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Weekly Column: Still Too-High Inflation And Declining Credit Ratings Warrant Action, Not Celebration

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Since President Biden’s Inauguration, inflation has cost Idaho families, raising monthly expenses in November an additional $984.  In other words, it costs Idahoans $11,807 more this past year to afford the same standard of living as roughly three years ago, according to data from U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee Republican Staff.  The White House’s celebration of prices rising slower than record paces is hollow when inflation-fueled prices have increased so drastically and continue to erode paychecks. 

In November, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) released its annual assessment of the cost of traditional holiday meals.  AFBF estimated the average cost of this year’s classic holiday feast for ten (including turkey, rolls, butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie and more) was $61.17—25 percent higher than it was in 2019.  Christmas holiday meals have likely been similarly expensive.   

This is also reflected in other estimates.  Overall, since President Biden took office:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) November figures for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a common measure of inflation, showed a 12-month rise in prices of 3.1 percent.  This rate is still far too high, holding above the target inflation rate of 2 percent, and it continues to negatively ripple through our economy.  Figures that increased in November include rent, owners' equivalent rent, medical care and motor vehicle insurance.

Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded its U.S. credit rating outlook to “negative” from “stable,” citing large deficits and that “continued political polarization within U.S. Congress raises the risk that successive governments will not be able to reach consensus on a fiscal plan to slow the decline in debt affordability.”  Moody’s was the last of the three major rating agencies to maintain a top rating for the U.S. government.  Fitch decreased its rating in August, joining S&P, which has had a AA+ rating since 2011.

How many warnings do we need to receive to truly reign in federal overspending and get our country on a sound economic course?  Inconsequential improvements do not replace meaningful reforms.  I joined fellow Senate Budget Committee Republican Members in urging Budget Committee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) to convene a series of hearings examining policies to address the nation’s looming economic challenges.  We cited the alarming ratings downgrades and laid out our concerns with the current state of the economy:

“Our current national debt is $33.7 trillion.  This is equivalent to over 123 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Moreover, we continue to add to our unprecedented national debt at a record clip.  The United States Treasury Department recently reported that the federal government ran a fiscal year 2023 deficit of $1.7 trillion.  At 6.3 percent of GDP, the FY 2023 deficit was larger than all but six deficits recorded since 1946.  Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that over the next decade deficits will persist at levels previously uncommon outside of war or recession – totaling nearly $19 trillion in deficit spending through 2033.”

High inflation, decline in real wages, depleted savings and elevated borrowing costs are not the hallmarks of a strong and vibrant economy.  If not addressed, the growth of our national debt and rising interest rates will leave us with fewer resources to preserve our national defense, maintain our social safety net and invest in future economic growth.  As we proposed in our recent letter, “Tough conversations on our nation’s fiscal health need to be had to preserve our nation’s economic strength.  If we want to be the global leader in the economic marketplace, then we need to lead from the front with strong fiscal responsibility.”

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