Hatewatch

Glenn Beck: A Quarter of Americans May Face Starvation

Cranking up his doomsday predictions to a new fever pitch, Glenn Beck this week warned that by January some 75 million Americans could be starving.

“[B]race yourself. We went to two or three experts yesterday,” the Fox News Channel host said in his Wednesday radio broadcast. “[O]ne of them said that by next year a quarter of this nation will not be able to afford food. … [I]s it going to happen? At some point, yes. When? I don’t know. I just ask you to please prepare. … Experts are now telling me that it’s happening next year.”

Beck, who for years has counseled listeners to hoard food, has long been warning that a shortage could be right around the corner — just one of many dire predictions, typically related to government malfeasance or related end-times scenarios, that have made Beck a hero of much of the radical right. Now he’s suggesting that the scary corner could be a mere six weeks away.

This time, Beck claimed that certain experts are saying that the Fed’s latest round of “quantitative easing” — a strategy that would effectively put about $600 billion into circulation during the next 12 months — is going to cause hyperinflation, the collapse of the dollar, and ultimately lead to staggeringly high food prices. He cited predictions published Nov. 5 by a group called the National Inflation Association (NIA), one of whose stated goals is to help Americans prepare for “the upcoming hyperinflationary crisis.”

The NIA — and Beck, who recited its statistics breathlessly — predicts that two pounds of sugar will “soon” go for $62.21, while 64 ounces of orange juice will be $45.71. An 11.5-ounce can of Folgers coffee will cost $77.71; and a single 1.55-ounce Hershey bar will run you $15.50. (A check at an Alabama supermarket today turned up a two-pound container of sugar for $1.89; 64 ounces of orange juice for $2.99; Folger’s coffee for $4.09; and a Hershey’s bar for 89 cents.)

The group does not explain how it reached its estimates. “Agricultural prices have gotten so far our of control,” it says, “that if corporations do start passing them along, they will simply go out of business.”

Economists dismiss this kind of sky-is-falling alarmism. “Fears of high (not to mention hyper-) inflation are severely overblown,” Eric Michael Leeper, a professor of economics at Indiana University at Bloomington, told Hatewatch via E-mail. “There are essentially NO indicators that suggest markets are expecting substantially higher inflation in the next 5 to 10 years” — let alone in a month and a half.

As for quantitative easing, Leeper said the Fed is simply doing what it always does — tinkering with the money supply to manage economic growth. At the first sign of accelerating inflation, the Fed can quickly reverse policy and drain money from the banking system, he said. “Once the economy picks up and unemployment begins to decline, the Fed will then gradually sell those long-term Treasuries back on the open market. As it sells them, it will ‘destroy money.’ Viewed this way, the Fed’s plans are NOT to permanently increase the money supply.”

But Beck insists that this isn’t just some kooky theory he dreamed up or found on a website somewhere. “We have had our financial advisors, the guys who are stat-related guys, they are not politicians, they’re more like the David Walkers of the world,” he said on his show. [David Walker is a former U.S. comptroller general who now advises the conservative-leaning Peter G. Petersen Foundation.]

Who were these advisors ? Beck, unusually bashful, declined to say. “[I]t’s not David Walker, but it’s somebody like David Walker, who’s just a bean guy, a bean-counter. This is what they do for a living.” Beck declined to name names because, he said, “quite honestly, I think many of them don’t want to be associated with me because they don’t want all the trouble.”

In the NIA, Beck seems to have found a partner in fear-mongering. “In our opinion,” the NIA’s site states, “the wealth of most Americans could get wiped out during the next decade.” Beck said he had NIA “checked out six ways to Sunday.” He’s sure they are “credible people.”

Yet the NIA does not provide much information about itself beyond the name of its president, Gerard Adams. It doesn’t offer any economic or other credentials, or give any other hint as to the basis for its alleged expertise. According to its website, this is because it is “an unbiased organization” and “it would be a conflict of interest to promote or endorse their personal businesses.” The NIA, like Beck himself, speaks highly favorably of gold as an inflation hedge, and provides information on precious metals investing on its website. Indeed, it says that one of its “missions” is “to discover and profile companies that we believe will prosper in an inflationary environment,” mainly gold and silver firms. And it predicts that America faces “hyperinflation and a complete societal collapse.” For his part, Beck has been accused of profiting from the gold sales that his doomsday economic prognostications help promote; his television show also features regular advertising pitches from firms that sell gold.

Statistics from the Bureau of Economic analysis show that grocery prices increased by only 0.06% overall in the third quarter (July-September) of 2010. And prices for fruits and vegetables, bakery, and canned goods actually declined.  If hyperinflation is imminent, it is getting off to a colossally slow start.

So in a way, Beck got it right when, stunned by the NIA’s predictions, he paused a moment and said: “This is unbelievable!”