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Sources Many countries in Latin America experienced raging inflation during the 1980s and early 1990s, with inflation rates often well above 100% per year. In 1990, for example, both Brazil and Argentina saw inflation climb above 2000% .Certain countries in Africa experienced extremely high rates of inflation, sometimes bordering on hyperinflation, in the 1990s. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, had an inflation rate of 75% in 1995. In the early 2000s, the problem of inflation appears to have diminished for most countries, at least in comparison to the worst times of recent decades. In recent years, the world’s worst example of hyperinflation was in Zimbabwe, where at one point the government was issuing bills with a face value of $100 trillion (in Zimbabwean dollars) —that is, the bills had $100,000,000,000,000 written on the front, but were almost worthless. In many countries, the memory of double-digit, triple-digit, and even quadruple-digit inflation is not very far in the past. Inflation can cause redistributions of purchasing power that hurt some and help others. People who are hurt by inflation include those who are holding considerable cash, whether it is in a safe deposit box or in a cardboard box under the bed. When inflation
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happens, the buying power of cash diminishes. However, cash is only an example of a more general problem: anyone who has financial assets invested in a way that the nominal return does not keep up with inflation will tend to suffer from inflation. For example, if a person has money in a bank account that pays 4% interest, but inflation rises to 5% , then the real rate of return for the money invested in that bank account is negative 1% . The problem of a good-looking nominal interest rate transforming into an ugly- looking real interest rate can be worsened by taxes. The U.S. income tax is charged on the nominal interest received in dollar terms, without an adjustment for inflation. Thus, the government taxes a person who invests $10,000 and receives a 5% nominal rate of interest on the $500 received—no matter whether the inflation rate is 0% , 5% , or 10% . If inflation is 0 , then the real interest rate is 5% and all $500 is a gain in buying power. However, if inflation is 5% , then the real interest rate is zero and the person had no real gain—but owes income tax on the nominal gain anyway. If inflation is 10% , then the real interest rate is negative 5% and the person is actually falling behind in buying power, but would still owe taxes on the $500 in nominal gains. Inflation can cause unintended redistributions for wage earners, too. Wages do typically creep up with inflation over time, eventually. The average hourly wage in manufacturing in the U.S. economy increased from $3.23 in 1970 to $20.65 in 2017, which is an increase by a factor of more than six. Over that time period, the Consumer Price Index increased by an almost identical amount. However, increases in wages may lag behind
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