But it has political consequences. The inflation argument dovetails neatly with the argument for government austerity. The deflation one tends to call for more government intervention.

Surely The New York Times is reading its own bloggers Paul Krugman and Catherine Rampell. If it’s not, here’s a couple of posts it should print out and tack up around the business desk (as should the WaPo and the LAT). Rampell has this chart, that shows the disinflation trend:

And here’s what Krugman says:

But I have a question here: why do economic forecasters keep predicting a near-time rise in core inflation, even though they are also predicting high unemployment?

I don’t really understand this, except as a fundamental unwillingness to face up to the Nipponization of the US economy.

And try an (admittedly imperfect) thought experiment: What kind of play would you give the story if core inflation hit the highest level in fifty-seven years?

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.