Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rant #207: Everything Going Up, Up, and Away!

I don't know if you have noticed, but gas prices are starting to go up again.

At least where I live, the prices are rapidly approaching $3 a gallon, and I think they will probably go beyond this in due time.

The average price in my neck of the woods is $2.87 for regular gas. That's more than 80 cents more than it was a year ago.

There's plenty of gas around--the Energy Department said yesterday that national inventories are up 7 percent from 2009, while demand is down 3.5 percent.

If we have plenty of gas, why is it going up?

Well, now is the beginning of the time that the oil companies can make their killings. Starting about now, people will begin to drive a little bit more than they did during the depths of winter. Sure, we are still in winter, but this is when their window opens to make more money, and it will continue through the spring and into the summer. There could be adjustments if the demand picks up a bit--which it should--but we are now in the period where you won't see cheap gas prices anymore for several months at least.

Whatever we make for a salary is going into paying for things with higher prices. Although I have read differing opinions on this, have you been to the supermarket lately? Prices are as high as they have ever been.

This leads to the next dose of reality--restaurant visits are down.

The NPD group reported that in 2009, restaurant visits were down 3 percent.

In the past, there was no correlation between visits to higher-end eateries and fast food joints, but now the two are linked, because restaurant visits, across the board, have dipped.

What this means is that people who used to go out to real restaurants aren't just not going to these establishments, they aren't going out to eat, period.

It costs money to dine out, whether you are talking about eating at some fancy place or Burger King. And people don't want to spend the money because they don't have it. And yes, you have to drive to these places, and people are trying to cut down on their driving, especially with prices the way they are going.

This makes supermarket shopping an even more important part of our lives, because people are buying enough food so they can eat in seven days a week. And prices, I feel, are going up at the supermarket, because as fuel prices rise, the price of transporting goods to these stores also rises, and the costs must be passed down to the consumer.

But now I read that supermarket chains like Kroger are also feeling the effects, as their customers aren't spending as much as they used to on groceries--probably because they can't afford it, or are buying less expensive brands or in-house brands to save money.

You see, all these things are tied in.

And no matter what anyone says, we are still in the middle of a very deep recession. Unemployment is still way up, and even people who are working don't have the cash they once had.

And let's not even get into the credit card mess we are all in.

Honestly, I have no answers to any of these problems. I am as much a victim of what is going on as we all are.

Our leaders in Washington must do something about this, and other than saying we have to personally cut back on everything, I don't think they have done a very good job at getting this country back on track to where it should be.

So what is the solution?

Get people in there who can do something. And I don't care what party they are from, just get them in there and let them work their magic.

How much longer can the average person suffer, while our elected officials do little or nothing to alleviate the problems we have?

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