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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

It's the basics

The headline on this CBS News piece is "Food prices soar as incomes stand still," and, boy, ain't it the truth?

Writer Jen Singer, the mother of two teenage boys, wrestles with her grocery list every week to keep the household budget from getting away from her.

"I'd like the government to stop by my house, come food shopping with me and see where the real costs are," she said.

The adage "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is impossible thanks to apple prices, she said.

"We go through one of these every few days," she said, holding a loaf of bread. "It's a big part of my take home pay."

It's is not her imagination. While the government says prices are up 6.4 percent since 2011, chicken is up 18.4 percent, ground beef is up 16.8 percent and bacon has skyrocketed up 22.8 percent, making it a holiday when it's on sale.

"Oh my god!" Singer said as she spied bacon for $3.

"The things that are going up in price are the things I absolutely need to buy," she said. "It's the meat, it's the milk, it's the eggs and it's getting out of hand."

Yeah, it's the meat, it's the milk, it's the eggs -- you know, the basics. I honestly don't keep track of the cost of individual items, but I buy about the same things every shopping trip, and I can certainly see my every-other-week shopping bill going up and up. People who say inflation isn't a problem or the economy is chugging along, if slowly, must have somebody else doing the grocery shopping.

This is not the economy as discussed on TV, with talking heads and "experts' trading dry statistics and predicting aggregate trends. This is the nitty gritty -- real people struggling with stagnant incomes trying to figure out how to do the basics like putting food on the table. Do stand in a supermarket aisle for 15 minutes, and you'll begin to understand the discontent in this country.

As one commentator has noted, the problem of wage growth not keepiing up with the government's projected inflation, let aone the food inflation at the grocery store, "won’t change until two pressures on the economy are reversed: rising costs on business and improvement of chronic joblessness."

The latter keeps wages depressed by providing a large labor pool for a relatively small number of net jobs created over the last five years since the beginning of the recovery in June 2009. On average since then, we have created significantly fewer jobs each month than necessary to keep pace with population growth. In large part, the job-creation market has been stifled by extra costs and disincentives to investors and businesses in job-creating expansion and risk-taking. Those same costs, along with relatively high energy costs, get passed along to consumers in higher prices, putting them in the economic vise described in this CBS report.

Oh, and yesterday was the fifth anniversary of President Obama's nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. Hasn't it spurred a lovely recovery?