Tag: economy

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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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The Angry Birds

Somebody is unhappy about all the talk that avian flu will lead to poultry shortages in the worst scenario and soaring selling prices in the better one. Look at those grim faces dominating the Featured Image captured on April 14, 2022 using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 100, 1/80 sec, 28mm; 10:39 a.m. PDT.

You can panic, and be sure smug prognosticators of doom are correct, when Costco rotisserie chicken sells for more than the long stable $4.99—or simply is unavailable.

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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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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.

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Inflation Disarms The Bomb

I learned something about cost-creep today that hopefully will benefit you. Don Miguel The Bomb Spicy Red Hot Beef & Bean Burrito is a favorite of mine—available in lots of 12 at my local Costco Business Center. When I first found them, some years ago, a case could be bought for $18.99 or $1.58 per 14-ounce burrito. Later, the price rose to $19.99 before quickly going up to $20.99 and finally $21.99 during the tightest SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns. That’s $1.67, $1.75, and $1.83 per package, respectively.

After nearly exhausting a somewhat stocked supply, I returned with my wife to the warehouse store for more. My mistake: I did not closely inspect the box. Price is higher now: $22.49 for that dozen-filled case. But that 50 cents more is for less. The Bomb now is 12 ounces, a decrease of 14 percent in size for a burrito costing $1.87—15 cents per ounce versus 13 cents previously or 11 cents from what I paid about three years ago; maybe four, I don’t rightly recall.

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A Rose by Any Other Name is Gone

Following “The Tree Tragedy” that destroyed the provider of shade (for us) and food and refuge (for birds and squirrels), I was ready to give notice and move out of our apartment. One problem: In December 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom essentially closed down the state for the entire month in response to a reported surge in SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 cases (e.g., positive tests for infection).

But Spring (e.g., Early Summer in San Diego parlance) brought more birds than any other year—many flocking to a hedge nearby our assigned parking space. Across the street, they, and other animals, used the mighty date palm as a majestic habitat. But South American Palm Weevils infested the tree, which the city destroyed in late July. The bugs are not indigenous and removal of infected palms seeks to slow their spread.

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Where are the Oscar Mayer Cold Cuts and Nathan’s Franks?

Someone might blame the so-called supply chain crisis for this unnamed (I won’t say) supermarket’s empty packaged, prepared, processed meat section. I’d like to think that to celebrate the World Series and return to big gatherings before the big screen following more than 18 months of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns that a whopper shopper cleared out the Bologna, hotdogs, and other deli delights for the big game.

The temperature gauge is in the red, which could indicate cooling malfunction—that despite stocked goods on either side of the empty section. As I walked by, a store employee wheeled a cart stacked with boxes of deli-fresh replacements. You’re welcome to blame the supply chain, and who doesn’t these days? I won’t.

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Park Your Butt, Not Your Car

Southern California continues to suffer from the self-inflicted economic devastation imposed by our esteemed governor, Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom. He has imposed a partial, second statewide shutdown in response to increasing confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—cases. Pandemic deaths aren’t rapidly rising, which, in my journaled opinion, is the metric more important to making policy that harms millions of businesses and leads to massive job losses.

What is the harm? Locally, according to San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation: “Forty-one percent of businesses surveyed saw revenues decline by 81 to 100 percent; 93 percent saw staffing declines of one to 50 employees”. Additionally, “minority-owned small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID”. Explicitly: “More than 90 percent of minority-owned businesses have seen their revenue decline, with most experiencing steep revenue declines of 81 to 100 percent”. EDC released the most recent data—collected May 28 to June 8, when the state started reopening—on July 1, or 13 days before Newsom reimposed new closure measures.

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A Florist Uproots

Last night, on the NextDoor social network, I read a post about the University Heights florist moving and asking if anyone knew where. This morning, I stopped into the shop, Florabella, and asked. The 29 year-old establishment will for a time share warehouse space with a large floral distributor off of Morena Blvd. The current location is convenient and charming—inviting for walk-in sales. The temporary space is along a congested, commuting corridor.

The end of Florabella’s 24 year presence in my San Diego neighborhood is a common local retail story. At the end of May, the landlord informed the commercial tenant that the rent would triple, effective July 1st. For that month, though, the increase would be reduced to $1,000. I have heard the three-times figure often over the past 12-18 months. With a difference: The other shops closed up. The florist saunters on.