Inflation? Depends how you measure it.
The Reuters CRB Commodity Index, which tracks the prices of coffee, cocoa, copper, and cotton, as well as energy, is up 38% over four years, or 8.6% at a compound annual rate.
Food prices may fluctuate from season to season, but overall they have risen at only a 2% compound rate since 2009.
The price of gasoline has gone up from $2.60 a gallon when the recession ended to $3.68 today. That’s a 41% increase in four years, or an annualized rate of 9%.Taxes have gone up almost as much. Federal, State and Local income taxes and social charges (Social Security payroll taxes, for instance) have risen 35% over four years, an annualized rate of 7.8%.
Since the recession ended, the cost of a Big Mac in the U.S. has risen from an average of $3.57 to $4.37, or 5.2% a year.
Various estimates of what the annual rate would have been over the past four years if earlier methods of calculation had been continued come up with numbers in the 5%-to-10% range.
Several conclusions can be drawn from all this. First, there is no absolute and objective gauge of inflation. Any particular measure is simply one way of making the calculation, based on a host of assumptions. Second, a number of the costs that middle-class households face are going up considerably faster than the CPI.