Beck Cried Wolf About Hyperinflation
Fox News' Glenn Beck has repeatedly stoked fears that the U.S. would see "massive inflation," stating as far back as 2008 that inflation would go "through the roof" in the "next year." In fact, inflation remained low in 2009 and 2010.
Beck Continually Warns of Imminent Inflation
April 2008: Buy Coat And Shoes For "Next Year" Because Inflation Is Coming. On the April 28, 2008, edition of his then-CNN Headline News program, Beck warned that "[m]oney is going to be tighter next year" because of the precipitous decline of the dollar. He said:
BECK: We're close. Yes, we're close. Do people -- because I said this -- and I said, you know, just go out and -- you see a coat on sale for your kids and you know it's a size for your kids next year or shoes, buy them now because the dollar is falling. Inflation is going through the roof. Money is going to be tighter next year. Buy it. [CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, 4/28/08, via Nexis search database]
October 2008: The Market Predicts "Massive Inflation Coming Next Year." Beck again stoked fears of high inflation in October 2008, saying: "The market is always looking ahead, and right now they're only seeing high unemployment and massive inflation coming next year." He continued: "They're also seeing a president whose answer to our problems will be to raise taxes and move money from the rich directly to the poor." [CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, 10/13/08, via Nexis]
April 2009: There Are "A Lot Of Similarities" Between The Weimar Republic And Current Monetary Policy. On his Fox News show in April 2009, Beck said:
BECK: Let's talk a little bit about -- I'm very concerned about the money supply, hyperinflation, and I had a guy who is -- I call him my deep throat. He has been a guy who is very high up in this whole situation with the banks and the Treasury and the Fed and everything else, and he said to me about a year ago, he said, "Glenn, read about the Weimar Republic," because that's what's coming.
Whether or not that's true or not, I don't know. But I have read about the Weimar Republic, and there are a lot of similarities on what they did and what we did to the money, and that was one of the real breeding grounds. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 4/10/09, via Nexis]
August 2009: We Are Closing In On "Our 'Zimbabwe Moment.' " In August 2009, Beck again suggested parallels between the United States, the Weimar Republic, and Zimbabwe. He said:
BECK: So we're not monetizing our debt or anything like that? No, no. No, of course not, because I'm sure the media would have reported on it, if the government were creating new money to buy government debt. That is, unfortunately, what the Fed is doing. They're on its way, buying up over half a trillion dollars in government debt.
And that -- we're closing now, in on our -- what did Forbes.com call it today? Oh, I remember, our "Zimbabwe Moment." We could never suffer Zimbabwe's fate of hyperinflation and collapse -- oh, no, no.
What was it that turned those Nazis into Nazis? Oh, I remember, they were the Weimar Republic, and then, debt, hyperinflation and Nazis. Oh, I remember, but this is America. We're immune to hyperinflation or any kind of problems -- Jimmy Carter -- that never happens here. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 812/09, via Nexis]
May 2010: "Inflation Is Going To Go Through The Roof." On May 19, Beck stated:
BECK: Well, if you think a collapse is coming, if you think things are bad, if you think inflation is coming, well, you're not going to put your money into gold. I mean, into treasuries. You're going to put it into gold, which made this happen.
But they figured it out. That's why the treasury came up with something called TIPS -- Treasury Inflation Protected Securities.
What you do is you buy these and you say, they're lying, man! Are you kidding me? Inflation is going to go through the roof.
You buy these. It's a hedge against inflation. It's a bet against inflation. It's a hedge against what they're telling you is the truth right now.
In the 1980s, they remembered this. They realized that if we have problems, people take their money out of bonds and put it into gold or silver or precious metals. When you do that, you then are in control of your wealth and they lose money. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 5/19/10, via Nexis]
October 2010: Beck Warns That America's "Weimar Moment" Is Coming The Day After Election Day. On the October 25, Beck claimed that on "November 3rd, the Fed hits the Weimar moment." He repeated the claim,  this time about the Treasury, on his radio show the next day. And on October 29, he once again argued that "the Weimar Moment" would come immediately following Election Day. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 10/25/10 , 10/29/10 ]
November 2010: "Come Next Year, You Are Going To See Prices Skyrocket." From the November 2 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: According to experts whatever you have in your bank account will be worth 20 percent less than it is right now in just a couple of years. So in other words, you have $10,000 in the bank. A couple of years, that will be worth $8,000.
If you are on a fixed income, what does it mean to you? I've warned you from the beginning on this, the Weimar moment. We'd be buying our own debt and printing more dollars. Here we are. It happens tomorrow. Tomorrow.
All of this is in place. This is what you have to do. You have to realize what is happening. You have to realize that they are printing all of that extra money. More debt. More debt. So now, what does that mean to you in the grocery store?
