BY MICHAEL REISIG –
Bonnie and I were coming back from Hot Springs the other day, and as we drove through one of the small towns on the way we decided to stop at a little “Dairy Queen” type of restaurant. Long story short, we had a hot dog, a hamburger, and a chocolate shake (which we split). The bill came to just short of $13.00. I think perhaps it was a watershed moment for me. I suddenly realized that the world had simply gotten too expensive. How does a society survive $6 hamburgers at a drive-in in the woods? Am I missing something here, or am I just poorer than I realized?
I spent the next few days looking at prices of things – what they used to be and what they are.
First off, the American dollar hasn’t been backed by anything since the ‘60s, so we can’t really look for any help from Uncle Sam. Yet it’s not so much the price of luxuries that bother me, but the price of necessities. Candy bars average nearly $2 each (I remember .35 cents for the same bar), and the average college education is six times more expensive than it was just 16 years ago. Cars have become so expensive they now finance them like they used to do homes– who would have imagined financing a car for six to eight years just a decade ago? We have arrived at the “50-year mortgage for homes as well – by the time you pay it off, you’re dead. And don’t get me started on electricity – there isn’t a person in our county who hasn’t received a rude surprise in the mail this winter. When I ask about these things I’m told “it’s just the price of doing business now.” Well, from my point of view, the price of doing business is putting me out of business.
The really amazing thing is that somewhere along the line, bankers and credit companies convinced Americans that being in debt was not just perfectly okay, but a status symbol of sorts. Owning more than you could afford was suddenly cool… (Not to worry about the big picture, we’ll work those payments so you can manage them – yes sir!)
I’m constantly barraged by questionable statistics that tell me America is doing just great, but $6 hamburgers, $4 milkshakes, $2 candy bars tell me differently. There’s way too much juice and fewer beans in a can of Campbell’s now, half the M&Ms are missing in every bag I buy, and I get less coffee for more money in every container at the grocery store. What the heck happened? While the better football and basketball players go to college for free, the average family uses their life savings to get a child through college now. Expenses range from an average of about $15,000 up to $60,000 a year. That’s a lot of M&Ms.
There have always been “haves” and “have-nots” in every society, but when the average CEO makes 350 times the salary of the average worker, I feel like I’m living in India. I’m beginning to feel like a “have not.” I’m beginning to wonder what happened to the American Dream – you shouldn’t have to be asleep to believe it.