IT'S NOT AN OIL PROBLEM
By Paul Proctor
June 24, 2008
As I was driving around town the other day, running errands and taking care of business, I noticed trucks, vans and SUVs, very similar in size to mine, absolutely everywhere � many jammed full of kids, soccer moms, businessmen and blue collar workers, sitting in traffic between red lights with cell phones hanging off their heads.
Knowing that their urban assault vehicles required at least as much gas as mine, I wondered: How in the world does a family paying a mortgage and a couple of car payments get by these days with prices being what they are? I�m not a tightwad by any stretch of the imagination, but I scratched one of the things I needed that day off my shopping list for one reason and one reason only � it wasn�t worth the gasoline it would take to drive across town and buy it.
The store that sold the item I needed wasn�t more than twenty minutes away, but the fuel it would have required to get there and return home again made it too expensive. I admit this because I�m quite certain I�m not the only one out there whose priorities are changing dramatically where gasoline is concerned.
And that can�t be good for business.
In an article I wrote a couple of years ago titled Gasoline Is Not Going Up, I tried to explain the illusion of �inflation� we are under and the real reason the things we buy, including gasoline, are getting so ridiculous. If you haven�t read it yet, I hope you�ll take a few minutes and click on the above link to do so. Newcomers to this column might find it a real eye-opener. The only things in the article that have changed since it was published are the prices I cited. And change, they have!
You see, I began the piece by stating, �For the first time in my life I put $70 worth of gas in my car.�
Well, as outrageous as that seemed at the time, it�s a bargain now because just the other day I filled up that same vehicle with $67 worth of gas (same grade) � but my tank was only half empty when I pulled up to the pump. In fact, I generally start looking for a gas station at around half a tank now because I haven�t found one yet that will let me have $100 or more in fuel on a single credit card purchase. Don�t bother asking the gas station attendant why. They�ll just plead ignorance or tell you it�s your credit card company that�s limiting the purchase.
You see, it was reported just last week in an article titled Some Gas Stations Say No More To Credit Cards that gas stations are being charged higher processing fees for larger credit and debit card purchases, meaning the bigger the sale, the less they profit � which may explain why many gas pumps automatically limit the size of your fuel purchase to under $100. But, with prices skyrocketing at the rate they are now, a half tank today is probably going to be considerably less painful than a full tank tomorrow.
Oh sure, I tried paying with cash for about a month or so earlier this year, but to do that you have to burn even more gas driving around to ATM machines, some of which have lines in front of them, especially during lunch or rush hour. It�s either that or you go get in line at the bank to cash a check.
And remember, this is just for gasoline!
Now, if you don�t want to do that and you have to fill up a couple of times or more a week, that means you�ll need to carry around a big wad of cash in your pocket, maybe a third of your paycheck or more, which really isn�t very safe. Then when you get to the gas station, you�ll have to go inside and get in line at the counter to pay for your purchase in advance � then go back outside to fill up your car � all the while hoping the attendant remembers to reset the pump � and then go back inside when you�re finished to get in line again for a receipt and/or any change they might owe you for the difference.
I believe they call these places �convenience stores.�
And here�s a little word to the wise: The price of gas being what it is now, I wouldn�t recommend you wad carriers out there with a tendency towards impatience, skip that last step and drive away with a full tank and no receipt. It�s your word against theirs and the burden of proof will be on you when the police come knocking on your door at home bearing a license plate number and a vehicle description some cunning or confused gas station attendant gave them that happens to match yours.
Better to get a receipt now than a phony felony charge later.
Anyway, the point is this: Prices obviously haven�t improved since I wrote that article two years ago and, as you well know, they are accelerating upward at a rather alarming rate � so much so that many of our other buying habits are being adversely affected as well.
At the current rate stations are charging for mid-grade gasoline, which is required in vehicles like mine, it now takes $128.34 to fill up my tank from empty. I really feel sorry for you guys out there driving diesel pickups.
Two friends of mine just recently told me they had parked theirs because they couldn�t even afford to drive them to work anymore, much less anywhere else; and they can�t sell them because nobody wants to buy a vehicle that requires a near $5 a gallon fuel to drive it.
Now they�re making loan payments and paying mandatory auto insurance on vehicles they can no longer use; and in many cases the trucks aren�t even worth what they owe on them; so they�re stuck and turning to motorcycles and scooters now to get them where they need to go.
Who knows how they�ll get around when winter returns.
And, because so much money is going into gas tanks, major department stores, shopping malls and high-end restaurants here in the Nashville area are closing their doors due to a dearth of customers. And we all know what that means.
In fact, The Tennessean recently reported that �the state's unemployment rate saw the biggest one-month jump ever recorded.�
Ever is a long time, ya�ll.
And we�re in one of the better parts of the country, economically speaking. In fact, my county is one of the wealthiest in the nation. Not only that � Nissan just moved their North American headquarters here. That�s how commercially attractive this region is.
Even so, three well-known regional banks with branches spread across the southeast, all very prominent in this area, are struggling right now to survive due to the ongoing real estate and credit crisis. So, I can only imagine what it�s like for people in other areas of the country that have been hit much harder and financially depressed much longer.
And what are those in Washington and the mainstream media telling us about the economy?
Well, about 3 months ago, in an article titled The Worst Is Yet To Come, I said this:
In the near term, I suspect there will be a lot of talk that the worst is all behind us and that things are starting to look better in certain segments of the economy. This kind of propaganda is likely to be repeated over and over again on the evening news to try and prop up consumer confidence in the face of rising prices, declining demand and plummeting profits.
Then, a few weeks later, Yahoo News posted an article in their finance section titled (are you ready for this?) The Worst Is Behind Us.
It began this way:
With Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Merrill's John Thain chiming in, there's now near unanimity of opinion on Wall Street: The worst of the credit crisis is over.
Are we that stupid or are they that incompetent? I mean these guys get paid a lot of money to figure this stuff out. They�re supposed to be experts.
So, what�s going on here?
As if that wasn�t enough, a month later, the Associated Press said this in an article titled Wall Street's Credit Crisis Heads Into Second Year:
With each passing quarter, Wall Street's top bankers have indicated that the worst of the market turmoil was over - only to face more pain months later.
Now compare what is being said here in America to what is being said about America overseas:
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the organisation that fosters cooperation between central banks, has warned that the credit crisis could lead world economies into a crash on a scale not seen since the 1930s.
A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.
Well, I�ll leave you to draw your own conclusions; but more than anything else, what I hope readers will gain from all this as they fork over more and more for less and less in the coming days, is an understanding that it is not an oil problem we�re facing � it is a money problem. But, those in charge of the money don�t want you to know that. They want you to aim your angst at everyone else involved from gas station owners, to commodities speculators, to radical environmentalists to big oil companies to OPEC � anyone and everyone but the fractional reserve lenders who relentlessly devalue your dollars and mine by printing and circulating too many of them.
You see, OPEC has been radically raising the price of their oil because they know something your government and media aren�t telling you � that the dollar we buy their oil with, along with everything else, is plummeting in value here and around the world.
It�s just that simple.
And that Stimulus Check you got from Uncle Sam that�s supposed to make you feel better and save our economy?
Well, that�s like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole.
You can only live it up so long on borrowed money.
Sooner or later, the party�s over.
�Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.� � Revelation 3:17
Gasoline Is Not Going Up
2. The Worst Is Yet To Come
3. Some Gas Stations Say No More To Credit Cards
4. Tennessee Job Losses Paint Grim Picture
5. Fifth Third, Regions, Sun Trust Lead Bank Declines