Vox buries the truth

August 12, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Vox commits that journalistic sin that we’ve mentioned more than once around here. Vox writers bury the truth of the story down in paragraph 15, knowing that most readers never get that far.  It is a well-known truth in journalism that the vast majority of  readers note the headline, maybe the first couple of paragraphs, and then it’s on to the next piece. So, if you wish to mislead then that’s what you do – put what you want to be believed at the top and place the the caveats much further down.

The subject is inflation, which is prices getting higher. Prices rose quite a bit, and then stopped rising, so it’s not inflation any more.  Prices are now higher.  Think of a level of acceleration and speed – inflation is acceleration, prices are speed.

Inflation is finally slowing down. Will things get cheaper?

The slowdown in price growth is a significant step in the right direction. But higher prices for many goods and services could be in store for a while.

No, that’s not right.

Inflation is on the way down: New data released Wednesday showed that prices rose 8.5 percent from a year ago, but that’s an improvement from June, when prices climbed 9.1 percent.

The monthly inflation rate was also flat, meaning that overall, prices didn’t pick up from June.

The slowdown last month — driven largely by falling fuel prices — is a significant step in the right direction. But the United States is still a long way from the Federal Reserve’s goal of 2 percent annual inflation over time, and the bad news is that high prices for many goods and services are likely here to stay for a while.

The impression that a casual reader would take away is those higher prices will be here for some time, but they will come down eventually. That’s not what’s going to happen. The higher prices are here forever.

Now, we should add our own caveats here, computer chip prices will come down, therefore, so will the prices of cars. Gasoline is already falling. Some prices always do fall in an economy, just as some others do rise. Inflation is the average of them all, balanced by how much of the typical income is spent on each of those things. So, gasoline prices matter more to inflation than butter prices because we all spend more of our incomes on gas than we do buying butter. (Unless you’re a baker.)

Much further down the article Vox tells us much of this. So, the impression given at the top is misleading, probably because it’s politically useful to claim that the problem of  inflation is about to be solved. It is misleading because prices, in general, aren’t going to go lower than their current level. Vox even points out that services, rent, things like that – which is the majority of our spending –  isn’t going to come down in price at all, not even with special effects like gas and chips.

Vox ranks around 100th place in the list of US media outlets. It gains some 17 million visits a month from that position. It claims its task is to “explain the news.”

Which makes this hiding of the point so annoying. Given a few exceptions, prices aren’t going to come down again. The burst of inflation – assuming it is just a burst – is a permanent change in prices, which makes us able to buy less. It’s not something that fades away when inflation “stops.” We’re poorer forever, a fact that deserves top billing. It should not be explained down in the paragraphs few ever read.






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