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02/22/2003 Archived Entry: "Don't mention the War!"
"Two Midwestern senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the region's soaring gasoline prices and whether consumers are being gouged at the pump." Of course they are. Consumers are being gouged by stiff government taxes on every drop they pump.
As prices soar, the dollar drops, government services shrink, unemployment spreads, and consumers become frugal...three things are bound to happen. 1) People will look for someone/something to blame -- other than the unbelievably high cost of the war on terrorism, of course. As John Cleese declared in an hilarious episode of Fawlty Towers, "Don't mention the war!" There will be accusations of gouging and fiscal misconduct which will lead to more regulation which will lead to more economic dislocation and inefficiency. 2) Government and companies will grab at any dollar they can pry out of your hands. In terms of companies, I have been seeing a disturbing trend in the news which is exemplified by an article about US Airways. Towit: "Bankrupt US Airways Group Inc." is arguing in front of a judge "that active and retired pilots will never get all the pension benefits they are owed, and told a judge that dramatically scaling back their retirement payouts is crucial to the company's survival." You will see much more of this: govenrment and companies grabbing pension funds for the simple reason that those funds are one of the few large pools of assets left untapped. And it won't matter that the pool belongs to someone else, to the employees who paid into it and worked on the basis of a contract that provided a pension as part of their "pay." 3) inflation will start surfacing as the incredible increase in the money supply finally circulates through the economy and has the inevitable impact.
Brad and I are already seeing ripples of the poverty that is being created by the diversion of wealth and productivity toward this senseless conflict. As the stock market continues to plunge, an elderly friend has had to come out retirement and downgrade his already modest lifestyle (e.g. to sell his truck for a battered-up junker). A girlfriend with whom I lunch could not afford to buy a turkey or ham for Christmas dinner even though both she and her husband work and have no children: gasoline and taxes had gone up that much, and his pay had been reduced in order to keep "everyone on the payroll." (They had a macaroni casserole instead.) Free-Market.Net went bankrupt because donors no longer could afford the luxury of putting money where their principles are. I don't blame them: it *is* a luxury. And, yet, I saw Bush proclaiming on CNN that "we" will spend whatever is necessary to bring down Saddam. Somehow I don't think *his* family will go without groceries to celebrate a special occasion. Somehow I don't think his wife is crying with friends because she is afraid of losing her home.
This Spring I will be putting in an ambitious vegetable garden and renewing the pledge I made to myself upon moving to the farm years ago. I want us to be more self-sufficient. So...it is back to canning for me, to dusting off my dehydrator, to swapping baskets of vegetables for eggs with my neighbor, to making sure all my friends have fresh vegetables every week.
Best to all,