Financially squeezed retirees will be observing prices closely in the July-August-September quarter, since that’s the period the government bases its cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security payments starting in January and already June figures --- released three days apart last week from two government agencies --- showed some wide variations as eyes are fixed on inflation that is quietly stirring on the sidelines, notes Grumpy Editor.
Focusing solely on the vital food element, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), while emphasizing to media that overall food inflation will remain near the historic norm this year, went on to somewhat contradict itself by mentioning:
■ The drought in California, a prime source for supermarket products, “could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices” while drought conditions in Texas and Oklahoma “could drive beef prices up even further.” The USDA predicted wholesale beef prices advancing 8 to 9 percent this year with pork prices jumping 10 to 11 percent. In contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said, “dairy and related products turned down in June.”
■ Before the lack of irrigation water in California smacked vegetable crops, thus boosting prices, the USDA expected 2.5 to 3.5 percent “food inflation” this year.
■ Also facing higher prices: fish and seafood due to decreased supplies of some species and higher consumer demand.
■ News from the BLS cited food costs, after surging in recent months, slowed to a tiny 0.1 percent rise in June from the prior month when it gained 0.5 percent. That, added the BLS, put June with the smallest monthly increase since January and thus lowered the annual increase in food prices to 2.3 percent from 2.5 percent in May.
Into the final COLA mix, of course, also goes medical, energy, shelter, apparel, new vehicles, among other items. (CPI-W is the basis for the 2015 Social Security COLA, stemming from the third quarter.)
The latest tally put the consumer price index on all items in the 12 months to June up a rather modest 2 percent --- with the BLS noting (contrary to the USDA report) “the food index decelerated in June.”
A Rasmussen Reports survey earlier this month revealed 88 percent of U.S. adults said they are paying more for groceries this year than in 2013.
IN CASE YOUR FAVORITE NEWS OUTLETS MISSED THESE...
Major media aren’t on to this yet: Some young illegal border crossers are being transported around the country by --- U.S. Coast Guard aircraft…Grabbing much media attention (especially broadcast news) last week was the report of a female burglary suspect, 28, who was shot dead outside the home of an 80-year old man in Long Beach, Calif. after she allegedly shouted, "Don't shoot me! I'm pregnant ---I'm going to have a baby." However, there was little follow up following word from the coroner Friday that the woman was NOT pregnant...Attention news release writers: Chicago-based communications firm Greentarget noted journalists are bombarded with press releases, with 45 percent of them getting 50 or more a week while 21 percent receive at least 100 --- with the majority of recipients spending less than 60 seconds looking at them…New York Daily News trimmed 17 more newsroom staffers…Another HOA in action: Lake of the Pines Homeowners Association, Auburn, Calif., told a Vietnam War veteran who --- for a decade --- has been building furniture in his garage and giving it to needy families to shutter his activities or be fined between $100 and $1,000. “I don’t make a profit. The money I spend is my own money, my own time and talents,” said Dennis Kocher …In the “huh?” department: Pentagon operations in the U.S. and overseas are threatened by climate change. "The effects of the changing climate affect the full range of department activities, including plans, operations, training, infrastructure, acquisition and longer-term investments," said Daniel Chiu, a deputy assistant secretary of defense…Congress departs on a five-week vacation this week. A key reason not much has passed: Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has 330 bills piled up in his office…Associated Press reports that after spending nearly $300 million on a new computer system to handle disability claims, the Social Security Administration still can't get it to work --- and officials can't say when it will. AP mentioned Maryland-based Lockheed Martin was selected in 2011 as the project’s prime contractor…Alan Murray moves into the editor’s office at Fortune magazine on Aug. 25. He was president of Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., and earlier worked at The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.
A steamy TV spot for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s pairs swimsuit model Hannah Ferguson and actress-entertainer Paris Hilton promoting the Texas BBQ Thickburger. Yes, it employs the old soaping down a big, muddy pickup truck routine and munching on the monster sandwich. See the footage here.