A lot of conservative voters — especially those old enough to have lived through the high inflation of the 1970s — are convinced that America is currently suffering from an inflation problem. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pandered to those voters in a recent Republican presidential debate, blaming the "loose money" policies of the Federal Reserve for raising the prices of various consumer products.
But new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that overall, prices aren't going up. At all.
Between September and October, prices actually fell slightly. And over the past year, the inflation rate was exactly 0.0 percent.
To be fair, this is mostly because energy prices have fallen dramatically over the past year. If you ignore volatile food and energy prices, then prices rose 1.9 percent, just shy of the Federal Reserve's 2 percent inflation target. Ironically, inflation hawks have long complained that this measure, known as the "core CPI," understates inflation by ignoring rising food and energy costs. But right now, with energy prices falling, the opposite is true. Another measure favored by the Fed, known as the core personal consumption expenditures index, also shows inflation below the 2 percent target.
But either way, concerns that the Federal Reserve's zero interest rate policy will produce high levels of inflation have proven misplaced. No matter how you look at it, the inflation rate is below the Fed's 2 percent target. And that's been true for a while. Since 2008, when the Fed cut interest rates to near zero, the average inflation rate during that period has been about 1.4 percent. It's been the least inflationary period in 50 years.