Practical Dad

PracticalDad Price Index:  November 2013 Continues Slide…

...but that's only looking at one side of the family's equation.  Not only will what they have purchase less in real terms, but millions of families will actually have even less as they moved forward.

The intent of the PracticalDad Price Index has been to ascertain what's really going on with food prices via a 47 item marketbasket, followed consistently at three separate and unrelated grocery stores.  It began in November, 2010 (11/10 = 100.00) after considerable controversy over the impact of loose monetary policy courtesy of the Federal Reserve System; this or that is going up, what's going to happen to food?  But what's been happening to the average American family isn't solely the result of loose monetary policy; the middle-class family has also been whacked on the income side so that they're being eaten away from two different directions.  It was an unpleasant irony that the day on which I did the price surveys was the same day that the federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) was cut by 6% in a budgetary move.  It's not as though you couldn't see one coming from months ago as the media was increasingly full of stories about fraud within the SNAP program, painting an untold number of beneficiaries as undeserving of the program; other stories told of governmental quotas for enrollment so that the administrators were graded on how many new beneficiaries joined their program during each period.  The set-up was in the media to pave the public opinion way for future cuts.

The fortunate item this month is that the PracticalDad Price Index actually is dead in the water from October, 2013. The Total Index of all 47 items in the grocery store marketbasket was unchanged from October's Index of 107.83; the 37 item food component (which excludes non-food items such as soap, aluminum foil and etc.) actually declined slightly to 112.81 in November from October's 112.98.  Apart from the occasional upwards month - such as September's greater than half point jump to 113.76 - the November Food-Only Index continues the downward trend from that Index's high point of 114.33 reached in December 2012.  Note that the 37 item Food-only Index had actually jumped by greater than 2.5 points from October 2012, an annualized rate in those three months of 10%; this has fortunately backed off and we're now at a level last seen in October, 2012.

So here are the results for both the Total Index and the Food-only Index for the past four months.

Month          Total Index          Food-Only Index          Spread

8/13              107.90                 113.14                             5.24

9/13              108.39                 113.76                             5.37

10/13            107.83                 112.98                             4.63

11/13            107.83                 112.81                             4.98

We're now into the secular Christmas season, as judging by the lights and outdoor ornaments that I've begun to see on local retailers and homes.  And it's only November...The point to be made is this however:  I am certain that there is fraud in the SNAP program, just as there's fraud in the Social Security Disability Income program, the student loan program, Medicare/Medicaid and any number of other social/economic aid and entitlement programs.  You can't have more than a full generation of out-of-control spending - coupled with a decade of (near)Zero Interest Rate Program rates - without fostering a rushing stream of liquidity flowing through the economy.  That alone tempts the amoral among us, who then view the lack of regulatory enforcement enriching the highest echelons of society as an invitation to cut themselves loose to the stream and take some for themselves.  But there is a crying need for food amongst the poor and now even the middle class who are struggling; food banks are already pressed and are terrified of the long-term effects of these cuts in SNAP benefits on their supplies. 

In this coming season - hell, for the entire year - make it a point to reallocate any charitable giving to the local food banks.  If you have the resources, purchase a bag of groceries at your shopping trip and drop it off at a nearby food bank.  The powers that be in the government and the financial sector have made it abundantly clear where their priorities lie and it's going to be up to us to take care of one another.  As my own father said to me in my teenage years, you better be able to look out for yourself because the government isn't going to do it.  

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