guess I’m using the wrong provider.

Recreation: It costs more to dine out (0.3%), but the cost of a “liquid lunch” decreased 0.1%. It cost more to get away, with air fares increasing the most (3%). Being a couch potato increased 0.6% (TV/satellite). Pet costs increased 1.1%, so they better be doing more to earn their keep than fetching the paper or killing mice.

Apparel/Personal: CNBC’s Liesman touted that Apparel costs were lower. I guess he was only concerned about his costs. Looking at the details, women’s and girls’ apparel increased 2.6%.

Women were probably hit harder than men as personal care costs increased 0.6%. The increase was due to higher costs for haircuts and “miscellaneous personal goods. And get this: the government assumes we all smoke because: “These increases were partially offset by a 0.1 percent decline in the index for tobacco and smoking products.”

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