Tag: US economy

Read More

Sonic Boom of Behavioral Change

Around lunchtime today, when walking home from Von’s supermarket with cheap canned cat food, I got a hankering for a Sonic burger. We rarely eat out and the fast-food place was one of my father-in-law’s favorites. I thought to simultaneously see how the take-out experience has changed and to venture down memory lane. Surprise doesn’t enough express what I found or—stated differently—didn’t.

I stepped inside the restaurant to see chairs stacked on tables in fashion to cordon off most of the dining room. The menu screens were dark, as was the overall ambience. I could enter because roller-skating servers (e.g. carhops) exit through the same doors to deliver meals to parked vehicles. I vamoosed.

Read More

Down the Drain

I sit and wonder on Friday evening before Election Tuesday what will be the outcome for the Midterms. For months, gleeful pundits predicted a Red Wave, as an angry and dissatisfied electorate boots Democrats from local political offices all the way to the halls of the U.S. Capitol. If the prognosticators prove right, red will better describe the bloodbath than resurgent Republicans.

Even in deep Blue California, Red rises enough that Joseph Biden stumped for candidates in San Diego County—last night and today. Supposedly, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin risks being unseated by Republican challenger Brian Maryott in the 49th District. If a Dem incumbent can’t defend against a Repub upstart in the Bluest state, the Jackass party is just that before the Elephant in the room (these folks really need better mascots/symbols).

Read More

Sale Sofa or a New Car?

Few San Diego neighborhoods can compete with Hillcrest for the financial gulf between those with means and others with little or none. People pay beaucoup bucks to live and party in what I unaffectionately call Hellcrest, where the homeless camp or roam rampant and the housed sidestep those who aren’t like someone might a piece of dog poop.

Sofa sale at one of the finer furniture boutiques had me laughing on Oct. 13, 2022. I can’t say which is funnier: The 50-percent discount or the original price—both of which you can see in the Featured Image, which I captured using Leica Q2 Monochrom through the display window. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/100 sec, 28mm; 10:37 a.m. PDT.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Not One Crisis, But Two

Two days ago, I looked upon something surprising inside the Grocery Outlet, located in San Diego neighborhood Talmadge: An empty display case for Mexican Coca-Cola. Shall we blame supply chain disruptions that every fear-mongering pundit has blabbered about for months? The beverage, sweetened with cane sugar instead of corn syrup, is popularly stocked by many grocery stores in this area of SoCal.

But far more unsettling is the price. Mexican Coke, sold in glass bottles, is perennially priced 99 cents. A buck sixty-nine puts inflation and rising food/beverage prices into piercing perspective. That’s a 70.7 percent increase, by the way. Yikes!

Read More

A Good Reason to Work From Home

At one of the pricer area filling stations, located where Fourth and Washington meet in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, the price of gasoline approaches mountaineering heights. Grab your gear and head for the summit of cash required to fill the tank. For context, rounding to the nearest buck, customers paid $6.60 per gallon on May 27, 2022 and $4.94 on Oct. 15, 2021 at this location.

On the same day as the Featured Image, June 8, 2022, at my University Heights-located Valero, I filled up a half-tank for 30 bucks at $6.09 a gallon around Noon. Lady driving an Acura in the queue before my car paid $69 and some change. When I drove past a few hours later, posted price had jumped to $6.16.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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).