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The Toilet Paper Outrage! - Lessons in Money, Inflation and Purchasing Power

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It's an outrage!  An OUTRAGE, I say!

It was bad enough when we found that the two bags of chicken in the box from Costco didn't quite have as much chicken as they used to.  For heaven's sake, we used to feed the four of us with one bag.  Now we have to make both!  But we rolled with punches.

And then I hit Subway by the house, as I usually do each Monday morning, for my foot long Subway Melt.  Those slices of ham and turkey just seemed an awful lot thinner than before.  And the cheese slices seemed smaller.  But we rolled with the punches.

But this?  This is just too much to take!  My toilet paper is now smaller!!!

If you have been following my posts (you can review past posts by looking through the links toward the bottom of the home page) you know I write occasionally about what is happening to our money and how - and I know this sounds a little over the top - we are being lied to about it.

Writing about money and inflation can be a little bit like that lecture we used to get from our parents.  I am not so old that I don't remember them.  I also remember how my eyes used to glaze over.  Now, with two teenage boys, I actually get to see what that looks like.  If your eyes roll and then glaze over at my latest rant on inflation, I get it - really, I do.  I just hope the pictures above provide a little bit of a humorous view of the truth - as opposed to what we are told by government and media.

You see, the practical reality of inflation is this: It shows itself first in volume, and only later in price.

If you are like me, regardless of what we hear on the news, what we see when we open the package from the grocery store is right in front of us.  We are not getting as much for our dollar as we used to.  I am already used to noticing this, but I have to admit to being surprised to see it even on the toilet paper spindle.

I write about this more in my book (see below for details), but here I'll just point out by way of a political observation.  When you hear politicians - and this means from both major parties - supposedly standing up for the 'middle class' the very first thing you should be thinking of is whichever package you most recently noticed did not contain as much product as it used to.

Our entire political system - both parties - is built on a foundation of debt.  We are accepting promises which cannot possibly be kept without going further and further into debt.  It is so far along that the Federal Reserve has to manipulate the money supply (in a process you might have heard about called 'Quantitative Easing') in order to keep government borrowing costs down.  Our politicians defend this as supporting the middle class.  The truth, however, is the only thing it actually supports is their political ambition.

As more and more money is injected into the economy, and begins to chase the same amount of production, the first thing that happens is we get less for each dollar - the toilet paper shrinks.  This can only be kept up for so long, though, before prices have to follow.  This is why price indices don't tell the whole story.  The government likes to point to their 'Consumer Price Index' and say inflation remains low.  The problem is the rest of us end up wondering what happened to that bag of chicken - and have to wipe... well, you get the idea.

In my book I write about how I believe those like me who sympathize with the 'Tea Party' have something important in common with our neighbors who sympathize with 'Occupy Wall Street'.  Income inequality is about more than just income.  It is about how what money the middle class and poor do make buys them less and less.  If we are going to tackle this problem as neighbors we need to understand the underlying causes.  The declining purchasing power of our dollar - and hopefully that picture above captures that decline - is written in the red ink of public debt, as is the increase in income inequality.

This should not be hard to grasp.  The people to whom we owe money will always have more of it than us.

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