Inflation in Perspective

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I stumbled upon something sort of interesting, which I thought I’d share on this evening before the massively-important CPI report.

Our dear friends in the federal government (you know, the place where you send almost 40% of all your income in exchange for paying for a bunch of people that hate each other to argue endlessly and get nothing done) put together an awesome website that lets you calculate present-day buying power based on dollars from a prior date. You can see how the best and brightest go to work for the government when you see this amazing user interface they put together, which looks like something a beginning HTML coder would have done in 1996:

This is seriously the entirely page.

Anyway, I decided to do a little experiment.

When I got my internship at Apple back in 1987, I was hired at the highest rate of salary they were allowed to pay interns, which was $36,000. It seemed like a pretty decent salary for someone not even out of college.

We humans have this funky “anchoring” thing that goes on in our heads, which I think is established early in our adult lives. So in my mind, salaries are sorta-kinda about $50,000, and restaurant meals for two are sorta kinda $30, and so forth. This is, of course, dead wrong. I punched in my $36,000 salary and found out that, in today’s dollars, it’s nearly six figures!

This is where a bunch of my pissing and moaning comes from about civil salaries. When I see the police and firefighters in Palo Alto are making $200,000 per year, to my mind, that is just outrageous, because to me that’s the salary of a senior executive when, in fact, it’s probably just a decent middle-class income. What I’m trying to say is that, over the decades, the drip, drip, drip of even small inflation truly adds up to something enormous.

And, as you can see, after the obscene Covid bacchanalia, inflation has gone into supercharged mode.

The consensus from Slopers is surprisingly mellow. Nearly 75% of them believe that the CPI will be very mild (less than half of a single percentage point). We shall soon see, but I’m thinking (AKA hoping) for something hotter.