Like most Americans, you may have noticed the price of chicken has risen by nearly a quarter over the past year. Fresh vegetables and produce are increasingly more expensive. Feeding the average family of four is taking a toll on the poor, low-income and middle-class alike. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that U.S. inflation is relatively low (pdf) — averaging 2 percent since the recession. But the overall numbers belie a hidden truth — that food price inflation is expected to rise 3 to 4 percent this year alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Overall inflation remains low mostly because of the Federal Reserve’s decision to suppress interest rates — allowing banks to borrow money at near zero. The theory behind this rationale, of course, is to offer cheap capital to cash-strapped consumers, those seeking to enter the housing markets and businesses looking to invest. But following the TARP program and corporate bailouts of 2008 and 2009, banks didn’t lend. Unemployment skyrocketed, and wages continued a 40-year trend of decreasing. In fact, researchers at the Brookings Institute found that real earnings of working-age men (25-64) have declined 19 percent since 1970.