Inflation: This Year’s Unwanted Christmas Gift

December 23, 2021

Noah Diekemper

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government has flooded massive amounts of money into the economy. From the CARES Act, to stimulus checks, to $1,400 to individuals making as much as $75,000 per year, more than $4 trillion has been flooded the economy. Predictably, the inflation (characterized as “too many dollars chasing too few goods”) resulting from these policies is coming home to roost: Wisconsin families are shouldering the cost even when it comes to things like Christmas and Christmas dinner.

Groceries have gotten significantly pricier. Surveys conducted last month by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation tracked the price increases of many seasonal staple groceries here in the state.

  • A 16 lb. turkey was found to cost 40% more this year compared to last year, costing $28.48 compared to $20.32 This was one of the most significant price increases, and one that hit Wisconsin especially hard, the national cost being closer to $23.99.
  • Milk is more expensive: a gallon of whole milk costs 6.3% more than last year.
  • Fresh cranberries, Wisconsin’s state fruit, are costing 3.9% more this year.
  • Frozen green beans are 7.6% more expensive.
  • And dessert was not spared: pie shells were 11% more expensive.

The WFBF’s findings are consistent with many analyses, private and publicly funded, tracking the runaway inflation that is now worse than a majority of Americans have experienced in their lifetime. (Year-over-year price increases are the highest since June 1982; the Census Bureau puts the US median age somewhere between 38 and 39.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index calculates that nationwide, “food at home” is costing 6.4% more than 1 year ago; “meat, poultry, fish, and eggs” is costing 12.8% more. Personal finance website The Balance calculated Christmas generally to cost Americans 17% more this year than last.

Some other aspects of Christmas that are going to cost more, besides food, are:

  • Clothing: apparel generally is costing people 5% more this year.
  • Footwear is 4.7% more expensive.
  • Sporting goods are 8.4% more expensive.
  • Traveling for Christmas? Gasoline is costing almost 60% more than it did 1 year ago (but you probably already knew that).
  • And finally, stationary products—things like wrapping paper—are up 7.3% compared to last year.

These increases save their harshest impacts for the many families that live paycheck to paycheck. They force choices between forgoing a traditional Christmas and taking on significant credit card debt. Policymakers at the federal level need to keep such families in mind when they evaluate additional spending proposals. At the very least, curbing inflation needs to begin with a firm refusal to print and mail more money into the system.

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