Fridays Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South
These are the years I am supposed to have a bit more money in my wallet. Right? My children are grown, and I'm not out buying new tools or that shiny new car. The trouble is that every time I think I might get ahead, everything seems to go up in price.
I purposely stopped at the gas station before my gas gauge was on empty, and it still cost me $57 dollars to fill up. Wanda and I stopped at the grocery store with just a short list, and that added up to $73. Soon you look in your wallet, and all you see are ones.
More and more I am getting evening phone calls from "worthy charities" hitting me up for money, and they no longer ask for "whatever you can afford." Now they say, "Can I mark you down for $250 or $500?"
Oh, and for some reason, there are a number of politicians who think I am their old friend and want me to help America by putting them back in office.
Breakfast used to cost us under ten dollars, but now it is closer to twenty. Lunch will cost the two of us about the same, but dinner is always over thirty dollars. I am not talking about fine dinning, but rather chain restaurants.
We do save eating here at home, but not like we used to. First off, it is expensive to eat healthy, and if you decide on a nice cut of meat, you are going to pay a good price for it. Sure, vegetables are great, but by the time you make it through the produce section, you have reached what you budgeted for that whole store visit. I understand why young families stock up on not-so-healthy things like macaroni and cheese and potato chips instead of healthy food. Can you blame them when a small bunch of grapes costs as much as a big bag of chips? It's expensive to eat healthy.
I wouldn't be bitching so much about all of this if wages were going up, and the money we had in the bank was growing, but neither is true.
Everyone tries to talk you down on the price you want for things you make, or the gallery or store selling your goods wants to raise their commission. Very few art galleries or craft galleries take less than 50% from those artist and craftsmen whose work they sell. Many now want 60%.
So, who is making money? Well, banks are. They are taking in deposits and paying one half of one percent interest, but charging from 4.5 to 8 percent when they make a loan. It is simply amazing what they make on credit cards. Some of them have interest rates close to 30%.
Insurance Companies make money, and if they start to get lower profits, the government allows them to raise their rates. They are guaranteed a certain percentage of profit. Did you know that. It's true. Pretty sweet deal, huh?
I don't know about the individual gas stations, but oil company profits are going sky high., and anyone selling anything to our government is doing just fine, and especially those who sell war materials.
For the first time in decades, even government workers are hurting. Many are getting laid off as local, state, and the federal government have come to realize that they can no longer spend like they used to.
I have no idea of what is to come. We have millions of people out of work, and we will never be able to put them all back to work in the service sector. We need manufacturing jobs, but we no longer have a pool of skilled workers who could fill those jobs if we had them.
A generation ago we stopped having jobs that required people to physically work hard. Loggers no longer even carry chain saws with them. They have big machines, and many of them are either heated or air conditioned. We don't need men with shovels any more because one man and a backhoe can do the job of a number of men. If we do need boxes or any other kind of container, we don't build them. We'll order them from China. In fact, we order just about everything from China or some other country.
Well, there you go! That's another group that is making moneyevery country we buy from. At one time we sold more than we bought, but now we are pretty much just buyers, and as long as those countries will give us loans, we will continue to "buy" from them.
Some day though, Washington's wallet is going to be empty just like mine afer getting groceries and gas, and then we will all be in trouble. The United States economy is so dependent on government spending, we will really suffer when that spending stops, and stop it will.
Even credit card companies who charge 29% interest will cancel your card if you stop paying. They might let you ride for a while if you are making a few payments, but they will not raise your credit limit. Don't think for a minute that these countries holding our debt won't do the same thing one day. One day they will, and it isn't going to be any fun.
Right now, the Senate and House decide if we can raise our own government's credit limit, but it will not be long and that power will mean nothing. If we continue to print more money, no American money will be worth the paper it is printed on, but before that happens, other countries will stop loaning us the money we need to keep spending.
Then everyone's wallet will be empty.
So we all look to Washington for answers, and we see them talking about new wars on the other side of the world. We have one side wanting the money of the rich to pay for everything, and the other side figures we can cut all the services for the poor to make things work.
Nobody even talks about stopping our wars or cutting back on military spending in any way. Washington is in gridlock, but here at home, people are thinking ahead.
More and more people are growing vegetables. People are planting fruit trees instead of ornamentals. Families are cooking out instead of eating out. Working people know they have to tighten their belts and watch their spending. As far as I can tell, people in the rural areas will get by. Both Wanda and I figure the Lord got us out of the city at just the right time.
So, my wallet might have a hole in it, but you don't need to carry one here at home, and if home is all we can afford, at least we have a happy one.
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