More than a month has passed since RealityChek last looked at the question of whether the Biden administration is right in claiming that cutting or eliminating some of the current U.S. tariffs on imports from China can help cool torrid inflation Now some new data releases from the federal government it’s running make clear that this belief has never looked more fact-free.
Those releases – both bringing their stories up to May – are the new figures on U.S. inflation, and the latest statistics on the prices of imports. And they continue to show that, throughout the recent period of super-high inflation, the prices of products Americans have been buying from China have risen much more slowly than the inflation rate both for the set of goods most closely approximating the nature of the nation’s purchases from the People’s Republic (the core rate that excludes food and energy prices), and for the overall imports that most closely approximate those Chinese imports (non-fuel imports).
Here are yearly percentage price increase figures by month for all three of these figures between the month when the annual core CPI began speeding up notably and May.
core CPI non-fuel goods imports imports from China
Oct. 2021 4.59 5.5 4.38
Nov. 2021 4.95 6.3 4.48
Dec. 2021 5.48 6.4 4.76
Jan. 2022 6.04 6.9 4.84
Feb. 2022 6.42 7.2 4.83
March 2022 6.44 7.5 5.01
April 2022 6.14 7.2 4.89
May 2022 6.01 5.9 4.57
For good measure, here’s how much these three inflation rates have increased altogether since October, 2021:
core CPI: 30.94 percent
non-oil goods imports: 7.27 percent
China imports: 4.34 percent
In other words, for the last eight data months, the inflation rate for imports from China has risen by less than half the rate of that for comparable imports from the entire world, and more than seven times more slowly than the core CPI.
Truth to tell, as I’ve written (in the above linked and other posts), the idea that the China tariffs have fueled U.S. inflation at all was always nonsensical even by the degraded standards of the last few years. After all, they represented a one-time cost increase – so they can’t possibly explain why American prices have been rising uusually strongly for months. These one-time increases were imposed in phases between 2018 and 2019 – years before U.S. inflation hit multi-decade highs and began speeding up ever faster from there. And many of the Made in China goods that the Biden administration calls “non-strategic” and for which tariffs therefore are supposedly expendable were never were tariffed to begin with.
In addition, the idea that, given China’s recent behavior, any steps should be taken that would help the economy of the People’s Republic, and in exchange for exactly nothing, is just whacko — at best.
For many months, most Americans have been telling pollsters they have grave doubts about President Biden’s fitness for office. (Here’s the latest example.) Imagine what they’d think of abilities if it was widely reported that he’s keen on a policy move based on ideas about China tariffs and inflation that are utterly detached from reality.