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Rambling through some pretty wild times

January 18, 2008

My niches are overloaded and I am cenophobic. I have little interest in what might be new in the world, newly existent, or new to me. I’m not reading much. Books are hard to hold in my tender hands and too attenuated to hold my attention, suspended untouched on a bookstand. I have given myself a stupid repetitive stress injury, perhaps by typing and knitting too much. Oh, and I hold cups and glasses of water; this, too, is injurious. Grasping anything is pathogenic. This could be a routine flare-up of chronic tendonitis, something that should not punish perfectly legal activities so much. But I bravely continue writing and knitting and cleaning things and holding objects and other harmful activities. I went to the PA and she sounded like my favorite Bob Newhart routine: “Stop it! Just stop it! Don’t be so compulsive!” I was only holding a piece of toast. . . .

My husband is reading a tax policy book called, Taxing Ourselves. I asked him, naively, what this book is about. He said it is about how we tax ourselves, how we vote for legislators and so forth. I think we really need a paradigm shift here. The presumption that we should tax ourselves may be presumptive of things well beyond the sphere of evidence.

Now he is transporting my attention to an inflation calculator. Its accuracy is qualified by the data injected into it; the data come from the Federal Reserve. It seems that the quarter in 1972 had the same buying power as $1.23 in 2007. Amazing. In 1972 I am certain I could buy gum for a quarter; now my gum is $1.99. But gum is so much better now. I buy luxury gum that wasn’t even available in 1972. That the bliss of pure xylitol can even be purchased is mind-blowing. But really, only housing has gone up more than tenfold since the 70s. Anyone with two bucks can have the best gum in the world; not everyone can join the McMansion tax base.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, between 1917 and 1918, inflation was over 17.5%. But I suspect this must be based on inferential data; there was no Consumer Price Index back then.

Between 1979-1981, inflation edged up to 13.5%. Between 1992-2007, inflation has ranged from 1.6% to 3.4%. My husband does not believe current inflation is that low. But of course, adjustments are in place to artificially lower inflation. Things that cost more get kicked out of the inflation figures, and out of the core Consumer Price Index. Without superfluities like housing and fuel factored into the index, inflation looks fairly tidily contained. 

The Producer Price Index includes intermediate (wholesale) goods and fuel and energy prices. There are several consumer price indices. The core CPI does not include energy and food. The total CPI includes fuel and rents, but not the purchase price of homes.

I remember free kittens. The free kitten I have now, who is nearly 10 years old, cost $200 to adopt and vaccinate in 1998. That 1998 $200 would be $254 today.

Economist Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832) says that prosperity should be increased by stimulating production, not consumption. Say identified the phenomenon that creation of more money results in increased inflation. Everyone knows that. But our government conveniently forgets this and goes about artificially inflating the money supply in order to stimulate increased consumption. Bread and circuses revisited.

I reflect that there could come a time in which free kittens will be unaffordable in America. You can see how consumer price indices and inflation figures conspire to kill our joy. The point is, we’ve lived through so much worse.

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2 Comments
  1. Janet permalink
    January 19, 2008 11:17 am

    Lauren,

    Kittens that once were free (mixed breed) are going for $800 at our local Pet-Pourri. They have no papers, are a mixture of 2 breeds, and I know their owners are pretending the 2 breeds were on purpose, but we know better! Isn’t that weird? It’s the same with puppies. Now instead of mutts we have $900 Labradoodles, Pekipoos, Puggles (Beagle-Pug, I kid you not), and others. People must be buying them!

  2. January 19, 2008 1:02 pm

    Janet, I think people have to sell kittens and puppies for that much to be able to afford vaccinations for their own cats and dogs! But really, this proves that foolishness knows no market limits. Just wait till pets are listed in the CPI–then we can track market trends in puggles. Good grief.

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