“People can hardly afford to eat”: US inflation continues to hammer workers

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A shopper looks over meat products at a grocery store in Dallas, April 29, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Annual price increases for US consumer goods remain at their highest level in nearly 40 years, according to the latest inflation data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Prices for items in the Consumer Price Index rose 8.5 percent in the 12 months ending in July, down slightly from the 9.1 percent rate reported in June, but still the second-largest yearly increase since December 1981.

Food prices in particular have surged in recent months. The BLS’ overall food index rose 10.9 percent year-over-year in July, while the cost of food at home increased 13.1 percent, the biggest increases since May 1979.

Amid a heat wave which has blanketed much of the US this summer and broken records in a number of regions, electricity costs rose 15.2 percent compared to last year, increasing by 1.9 percent over the last month alone.

The cost of shelter also pushed higher, with rent rising 6.3 percent nationally since 2021, with increases far greater in many major metropolitan areas, forcing large numbers of young people to live with their parents, and threatening others with eviction and homelessness. In California, 1.5 million households are behind on their rent, according to Census Bureau data released in late July.

Although the cost of gasoline, which is more volatile, fell somewhat from June, down 7.7 percent, it remained 44 percent higher than a year ago. The national average price for a gallon of gas is hovering near $4, compared to $3.18 in 2021.

The Biden administration and sections of the corporate media nevertheless seized on the latest data to claim that inflation is easing and that a corner being turned, with Biden misleadingly asserting that the BLS report showed “zero percent inflation in the month of July—zero percent.”

In a two-minute appearance, Biden painted a fantastical picture of a booming economy, but the reality facing masses of workers is one of increasing desperate struggle for daily existence. According to a separate BLS release Wednesday, real average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory employees fell 2.7 percent year-over-year in July.  

Rampant inflation and price-gouging by the corporate giants have fueled the growth of working class struggles over the last two years, both in the US and internationally. The trade unions, which have sought to impose company-friendly contracts with sub-inflation raises, have faced a growing rebellion of rank-and-file workers, with workers’ overwhelming rejection of union-backed contracts an increasingly common phenomenon.  

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