The Prices, They Are A-Risin’

By Lee Koromvokis

The price of food was up .4 percent last month, but energy was down a full 1 percent, helping to quell overall inflation for U.S. households in May. But core inflation -– what’s happening to prices after volatile food and energy prices are stripped out — was up .3 percent, the biggest monthly jump since July 2008.

In fact, it was that particular monthly Labor Department report, published in mid-August 2008, that sparked one of the few stories we’ve ever had to spike here at the NewsHour. After a couple of weeks of research – and allowing for time to take advantage of advance-purchase airfare discounts! – we made our way to Oakland, Calif., the next month to tape with John Williams, a noted skeptic of U.S. government statistics, who has long claimed the true rate of inflation is much higher than the “official” Consumer Price Index.  We spent a couple of days with Williams, who took us to several businesses in his neighborhood – a bakery, a newsstand, a bookstore, a gold coin exchange – to help make him make his case.

We flew home, intending to start putting our story together the following week. That was the week of Sept. 15, 2008, also known as the week that Lehman Brothers blew up and the economy came crashing down. Our inflation story was suddenly dead, replaced by DE-flation. And though our trip to Oakland wasn’t a total loss (we were able to use bits and pieces of what we’d shot in various stories about the financial crisis), we were never able to use the footage as we’d intended.

Until now, that is.  Nearly three years later, inflation is once again on the rise. And when we checked in with our Oakland business people, they confirmed that they are finally making those price hikes they were contemplating back in September 2008.

Follow Paul on Twitter. Video edited by Elizabeth Shell.