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The Graphic Truth: 50 years of US inflation vs interest rates

US inflation is now at its highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, and (as always) economists are divided as to why that is, and what to do about it. Conservative deficit hawks blame big spending by the Biden administration, while liberals who defend Biden's economic agenda believe it's more likely caused by short-term pandemic-related bottlenecks in supply chains. Meanwhile, there's also growing concern that the Federal Reserve is overheating the US economy by keeping interest rates low despite rising inflation, but the Fed is betting that the current spike will be short-lived. Whatever you think, we compare US inflation and interest rates over the past half century, a period in which America has suffered double-digit figures more than once.

Will Biden's spending bring inflation back from the dead?

The US federal government is gearing up to spend a lot of money these days. So far, to cushion the blow of the pandemic, Washington has already parted with $5 trillion in the form of direct payments to households, forgivable loans to businesses, and other support including aid to state governments. And more is coming.

President Joe Biden has proposed another $4 trillion in federal funds for physical and "human" infrastructure, some of which would create income support and social spending programs that would last well beyond the pandemic.

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The Graphic Truth: Are we headed for a food price crisis?

Global food prices reached a six-year high in February, as a result of pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and climate issues — and more recently export restrictions. While the situation isn't yet as bad as in 2007-2008, when sharp increases in food prices triggered civil unrest across many parts of the world, the trend isn't a good one. Food price inflation and, in more extreme cases, the risk of famine will only exacerbate the challenges of economic collapse and mass unemployment left behind by COVID. We take a look at how the global prices of five key food products have changed over the past 12 months.

The Graphic Truth: Lebanon's economic implosion

Even before last week's explosion — which killed over 200 people, turned downtown Beirut into rubble, and forced the government to resign — Lebanon was already in economic dire straits. The value of the local currency has plunged following decades of corruption, mismanagement and political chaos, dragging about half of the population into poverty. Since the beginning of 2020, the depreciation of the Lebanese lira (on the black market, while the official rate remains somewhat pegged to the US dollar) and soaring inflation have increased the price of basic goods beyond what most citizens can afford, and wiped out pensions and salaries. If the situation does not improve soon, Lebanon could see unprecedented levels of hunger — and international assistance may not be enough to feed everyone. We compare how the Lebanese lira has traded with the US dollar amid rapidly rising inflation over the first half of the year.

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