Inflation Hits Britain


Inquiring minds are reading that inflation has hit Great Britain in “The UK Inflation Genie is Out of the Bottle“:

Any commentator worth their salt, though, at times like this, should ignore such sensitivities. It would be wrong – reckless, in fact, given the slew of recent bad data – to fail to point to the worrying mix of economic issues the UK now faces. During 2011, the British economy will suffer from rising inflation and sluggish (in some quarters, possibly negative) growth. This grim combination will be set against a budgetary situation that can only be described as ghastly.

George Osborne was recently in New York, soaking up plaudits for boldly leading Britain into fiscal austerity at a time when, apparently in contrast, America’s feckless political elite has allowed the national debt to balloon. The problem is that UK austerity, so far at least, is a myth.

November’s national accounts, released last week, were shocking. Government spending last month was sharply up on the same month in 2009 – yes, up! British state borrowing is still escalating, with the national debt rising very quickly.

Anyone who takes an intelligent interest in current affairs could be forgiven for inferring from the political rhetoric that the UK’s fiscal squeeze is not only well under way but that the worst is actually behind us. If this was indeed your impression, you may want to pour yourself a large Yuletide sherry and possibly take refuge in another bowl of trifle. For the grim reality, as the latest figures show, is that Britain’s fiscal squeeze hasn’t even begun.

I’d hoped to end what has been a nerve-jangling year for the UK economy on an upbeat note. A couple of weeks ago, though, new figures showed that CPI inflation was 3.3pc higher in November than the same month the year before. Inflation has now been above the Bank of England’s 2pc target for 40 of the past 49 months.

It appears that Quanitative Easing has finally found its place in history…or, at least, thrown out for the present:

Some of us have been warning this would happen. Since late 2008, this column has asserted that the UK faces inflationary dangers and that talk of British “deflation” was deeply disingenuous, an intellectual conceit to justify massive virtual “money printing” and the extension of endless soft credits to banks that should, in fact, be allowed to fail. Such a position has been seen as heresy – not least because “quantitative easing” has friends in high places. QE, for now, has helped politically connected bankers to dodge the implications of their own hubris and incompetence. It has allowed successive British governments to stick their fingers in their ears and avoid tackling root-and-branch banking reform.

To argue that QE is dangerous and that, as a corollary, the UK faces high inflation has been to be treated by the UK’s policy-making elite as some kind of economic Herod. I might as well have been suggesting we slay the first born. In recent weeks, though, the mood has changed. Reality has thankfully broken through.

“Top economists” are now finally allowing themselves to state what is both historically and technically obvious, that money-printing is counter-productive. The same professional “trend-spotters” are now also concluding that high UK inflation isn’t a “blip” or a “one-off”. What took them so long?

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