Well, come next year, things are going to be so band -- come next year, you are going to see prices skyrocket. Prices skyrocket. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 11/2/10, via Nexis]
Contrary To Beck's Warnings, Inflation Slowed In 2009 And 2010
Inflation Has Slowed In Recent Years. The following graph  of BLS Consumer Price Index data shows that contrary to Beck's warnings, inflation has been low in 2009 and 2010:
Below is a graph  of BLS data showing that the rate of growth in consumer prices, particularly when excluding volatile energy prices, has steadily declined over the past few years:
The blue line represents all items in the price index and the red line corresponds to all items except energy prices, which dropped  significantly in mid-2008 to mid-2009 due to a fall in demand before bouncing back.
BLS: Core Inflation Saw "Smallest 12-Month Increase In The History Of The Index" In October. In its monthly consumer price report, BLS stated:
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.2 percent before seasonal adjustment.
The index for all items less food and energy was unchanged in October, the third month in a row with no change. The indexes for shelter and medical care rose, but these increases were offset by declines in an array of indexes including new vehicles, used cars and trucks, apparel, recreation, and tobacco. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11/17/10 ]
BLS explains  that "core" inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, "is closely watched by many economic analysts and policymakers under the belief that food and energy prices are volatile and are subject to price shocks that cannot be damped through monetary policy." According to  the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, energy price changes have:
often resulted from factors other than an underlying trend increase in general prices ... Therefore, the changes in energy prices are not necessarily a sign of inflation and, when they are included, can distort a trend increase in general prices. By measuring core inflation, economists are attempting to isolate what is happening to general prices without distraction from spikes in volatile energy prices.
Time: Current Inflation Is "Negligible," "As Frightening As A Feather." In an article about Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, Time's Michael Grunwald wrote: "[I]nflation was a crippling 12.5% when Reagan took office. It was a manageable 4.4% when he left. Today it's a negligible 1.2%, as violent as a violin, as frightening as a feather, as deadly as a dachshund." Grunwald further wrote that, "so far," inflation hawks have "been wrong":
Right now, unemployment is a staggering 9.6%, while inflation and inflation expectations remain unusually low. Ordinarily, the obvious Fed policy response would be to step on the monetary gas by lowering interest rates, but the Fed already lowered interest rates as low as they could go in December 2008. And in order to fend off a full-fledged Depression, Bernanke continued to jam on the accelerator with an initial round of quantitative easing, buying $1.7 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds. The action bloated the Fed's balance sheet to unheard-of proportions, and Bernanke then made it abundantly clear that he was extremely reluctant to give any additional gas and looked forward to the day the economy had recovered enough to apply the brakes.
That's because another downside to modest inflation is the possibility that it could spiral out of control. To some inflation hawks, America is always on the brink of becoming Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany, the dollar is perpetually on the edge of collapse, and Chinese investors are forever poised to abandon U.S. treasuries. So far, they've been wrong, and inflation doves like Krugman who have clamored for additional action have battered them with I-told-you-so comments. But markets are a confidence game, so there are genuine risks to inflationary policies. And it's not clear that blasting more money into the banking system will have the desired effect of stimulating loans and economic activity. The system is already quite liquid, and Bernanke has suggested that pouring in more cash could be like pushing on a string. [Time, 11/12/10 ]
The New York Times: "2010, A Year Of No Inflation." In a post titled, "2010, a Year of No Inflation," The New York Times' David Leondhardt wrote:
The lack of inflation this year is a story that deserves more attention than it has received.
On Friday, the Labor Department will release the inflation number for August. Economists are expecting an increase of about 0.2 to 0.3 percent over July's Consumer Price Index. If that's correct, it won't be nearly enough to reverse a remarkable period in which prices have barely risen at all.
Over the last two years, inflation has been zero. Over the last year, it has been just 1.3 percent. Over the last six months, it has been below zero -- negative 0.7 percent.
There is no question that inflation can be terrible. Right now, though, it sure looks like the last war. [Economix, The New York Times, 9/13/10 ]
Mankiw: U.S. "Has Experienced Only Benign Price Increases." In January, Conservative economist Gregory Mankiw wrote in The New York Times:
[D]espite having the two classic ingredients for high inflation, the United States has experienced only benign price increases. Over the last year, the core Consumer Price Index, excluding food and energy, has risen by less than 2 percent. And long-term interest rates remain relatively low, suggesting that the bond market isn't terribly worried about inflation. What gives?
Part of the answer is that while we have large budget deficits and rapid money growth, one isn't causing the other. Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, has been printing money not to finance President Obama's spending but to rescue the financial system and prop up a weak economy.
Moreover, banks have been happy to hold much of that new money as excess reserves. In normal times when the Fed expands the monetary base, banks lend that money, and other money-supply measures grow in parallel. But these are not normal times. [The New York Times, 01/16/10 ]