Prices are rising where we notice them the most; the grocery store and the gas pump, so it feels like inflation is rearing its ugly head again.  On an unadjusted annual basis, headline inflation was up 3.2% in April while the core (excludes food and energy) was up 1.3%. A headline rate of 3.2% is not unusual for recent history. It peaked once in 2008, reaching 3.8%, but has not sustained highs much above 3% since the 70’s and late 80’s.

Government to the rescue is becoming more widely accepted and even encouraged by Wall Street lately. The credit crisis hit another crescendo today as the nation’s fifth largest broker, Bear Stearns, obtained emergency funding from J.P. Morgan Chase and the New York Federal Reserve saying its cash position had “significantly deteriorated.” Traders in global currency markets are openly speculating that central banks will soon announce a concerted effort to support the value of the dollar. Earlier in the week central banks announced a concerted plan to buy troubled mortgages. On the heels of that news Ben Bernanke announced plans to lend up to $200 billion in Treasury securities in exchange for debt including private mortgage-backed securities that have slumped in value as homeowners defaulted on their payments.

All of this week’s economic data has been released in the last two days.  That conveniently coincided with my return yesterday after spending a few days on my annual trip to the impoverished and twice recently flooded coalfields of West Virginia.  In light of our recent discussions ofAmerica’s waning manufacturing presence, I was struck by the awesome cost of inflexibility in a rapidly changing world.