Oct 15, 2021 - Podcasts

The bad and the good in the latest inflation data

The global energy crisis is causing a whole series of economic headaches, not the least of which is inflation. The Consumer Price Index, the best American measure of inflation, jumped 5.4% in September, compared to last year. That's according to new data out this week.

  • Plus, the fallout of bigotry in the NFL.
  • And, celebrating Latino ingenuity to close Hispanic Heritage Month.

Guests: Axios' Felix Salmon and Kendall Baker, and Telemundo's Marina Franco.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, October 15th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the fallout of bigotry in the NFL. Plus, celebrating Latino ingenuity to close Hispanic Heritage Month.

But first: the bad and the good of the latest inflation data… is today’s One Big Thing.

The global energy crisis is causing a whole series of economic headaches, not the least of which is inflation. The consumer price index. The best American measure of inflation jumped 5.4% in September compared to last year. That's according to new data out this week and the price of gas is one big part of that. Axios’ chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon is with me now to engage as he sometimes does on this show with some vigorous debate around inflation. Hello, Felix.

FELIX SALMON: Niala, let's have a spirited debate.

NIALA: Well, our Axios Today listeners will know from our many conversations this year that you have been - I'm going to call you an inflation denier for some time now. In other words, saying do not worry about inflation.

FELIX: I am not an inflation denier. I am saying that you shouldn't worry, or I'm not saying it doesn't exist.

NIALA: Okay, let's call you an inflation worry denier. Are you worried now about inflation?


NIALA: So prices went up earlier this year and at the time you said that was expected. Can you explain what's going on now and what we've seen in the past few months with prices going up?

FELIX: So there's a few different things going on here. The first one is that low-paid Americans in service industries, like in say, fast food are getting paid more and they're not getting paid $10 an hour they’re getting paid $15 an hour. Now that increase of like getting people onto living wages is showing up in price increases for services. And that's what I like to think of as good inflation. There's no indication that this is going to transfer into long-term inflation. If you look at the amount that prices have risen over 24 months, it's entirely normal. You barely see any uptick in inflation at all. So there's nothing to worry about there. And then finally the energy thing is worrying because it's exacerbating supply shortages around the world, it's creating the supply crunches and causing the supply of goods to be restricted, that causes the price of those goods to go up. That's bad inflation. It just makes things more expensive. But again, like this isn't something that we can really do anything about. And I like to remember the serenity prayer, right? Like if there's nothing we can do about it, we should just sort of be sad about it and move on with our lives.

NIALA: Can you take us into the thinking of what the calculus is now for the Federal Reserve and for the Biden administration. As you said, remembering the serenity prayer which perhaps limited levers the Federal Reserve has at its disposal to affect inflation and the pace of economic recovery?

FELIX: What the federal reserve can do is basically p ut the brakes on the broader economy. If we put the brakes on and cause it to grow less quickly, then that will help bring inflation down. But that's not what's causing inflation. What's causing inflation is energy crisis in China and India and Europe. What's causing inflation is the supply chain problems and the container ships not being able to come into the port of Long Beach. And honestly, we can keep on growing at this rate for a while without overheating. So if the Federal Reserve slowed down the rate of growth, that would reduce the amount of economic activity in the country, and we would use American’s wealth and income, but it's far from clear that it would have any real effect on the inflation.

NIALA: Axios’ chief financial correspondent and author of the Axios Capital newsletter, Felix Salmon. Thank you, Felix.

FELIX: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with a possible next chapter of an NFL reckoning.

Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. So usually on Fridays, we wrap up the week in politics, but this week we're going to wrap up the week in NFL drama. Jon Gruden Monday announced his resignation as head coach from the Las Vegas Raiders. It had come to light recently that he had used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language in emails over the span of seven years, prior to joining the Raiders franchise. Axios’ sports editor Kendall Baker has been following the fallout since then.

He Kendall, this happened so quickly from when the emails came out to when he resigned. How much of this is a sign of the NFL in recent months starting to make an effort to become more inclusive?

KENDALL BAKER: You hope so, you know, it's definitely coming at a time when, as you said, uh, the NFL is definitely trying to at least publicly appear to be more inclusive.

And so they, you know, this, this was inevitable once those emails surfaced. And we'll see if this kind of does lead to, you know, a snowball of sorts, because there could be more.

NIALA: Kendall these emails came to light actually because of an investigation into the Washington football team. How much pressure or spotlight is there on that, now?

KENDALL: Definitely a lot. you know, this, this came out, from an investigation over the summer into a team that, you know, had been accused of a toxic workplace culture and, and there's been some negative stories around for a while. Um, a lot of, you know, a lot of smoke and then not much fire over the summer.

There's a $10 million fine for Daniel Snyder, the owner of the team, kind of a slap on the wrist, really. Meanwhile, you have, you know, a coach now who had to happen to be emailing with the GM of that team. Now he's resigning. You have a journalist from ESPN who, you know, some of the emails that became public also made him look bad.

So you have all these people on the periphery, being criticized or resigning. And meanwhile, the, the, the target of the investigation really nothing has come out about. And in fact, you know, they've looked at 650,000 emails. We've only seen a few now, and, you know, you have fans, players, a lot of people wondering, well, what else is there and why hasn't any of that been made public?

NIALA: Axios sports editor, Kendall baker. Thanks, Kendall.

KENDALL: Thanks.

NIALA: Today's the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month and our team at Axios Latino has been highlighting some remarkable contributions of Latinos throughout history. Here to tell us about some of those is Marina Franco, a reporter for Telemundo News, who also is coauthor of Axios Latino. Hi Marina!

MARINA: Hi, Thank you for having me.

NIALA: Let's start with an invention out of Argentina. Police have been using fingerprints to solve crimes since the late 1800’s. Who was behind this?

MARINA: Yeah. So when we were digging into this whole thing, we wanted to find Latin American and Latino contributions that were very quotidian, but weren’t mentioned frequently. And so we found that Juan Vucetich was the first person to use that sort of biometric data. And with that biometric data that he came up with in 1892, they had the first conviction using fingerprints, which was actually a decade before that even happened in the U. S.

NIALA: And we also have the invention of colored TV. Who do we have to thank for that?

MARINA: So, yeah, indeed the first patent was, from a Mexican engineer called Guillermo Camarena. He was the first person to sort of try and experiment with adding something to what cameras had at the day, so that they could show red, green, yellow, and he was a first to patent it. And then it was essentially developed into what we know today.

NIALA: Okay. So I know you've had all of these very serious and important inventions, but I think I liked this one the best, which is that the happy meal was not invented in America?

MARINA: It was not. That was really funny. So it came from this woman in Guatemala, who is Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño. And so she came up with the idea of not only reducing the size of the meals, but actually adding a little toy and she would buy the toys herself in the market near the Guatemala franchise that she co-owned with her husband and the McDonald's people were so impressed that they ended up adopting it worldwide.

NIALA: Marina Franco is a reporter for Telemundo News, one of the coauthors of Axios Latino, where they have a whole list of all of these. We will put that link in the show notes. Thanks Marina.

MARINA: Thank you so much for having me.

NIALA: Axios Today is brought to you by Axios and Pushkin Industries.

We’re produced by Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and Cecily Meza Martinez. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Michael Hanf. Dan Bobkoff is our Executive Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is our Editor In Chief. And special thanks to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a special episode of our Hard Truths series, that's dropping in your feed tomorrow. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and have the best weekend.

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