Monday, November 26, 2012

leading economic indicators

The most important number in assessing the health of the economy is the price of oil, because it affects the prices of everything else. Right now, that price is steady at about $88 a barrel, and down significantly from the high-90's ranges where it was driven by speculative excesses back in September.

Naturally the price of gasoline has fallen as well, and is down to an affordable (for me, anyway) slightly under $30 for half a tank. I suspect this will last until people realize that the fracking craze and oil coaxed from rock farts in places like North Dakota and Utah is only going to extend the "bumpy plateau" we're on for a couple of years, as opposed to providing the "energy independence" American motorists and politicians so fervently wish for.

For more on oil prices and the "bumpy plateau," see Jim Kunstler's blog.

Like oil and gasoline, the price of cheese is one of the most important indicators of our economic health and stability, for I have found there is no life without cheese. And here, the news is not so good. Bandon cheese from Oregon, the 2-1/2 pound loaf, was selling for $4.99 at Costco, and at $2/pound was the absolute rock-bottom best deal around for this essential. Last month it jumped to $6.99 -- a 40 percent increase. $6.99 is also the "normal" price for a two-pound loaf of the same cheese sold by Tillamook at most supermarkets, although deals can be got on this item which occasionally take the price down to $2.50 a pound. That's the lowest you'll pay for good quality cheese anywhere for the time being.

For more on food prices, see Miss Moneypenny's blog.

Finally, we look at the price of marijuana, which is extremely volatile at the moment due to legalization efforts and potentially high taxes in some places. Marijuana is America's largest cash crop already, even with its highly uncertain legal status, and a necessity in my world because it's the most important medication I take, and I need it every day. In Seattle I was getting it for $107 a half ounce, which included sales tax. That was OK, because that amount yields six loaves of bread at slightly under $20 per loaf for all the ingredients -- enough to last a month. I don't know how much more I'll be paying now, but I'll find out today, and update the info tomorrow.

In this economy, we're all doing the same thing, namely hanging on for dear life, and hoping we won't be busted by the next round of rising prices. And also, besides, I'm beginning to envision a horticultural future. I've already been introduced to the joys of outdoor gardening, and it's time to take that wholesome activity to the next level.

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