If you haven’t heard (in which case, you’ve got to watch something other than Jersey Shore once in a while), gas prices are going bananas. But, what you don’t hear a lot about is everything else that is kicking your bank account’s backside, especially for Latinos.
According to the Consumer Price Index, our recent and expected rates of inflation are right on par with our nation’s historical average at 3.1 percent. Basically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is saying there is “nothing to fear, it’s business as usual.” (I would say this “modest” rate is already a problem, given that it means the prices of goods will double every 20 years, but I digress.)
The problem? That rate is pretty much what you would expect to feel if you buy your groceries and gas, along with a new house, car, and computer . . . every single day. Even the richest reggaetonero isn’t foolish enough to do that.
If you look at the inflation rate without considering those rare purchases, which have become even rarer since the economic downturn, you get a much better feel of the increased costs we are actually experiencing on a daily basis. In addition, if you consider the disproportionate drops in income and personal wealth for Latinos, you will begin to understand why inflation affects us that much more.
According to the American Institute for Economic Research, considering only those goods that we frequently purchase, such as food, healthcare, gas, tobacco, child care, and phone and TV service, prices are rising much faster than the government’s anticipated inflation rate. As a matter of fact, they are expected to continue rising nearly 2.5 times the government rate for a more realistic grand total of 8 percent (an increase over 2011’s 7.2 percent rate).
You thought a price doubling in 20 years was bad, what if the price of your favorite Applebee’s dinner doubled in less than half that time? Retirement looks like an even bleaker prospect if you take that into consideration.
Here comes the worst part. Latino wealth has decreased by nearly 66 percent since 2005 and Latino incomes tend to grow at a slower pace than everyone else’s. With our wealth and incomes lower than others, this means that we feel price increases on everyday goods more than other Americans. When inflation rises, it hurts us the most.
Before you go increasing your dosage of Cymbalta, there is some good news. Although inflation rates are not necessarily expected to steady, or fall, anytime soon, more Latinos are leaving poverty behind and entering middle income levels than ever before. Latinos are also starting businesses at a rate of 3-to-1 over the rest of the population (6-to-1 for Latinas, come on fellas!).
Lastly, we live in America. If you don’t like how things are, you have the right, and civic duty, to express your opinion at the polls.
Although it may seem that things look bleak for us now, there are a lot of opportunities. You may not see a lot of Carlos Gates’ or Maria Winfrey’s out there today, but – if trends continue – that may soon change.
Let’s just hope the cost of our daily Café con leche doesn’t bankrupt us first.
Justin Vélez-Hagan is the National Executive Director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce and an international developer of senior living facilities. He is also the Sr. Contributing Writer for Politic365 and can be reached at JustinV@NPRChamber.org or @JVelezHagan.