U.S. inflation continues to dog both the American and, more importantly, the American consumer. The year-over-year inflation rate in April 2023 was 4.9%, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many television economists and talking heads celebrated the slowing of inflation’s rate of growth. What these so-called experts fail to realize is that April’s inflation rate was 4.9% higher than the rate in April 2022, which was 8.3%. This means that the inflation rate was 13.2% when compared to April 2021 – hardly a number worth celebrating.
Journalists have written extensively about the impact of inflation on America’s collective pocketbook. Higher gas prices, higher food prices, and higher prices for items such as used cars and trucks have dominated the headlines. But there are hidden costs to inflation, inflicting pain on the middle class and poorest Americans.
The U.S. real estate market is already in a recession. Through the first quarter of 2023, “U.S. housing market activity as measured by private residential fixed investment has declined, on a nominal basis, for four straight quarters … Fannie Mae’s forecast model thinks declines in the U.S. housing market will spill over and help to push the U.S. economy into a recession.”
The housing market is in a vicious cycle. Interest rates are above 7% for the third time this year. This is driving a lack of inventory as people with fixed rate mortgages below 5% are loath to sell their homes and purchase a new home at a higher interest rate. The lack of inventory is driving bidding wars in some areas, making first-time homeownership more difficult. It also makes it harder to recruit people to fill roles in companies that require relocation. Simply put, not many people want to venture into the housing market at this time.
It is not just housing. The U.S. auto market is quietly suffering, but not in a manner that many think. Prices are slowly dropping, as supply chain issues are abated, with new car prices expected to fall 2.5 – 5% and used vehicle prices expected to decrease 10 – 20%.
However, the typical interest rate on a new car loan rose to 8.95% in March, up from 5.66% in March of 2022. For used cars, the rate was 11.3% in March, up from 7.7% a year ago. A one percentage point increase on an auto loan “adds roughly $20 a month to a car note and thousands of dollars extra over the life of the loan.”
The higher interest rates for cars are not calculated in the inflation rate, just the drop in MSRP. The hidden cost is found in higher interest rates causing more drivers to fall behind on their car payments. In January 2023, the percentage of auto borrowers who were at least 60 days late on their bills climbed “2% from December and 20.4% from the previous year,” according to Fox Business. “The percentage of severe delinquencies surged to the highest level since 2006. Loan defaults increased 6.2% over the course of January 2023 and were up 33.5% from a year earlier. Car repossessions were up 11% in 2022.”
Another hidden cost of inflation is the grossly expanding credit card debt of American citizens. U.S. consumers now owe $986 billion on their credit cards, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That is a 17% increase from a year ago and a record high, as more households are forced to use their credit cards to pay monthly expenses such as food and utilities.
The final hidden cost of inflation is the increase in hardship withdrawals from retirement plans. In 2022, 401(k) hardship withdrawals rose by 24%, not only demonstrating how people are struggling to make ends meet, but also signaling a pending retirement crisis, as people will have less money on which to depend during retirement.
Joe Biden’s inflation is destroying the American dream. At a time when 57% of Americans cannot afford an emergency expense of $1,000 or more from their savings, Democrats want to not only increase the debt limit, but also raise taxes so they can spend more money, which will drive more inflation. Americans are hurting, and their pain is not covered in today’s financial headlines.
Jim Nelles is a Navy veteran and supply chain consultant based in Chicago. His articles have appeared in The Washington Examiner, Newsweek, Foxnews.com, and The Daily Wire. He has served as a chief procurement officer, chief supply chain officer, and chief operations officer for multiple companies.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.