Is Inflation Really At 1%? You Tell Me

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inflationary pricingEach of us develops a set of unique skills based on our life experiences as we go along.  Some of those are due to extenuating circumstances.  If we live in the city, and don't have a car, we develope strong legs to walk to work until we can afford a bike.  So we might, through tough times, become a strong bike rider. Then when we finally save up to buy a car, we realize we can live in the country, so we move 40 minutes from work and the bicycle is no longer an option.  So now that it costs us 80 minutes per day to travel from and to work, it's hard to find extra time to ride the bike just for fun, and that skillset goes by the wayside... unused.  Our legs set and wait for the challenge again, but life and our decisions have put us in the seat of a car, in a seat in an office, and a sedentary lifestyle both in commute, and in work.  This is how it goes for some.  

I worked in the grocery store for 11 years.  I started out as a boxboy as we were called, quickly moving up to frozen foods "manager," then meat deli, dairy, night crew grocery, and through the years worked in California, Washington, and Oklahoma, getting the opportunity to experience 6 or 7 different stores during that time.  Having ordered for grocery departments, I developed an uncanny ability to take a quick glance at what was in the back room, and would memorize every item I saw there.  I could order without fail and remember everything in the backroom so that I didn't duplicate what I had in stock already.  

My wife will tell you that I still flex that memory muscle in a couple of different ways today.  For starters, I do the shopping.  Why?  I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to backstock.  If my wife comes home with something thats already in the cupboard, I kinda freak out.  But secondly, I'm also a numbers guy, and I never forget a price.  I could go into a competing grocery store, and look at everything, and remember all of their prices.  Because the stores I worked at were price matching with competitors, I could go check their prices, and move our prices to match accordingly.  So today, needless to say, I'm great with numbers too.  

I can remember prices from the first store I worked at in 1989-1991.  And one thing we don't get in society is a grocery index.  When you buy a stock, you see what it's worth in relation to other things.  We hear the tale of inflation today, that it's almost non existent. But Inflation is an index that reflects the entire economy - all sectors.  If there was a grocery price index to show how food prices have fared through this non-inflationary time, however, it would show you that prices have increased dramatically in spite of a non-inflationary time period.  If you owned a house over the past few years, it decreased in value tremendously on average, so if food spiked up in price, it really wouldn't affect the inflationary numbers, but rising food prices would definitely impact the survival of the poor.  

What is it that drives us?  What is it that motivates us?  If you have teens at home who are now 18, 19, 20, and upwards into their twenteens, and they are hard workers, that's ingrained in them, and they will be fine.  But those that lived through the Great Depression are hard workers.  Why?  Hunger motivates people to work hard.  The past three years, inflation has remained at about 1%, yet I've watched the staples like milk, eggs, yogurt, bacon, cheese, soda, fruits, breads, among other things rise at least 30-40% here in Oklahoma (which is where I now reside).  When they report numbers, there should be a food inflationary number.  It is so false that they provide food stamps with inflation as the guide, but food prices rise so drastically.  Food stamps, however is part of the problem.  When you issue tons of food credit, people eat more, they eat cheap so as not to cut into their cash reserves, and they drive prices up, because grocers know you're stuck with them.  

So if this administration were to be honest, and media would tell the tale, they would say something like:  Inflation is 1%, but food inflation was 10% this year.  The fact that food inflation numbers were quelled by the high ticket balancing of the housing and other sectors is not fair to those who buy groceries as a reflection of the truth.

Also, the cost of fuel has risen much faster than the cost of inflation as well, making it harder on the everyone.  Why do you think Living off the Grid is a popular topic?  You don't know how many people have messaged me and asked me for good techniques to live in their car and stay warm.  They can't afford the gas, or a house, or food.

There was a time in the U.S. when it was considered the role of the government to break up monopolies to allow for competition so that costs would be driven down.  Today, the governments own and or run the power companies, gas companies, trash, water, sewer.  They are run from fancy brick buildings, and run always at a profit, charging what they need to be sure everything runs right.  And if stability is key, I'll give them that.  They make sure the power is on, and things are running.  But when it comes to price, well since there's no competition, they are not encouraged to find ways to reduce costs, so the prices are always high.  The only competition for monopoly power companies is alternative power generation.  For cable monopolies, we can go to dish, direct tv, or just cut out and use Netflix, who has provided a viable competitive option.  For food, you can grow your own, and not take part in this ever increasing cost.  With that comes a freedom, yes, but also comes responsibility.  Like having a pet home when you want to take a vacation, growing crops requires TLC.  If you take off on vacation without a sitter to tend your babies, they may die, so you do have to pay attention.  But the rewards will be great, and you will be surprised how much can grow.  

For power, you can add solar power to your home, or wind power, or both.  If you have a river nearby, you can build a home hydro-power system.  For heat, you can build a rocket mass heater which requires little wood to heat your entire home.  To really do it right, you should back up and build a new home that is highly insulated like straw bale or earth berm style to take advantage of the temperatures underground, so that your energy requirement is less.  Then the cost of generating power will be much cheaper than on a conventional home.  If you figure the savings out over time, and compare it to a mortgage pament, you'll see how much sense it makes. 

It was this picture above that inspired this commentary, and I just had to vent a bit.  Make good plans, revise where you need to, and come up with great solutions.  I know you are all brilliant and amazing, and together we will find our way through.  Here's another good article I read today at: Time Magazine on inflation.  

Oh and an afterthought... If they want a real inflationary index on groceries, I'll be happy to walk the store with someone item by item.  I can tell you how much prices have been at different stores across America from 1989 to present.  Like I said.  I never forget a price.

Dave Webster

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