Thursday, July 01, 2021

A Brilliant Post About Inflation

... can't be found on this blog.

However, Scott Grannis, blogging at Calafia Beach Pundit, posted a terrific piece describing his time in Argentina and subsequent years spent studying economics. Here are two snippets. First, he describes what it was like to live in a high-inflation environment.

(N)obody wanted money, everyone wanted stuff instead. For the next several years I would juggle money balances between pesos and dollars and "stuff." With lots of inflation, money becomes like a hot potato. When I saw something for sale that I needed and the price looked reasonable, I would buy it immediately, because I learned that if you waited to look for it in another store, the price was likely to go up. During one episode of very high inflation, grocery stores would post prices on chalkboards, and change them throughout the day. It was a daily struggle to survive, because salaries and wages always went up after the prices for "stuff" went up (incomes lagged prices, and over time that impoverishes wage earners). 

The second deals with the way the government brought on the inflation. See if you can spot the parallels to today.

Years later I would study the situation in Argentina during the time we lived here and understand what was happening. In a nutshell, since the government was unable to finance its deficit by selling bonds, it simply ordered the central bank to print up new currency in order to pay its bills. New bills flooded the country like Monopoly money. Money became like a hot potato that nobody wanted to hold. Better to change my peso salary to dollars at the beginning of the month, and then convert back to pesos when I needed to buy something. Better to save money by buying stuff than to save money in the bank. Since very few people back then had bank accounts, newly-minted bills just kept accumulating in the economy and losing their value. A $1 million peso note issued in 1978 was initially worth several thousand dollars, but by the mid-1980s that same note was worth only 20 cents and was withdrawn from circulation. 

No photo today. I had other things in mind to write, but Scott's work is so good that it deserved a teaser and a link. Enjoy! 


tim eisele said...

" since the government was unable to finance its deficit by selling bonds,"

And there is the heart of our problem. The US government is having no difficulty at all selling bonds, and so it is impossible to convince them not to take the easy route of running up the debt.

The current 1 year treasury yield as of June 29, 2021 is 0.08%.

0.08% !!! That is all the return the government has to offer to sell their bonds! That is only barely a better investment than stacking dollar bills in your closet. The only reason I can see for buying treasury bonds at that rate, is that it gives you someplace secure to stash your cash that won't make you a robbery target. And yet, people are buying the treasuries at that pathetic rate. The government is basically getting money loaned to them at close to zero cost. I don't know how long that can keep up, but as long as it does, good luck convincing the government to stop borrowing so much money.

K T Cat said...

I believe that right now, it is selling bonds to the Fed with banks as proxies. I haven't taken the time to get the flow chart down pat, but I don't believe there are many individual, corporate or foreign buyers of our bonds. That's why the Fed's balance sheet is going up by $30B per week, a number in keeping with our general deficit.

WC Varones said...

Yes, foreign holdings of our bonds have flattened out, maybe even dropping a little.

The Federal Reserve balance sheet is now $8 trillion, up from $4 trillion before the pandemic and less than $1 trillion before the GFC. That's all freshly printed money used to fund government deficits!

K T Cat said...

Thanks, WC!

Here's another good link showing how much the Fed holds.