I've long been curious about Sarah Palin's views on quantitative easing. Haven't you? It's not the easiest of subjects to understand, requires deep knowledge of how the financial system works, and might not be easily grasped by your average person. Palin, however, is no average anything. So in her latest rhetorical sortie, Palin grasped the core point:
All this pump priming will come at a serious price. And I mean that literally: everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher.
The underlying argument about whether quantitative easing will indeed lead to inflation is not what's at issue here. What's at issue is her factual assertion that grocery prices have risen significantly over the past year. When you read the speech, it seems to me that this might actually contributed by Palin herself (I have no idea who wrote the rest). But, as sometimes used to happen in American journalism, she was subsequently challenged on this assertion by the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy, who went so far as to describe this – grab your pearls – as "hyperbole":
Grocery prices haven’t risen all that significantly, in fact. The consumer price index’s measure of food and beverages for the first nine months of this year showed average annual inflation of less than 0.6%, the slowest pace on record (since the Labor Department started keeping this measure in 1968). Even if you pick a single snapshot — say, September’s year-over-year increase in prices — that was just 1.4%, far better than the 6% annual increase for food prices recorded in September 2008.
Palin couldn't handle this. Her stated position was revealed as empirically false. Most people when presented with such data – not about future inflation but recent grocery inflation – correct themselves. Not Palin, who rushed to Facebook to cite a recent WSJ story to pit against its own blogger, under the sarcastic headline "Do Wall Street Journal Reporters Read the Wall Street Journal?":
The article noted that “an inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants…Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months.” Now I realize I’m just a former governor and current housewife from Alaska, but even humble folks like me can read the newspaper. I’m surprised a prestigious reporter for the Wall Street Journal doesn’t.
You will note that even in the sentence Palin cites, the story says that inflation is "beginning" to ripple through the food industry. That does not mean it has already happened. In fact, the article Palin cites to back her up actually states that last year was "the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades." Now, it's true that, for example, ground chuck beef is up 4.8 percent over the last year, as Reddy notes in his response. But it's also true that bananas have dropped by 5.3 percent. The overall inflation rate for food and beverages – the only meaningful statistic for "grocery shopping" – is currently the lowest on record. Reddy:
A broad measure of food prices from the Labor Department shows prices rose at an average annual rate of less than 0.6% in the first nine months of the year. September’s increase in food prices — 1.4% for food and beverages at an annual rate — was low by historical standards.(In fact, the lowest average annual inflation rate on record was 1.4%, in 1992.) Commerce Department inflation data show a similarly slow year-over-year increase for food prices, 1.3%.
Again, compare the 0.6 percent price increase in the first nine months of 2010 with September 2008 when grocery prices were rising at 6 percent. This is reality. Palin cannot handle it when it contradicts her. And notice, you could still make the point that you oppose quantiative easing because it could lead to future inflation, while conceding the fact that food prices have been very weak recently. But Palin simply cannot acknowledge error. If reality contradicts her imagined version of it, reality has to concede.
This is the core truth about Palin: she is a delusional fantasist. She makes anything and everything up. So about that motor home trip …