Category: Econolypse

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Pain at the Pump

If you’re wondering why another gas price photo, so am I. But the cost—a full dollar more than the Mobile Mart just three days ago—demands documenting. Today, I came upon the Shell station while walking to Petco in search of a potted plant for our cats Cali and Neko (out of stock, of course). Location: Fourth and Washington in San Diego neighborhood Hillcrest.

What can you say about seven dollars and twenty cents per gallon, unleaded? This place inched up to $7 during that last big rise (June 2022), but not higher. To think that in October 2021 $4.94 was outrageous. Now we can only wish that the price was as low.

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Oh No, Not Again

A week ago, price at the pump was 90 cents less than it is today at my local filling stations. This evening, in North Park, I passed a Chevron sign for $6.60 per gallon, regular unleaded. Oh my, what’s going on with gas going up the cost ladder again?

In the Featured Image, captured using Leica Q2, the Arco across Texas Street (at El Cajon Blvd) seemingly offers a deal for 10 cents a gallon less. But hours later, the station had matched Mobile Mart.

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The Price of Gas Rose 30 Cents Overnight!

When I drove past the local filling station late yesterday afternoon, a tanker parked and offloaded fuel. I wondered: You don’t suppose the delivery means Valero will charge more? Fleeting thoughts come, go, and never manifest into anything. But on this occasion, I was right to wonder and wish to be wrong. Gas prices had fallen recently and stabilized at $5.30 per gallon.

Ha! And I thought the 24-cent overnight increase, back in February, was a big hike.

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San Diego Housing is Beyond You

What I want to know: Who rented this University Heights home? When my wife and I passed by on Aug. 3, 2022, a “For Rent” sign welcomed interest—well, until looking at the asking price of, uh-hum, $5,450 monthly. Granted, by square feet, the place is one of the larger houses in our San Diego neighborhood. But who commits to $65,400—more than an annual salary for many locals—to rent?

Buying is no bargain. One of the, ah, affordable homes for sale nearby lists for $1.1 million. Zillow estimates a monthly mortgage payment, along with insurance and taxes, of $5,797; that’s after 20 percent down. Who can afford to buy? Answer: The fine folks at Visual Capitalist rank San Diego as the nation’s third costliest home market, with a median price of $905,000. Necessary salary: $166,828.

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Yeah, But What About Diesel?

The price of gasoline is now above six bucks at my local Valero, which is one of the more affordable stations in this part of San Diego. Diesel is higher, and that’s a problem for truckers and the cost of transporting goods to retailers.

But there is another dimension that I hadn’t considered. Back home in Northern Maine, farmers are planting crops for autumn harvest. My dad reminded me that tractors and other equipment typically run on diesel. Higher costs transporting food is a bad situation, but the spike to grow food is far worse—especially if some smaller farms simply can’t afford to operate.

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The More You Pay, The More You Will Pay

Funny the things you long for. On Oct. 15, 2021, I shared a photo showing the cost of gasoline as $4.94 a gallon (rounded up) at the Fourth and University Shell station in Hillcrest. Fast forward to today and you pay $6.60 per gallon (again, rounded up). That $1.66 more than the old price—high for the time—seems oh-so affordable now. By the way, cost is 33 percent more than before.

Several large hospitals surround the station, and I got to ask: Is this why medical services—like ambulance—cost so much in San Diego? Yeah, the question is facetious. That said, unless the arm is severed and shooting blood, wrap a tourniquet and drive yourself to Emergency—and hope none of the doctors and nurses treating you filled up at this Shell. Somebody has to pay, and that could be you. Yuck. Yuck.

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We All Need a Smiley Break

Flashback two years, to May 2, 2020: SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns compelled Californians to avoid anyone and to otherwise practice so-called safe social distancing. The seeming hardship would pale compared to racial riots that would erupt weeks later.

One of my neighbors literally put on a happy face—among several encouraging, or funny, street decorations to adorn this University Heights property and/or the sidewalk straddling Meade Avenue. Seems like every time I walked by something different greeted. Thank you.

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Pop Goes Another Housing Bubble

The current housing bubble—and there absolutely is one—bears only modest resemblance to the previous catastrophe, which I warned about in a lengthy August 2005 analysis. Rising mortgage rates already are deflating the 2020’s-decade bubble, but the pop is unavoidable without fundamental changes in the actual market or the myths used to explain existing dynamics.

Since before anyone heard of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19, which economic and societal disruption super-inflated the housing bubble, I had warned about a dangerous trend that ignores common sense observation of national demographics: Among the two largest segments, Baby Boomers are dying off and Millennials aren’t having many kids. As population growth stalls, there will be less demand for housing because there will be fewer people to buy. Meaning: All the babbling about not enough inventory has set into motion an overbuilding frenzy that is sure to deflate home values in the not-so-distant future. Before pandemic lockdowns, I had thought within 10 years. I now expect less than five—if we’re lucky.

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What is Inflation?

Everywhere you look, there are reports about rising inflation, which is presented as increases in prices of goods. As a longtime journalist with a reputation for making complex concepts simple and straightforward to understand, I must correct the glaring mistake made by the majority of news reports: Inflation and rising prices are not the same, although there is an undeniable relationship between the two.

Inflation isn’t prices going up but the value of money going down. Spending power decreases. The classic case is late-1923 Germany, when, because of hyperinflation, “a loaf of bread cost 140 billion marks. Workers were paid twice a day, and given half-hour breaks to rush to the shops with their satchels, suitcases, or wheelbarrow, to buy something, anything, before their paper money halved in value yet again” (source: “Loads of Money“, Economist).

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Return to Nextdoor

I last quit Nextdoor on July 28, 2020, protesting the ridiculously ambiguous tenets of the so-called “Good Neighbor Pledge”. My account is now reactivated. Testing the limits of that pledge is one of my goals in what may be a temporary return. Why bother? You ask the right question.

Burgeoning crude oil per-barrel costs, surging inflation, rising prices on seemingly everything, the Russian-Ukraine war, and potentially devastating consequences (globally) from the West’s sanctions against Russia are precursors to economic crisis of frightening magnitude. S-o-o-o, my neighbors and I may have reason to buy and sell or barter items some time in the not-so-distant future.

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The Difference Between Today and Yesterday

Gasoline prices continue their relentless rise here in San Diego. Regular unleaded now is $1 or more per gallon than on Feb. 24, 2022—when started Russia’s Ukrainian invasion. The Featured Image and companion compare changes over one day. The Arco is located at El Cajon Blvd and Texas Street, where North Park and University Heights meet.

But 30 cents a gallon more than yesterday, or the day before, isn’t the bigger difference. I awoke this morning to news alerts that Joseph Biden banned importation of Russian oil. Price to pump fuel is least of the problems. This sanction, on top of the others, leads to one conclusion, and a single consequence: The United States and Russia are unofficially at war. All that remains is declaration by one side or the other.

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The Price of Gas Rose 24 Cents Overnight!

Let me be the first to (sarcastically) thank the oligarchs—whether they be the Russian ruling class or one-percent of people holding the most wealth—for rushing to grub as much money as possible from we whom they regard as chattel. The invasion of Ukraine, and the West’s (ah-hum) finger-wagging recriminating sanctions, couldn’t possibly have disrupted the flow of oil yet. But why wait, when profits are to be had and war is a convenient excuse for puffing them.

Yesterday, regular, unleaded gasoline sold for $4.46 a gallon at all three of my San Diego neighborhood’s three economy filling stations. That’s cash price; credit costs more. As you can see from the Featured Image, price is now $4.70. That shocker greeted my wife and I this morning when we stopped to top off the tank.