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Today’s official U.S. report on consumer inflation was so bad that even what ‘s being pitched (for example, to a limited extent by President Biden) as kind of goods news isn’t anything close. As has so often been the case in the last year, one big key is looking at the so-called baseline effect. But the new (May) results for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) also highlight a reality that I and many others have been noting – the less-than-meets-the-eye difference between the headline and “core” CPI numbers.

The bad news about inflation is clear enough from the rise in the headline number – which tracks price increases throughout the entire economy. The 0.97 percent monthly increase wasn’t as scary as the 1.24 percent jump between February and March t(he highest since July, 1980’s 1.33 percent), but it was still the biggest since June, 1982’s 1.15 percent price surge.

Similarly, on an annual basis, May’s 8.52 percent overall CPI increase was lower than March’s 8.56 percent. But for all intents and purposes, both months’ results were the worst since December, 1981’s 8.91 percent disaster.

The (modest) ray of light that supposedly shone from the new inflation report came in the core figure – which strips out food and energy prices because they’re supposedly volatile for reasons having nothing to do with the economy’s alleged fundamental vulnerability to inflation.

To be sure, the monthly numbers shouldn’t have been the source of any encouragement. The May 0.63 percent sequential increase in core inflation was the hottest number since last June’s 0.80 percent, and represented the third straight month of acceleration.

Instead, glass-half-full types were pointing to the latest annual core increase. At 6.01 percent, May’s was the lowest since December’s 5.48 percent, and represented the third straight month of deceleration.

But here’s where the glass-half-empty types gain the upper hand. First, as I and – again – many others have observed, although food and energy prices do often move (down as well as up) for reasons largely unrelated to how overheated or not the economy may be. But energy prices in particular profoundly affect the cost of everything Americans make, sell, and buy that needs to be transported. And that means pretty much everything, including services, which typically rely on goods to get to customers. So there’s often an incontrovertible link between headline and core inflation.

Second, both energy and food prices are also often closely related to the economy’s overall levels of demand. And nowadays, they’re bound to keep rising as long as producers can pass them on to their customers. This in turn is the case because the latter can afford to pay more thanks to the unprecedented stimulus funds they received even after the economy was recovering strongly from the 2020 CCP Virus-induced crash,.

Third, there’s that baseline effect. Especially if its monthly rate is slowing, annual core inflation in the six percent neighborhood could be reasonably applauded if the previous year’s rate (the baseline) had been unusually low, or even negative (as it was for most of 2020). But the baseline figure for the latest May annual core inflation rate was May, 2021’s 3.81 percent (according to the latest government figures). That’s nearly twice the rate considered desirable by the nation’s chief official designated inflation-fighter, the Federal Reserve.

None of the ways to reduce this inflation rate way down reasonably quickly is a mystery to anyone influencing U.S. economic policies. Raising interest rates can get rid of a lot of the bloated consumer demand that’s contributed so much to recent price rises. For those emphasizing the Ukraine war’s major role in boosting food and energy prices, there’s the option of pressing for an end to the war sooner rather than later – even if it produces a morally ugly compromise.

But dramatically reducing consumer and business spending power enough to matter inflation-wise could bring on a recession – which the Federal Reserve still apparently believes can be avoided, at least judging from the modest monetary tightening it’s approved so far. And the Biden administration seems wed to letting the shots on ending the conflict to be called by Ukraine — which is so far rejecting the idea of making territorial or any other kinds of significant concessions.

So unless these situations change, the most reasonable conclusion is that inflation will keep raging until soaring prices finally tap consumers out by themselves. As an old adage goes, the likeliest cure for high prices may simply be high prices.