Friday, January 21, 2011

The UnCola

--Food Prices, Luojie (China Daily)

Don't piss down my neck

and call it rain

--The Outlaw Josey Wales

So when you hear it thunder

Don't run under a tree.

There'll be pennies from heaven

for you and me

--Pennies from Heaven
, Bing Crosby

Though 2011 will be the third consecutive year Social Security recipients will receive no Cost of Living Increase (COLA), the Consumer Price Index rose 1.5% and 2.7% in 2010 and 2009, respectively. "About 80 percent of the increase was due to an 8.5 percent rise in the gasoline index, ... the sharpest increase in 18 months" (Consumer price index jumps on costlier gas.)

If this increase is correct -- and IF we are a nation of law -- then why have S.S. recipients not been receiving our legally-mandated COLA increases? The government's excuse is that the cost of living has not risen, yet the items most affecting those on a fixed income -- gasoline and food -- have increased over the past several years. If the nation truly cared about the needs of its citizens, it would consider the commodities most consumed by Social Security recipients.

Your USDA website presents a rather benign outlook for the first paragraph, until one actually reads the statistics, which all indicate increases, whether larger or smaller. An excerpt:

Beef prices increased 0.2 percent in November and are 6.2 percent above last November, with steak prices up 5.4 percent and ground beef prices up 7.4 percent. Pork prices decreased 1.9 percent in November but are 12.9 percent above last November’s level. Poultry prices decreased 0.9 percent in November but are 2.1 percent above prices last year at this time, with chicken prices up 1.9 percent and other poultry prices (including turkey) up 3.2 percent. For most of 2009, retail meat prices were lower than the previous year due to weak demand stemming from the global recession. However, with rising commodity prices and input costs over the past 6 months, beef and pork prices are now significantly higher than in 2009. Increased inflation for beef and pork products is expected in the first half of 2011, as reflected in ERS's forecasts—beef prices are now projected to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent and pork prices 3 to 4 percent in 2011.

Egg prices increased 10.6 percent in November (following a 9.6-percent decrease in October), so that egg prices are 4.7 percent above the November 2009 level.

Dairy prices were unchanged in November and are 3.8 percent above the November 2009 level. Within the dairy category, prices changed as follows in November: milk prices were up 0.6 percent and are 5.8 percent above last November’s prices; cheese prices were down 0.3 percent but are 5.4 percent above last November’s level; ice cream and related product prices were down 0.3 percent and are 1.1 percent below last November's level; and butter prices decreased 1.6 percent this month but are 32.1 percent above last November. In 2009, dairy prices were down 6.4 percent from 2008 (the largest annual decrease since 1949). However, higher projected prices for farm milk will lead to increases of 1.5 to 2.5 percent for dairy products in 2010 and potentially higher inflation in 2011 (Food CPI and Expenditures).

Food and petroleum -- the bread and butter of the average Social Security recipient's life. The government projects inflation to increase in 2011; there will be pain, even beyond that felt in the average year by a person reliant upon this stipend.

And where are the Gray Panthers in all of this, the nations largest special interest group?
Social Security used to be the sacrosanct entitlement -- hands-off for every representative lest his halcyon days at the feeding trough of public largesse be cut short tout de suite. Three years running and NO increase? This is unprecedented.

How can the U.S. spend money on elective wars and pay sandbox nations hundreds of billions of dollars to pretend to be our friends while I cannot get a measly 1.5 or 2.7% increase in my Social Security check (while my daily expenses rise)? We print money and throw it everywhere except at our retirees, who spent their working lives anticipating this stipend. My life, work and contributions to my country deserve more consideration.

Ranger thought: If you are going to fuck me, have the courtesy to use lubricant.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the two are connected. Since most of your food is trucked from place to place, hundreds or even thousands of miles for some items, any rise in the price of fuel is going to raise the price of anything moved by that fuel.

There's a ripple effect in the production chain as well: the steep rise in the price of corn over the last few years, as more and more of it is used for ethanol, raises the price of feeding cattle, which raises the price of milk, which raises the price of cheese, which raises the price of your urban pizza slice (to follow just one branch of the tree).

Another factor is the rising cost of fertilizers, which are made with petroleum products. Fertilizers have to be used to make the land productive enough to feed Americans in the way and at the price to which they're accustomed.

Cheap food has been a priority of the American government for years. It has largely been made possible by cheap oil. Those days are leaving us.

I have no way of estimating how much those overdue COLAs would cost, but I'm pretty sure it's cheaper than fighting in the sandbox. Good luck to you.

Friday, January 21, 2011 at 5:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Absolutely right on the ripple effect: it all comes down to petroleum -- shipping, fertilizer, feed, etc -- and cheap oil is coming to an end.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 12:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

I've already downgraded from steak to hamburger, from good peanut butter to cheap peanut butter and from all-beef weiners to chicken-pork weiners. Plus I limit myself to two cups of coffee per day instead of the usual potful.

Substituting barn cat food for Meow Mix is going to be a tuffy though. Might as well do it now. Seeing as how that will be the NEXT thing I downgrade to for me to eat.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 8:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep and the sad thing is it's going to get even worse by years end as the dollar drops in value. If you have space grow a garden if not help friends that do that will share.

Monday, January 24, 2011 at 11:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

oil is a bit over $90 a barrel right now, that's the point where world trade and economies start to clog and break. it would not surprise me in the slightest if they top $150 sometime this year.

that's bad, very bad.

what i see is on a state, national, and local level a government that has completely missed the essential contract of governance.

if you're going to be a political leader, shit has to work. roads must be maintained and plowed in the snows. streetlamps need to be lit and working. schools need to actually teach our kids. all that stuff.

i have no idea where this is all going to lead us. i'm not looking forward to much of it at all.

Monday, January 24, 2011 at 3:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Fr. Paul Krugman's "The Competition Myth" in today's NYT:

"Still, you might say that talk of competitiveness helps Mr. Obama quiet claims that he’s anti-business. That’s fine, as long as he realizes that the interests of nominally “American” corporations and the interests of the nation, which were never the same, are now less aligned than ever before.

". . . The unfavorable interpretation is that Mr. Obama and his advisers really believe that the economy is ailing because they’ve been too tough on business, and that what America needs now is corporate tax cuts and across-the-board deregulation.

"Mr. Obama himself may do all right: his approval rating is up, the economy is showing signs of life, and his chances of re-election look pretty good. But the ideology that brought economic disaster in 2008 is back on top — and seems likely to stay there until it brings disaster again."

Monday, January 24, 2011 at 4:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

and the small, kind, courtesy of a reach around.

that's mandatory.

Monday, January 24, 2011 at 8:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Brooklyn Red Leg said...

Paul Krugman, to quote Stefan Molyneux, is 'my favourite State-sucking, assclown, toady-lackey of the ruling classes'. The whole Keynesian house of cards called Fiat Currency is coming apart. The bad thing is that we all lived to see it. So, anyone wanna defend Mr. Bernanke's QE2? Weimar Germany here we come!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 9:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous CholoAzul said...

RE: The price of oil.

China controls what may be the largest oil reserves on the planet under the Sudan, and once their military gets production levels up, it would be no surprise if they followed their long established tactic by undercutting OPEC to dominate that market.

May not be great news in the short run, or the long run, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing happen to gas stations that happened to the makers of bicycles, guitars, etc.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 12:04:00 PM GMT-5  

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