Lately I've been watching the oil prices climb and the stock market recede. It pulls me and sucks me in like having to rubberneck when you pass those highway accidents. I tell myself that really we are talking about Wall Street not Main Street and try to move on with my day. Then I hit the grocery store and my jaw drops at the rising prices on the food - and there is the link. It is quite spectacular watching gas prices climb at a rate of 10c to 15c per gallon each and every day.
In the '90s I was particularly outspoken about the economic crisis we, as a culture were setting ourselves up for. Yet, most found me to be on the level with the Brickyard Preacher (the dude that would hang out at my college yelling for us to repent or burn in hell). But the dot com crash came and went, then the 9/11 fallout - and the world didn't stop spinning. Spend more money, buy more stuff. A philosophy I really detest, by the way.
Today, there is something else happening. And, I have to scream about it - yell about it. Because I'm tired of thinking about it. They tell us there is "no recession, no chance for depression." And those that speak these words do so from a yearly income of 6-figures. I challenge one of them to come live on less then $60K a year.
These last two years, especially 2007, have been horrifically pinching for the working middle class. Some seem to float through it with almost no effects - until you look at their credit card bills. Others, and I want to put myself here, are really trying to make it on our yearly income. We've decided that we don't want credit card debt, so we are not using them. Everything runs through our checking account. And, there just never seems to be enough. I'm working at finding the holes that money is slipping through now so I can fill them. But, I don't have high hopes for 2008. I'm just wondering what it is going to be to break our financial backs.
Not all our changes are for financial reasons. I've been convicted over the last couple of years to become more and more anti-consumer. We are burning the world at our feet over our wants and desires. This week at the doctor's when I was asked the standard question over whether or not I think Robbie has been exposed to lead, for the first time I had to stop and think about my answer. We have city water, our house doesn't have lead paint - but we have a pile of toys made in who-knows-where. And, I just don't know anymore.
Christmas is knocking at our door, and with it two birthdays just a couple weeks before - we have a small budget this year. The kids are getting three presents each, period. I've asked the family to pool their money for the kids into one large outdoor present. I refuse to go bankrupt for a holiday.
To pay for Christmas and DH's gas to and from work I've decided it is time to eat from our stockpile. This is my comfort place. Money in the bank for me against a disaster, but it is time to pull our resources in and cut way, way back on our outgoing money. We have enough food to eat well for a month, and nutritiously for three or four.
If you think I'm coming from left field think about the recent big news stories over this year:
~ rising gas prices (DH alone is spending $300/month to just go to work)
~ tainted, well everything, coming from China (and probably a lot of other emerging countries in which our corporations are pinching more and more for the bigger profits)
~ major drought here in the southeast (my garden was a dismal failure and I struggled to get good quality from the local farmer's markets all season)
~ Staple foods rising in prices in the range of 20%-30% over periods of a couple of months (convenience foods have remained relatively stable in pricing because they have so little 'real' food in them - this isn't a good omen for where our diet is heading)
~ National deficit rising by billions of dollars every.single.day so that we can send that same money all over the world in forms of aid (or in my thinking bribery)
~ Foreclosures and bankruptcies all over the place because people were convinced that they deserved and could afford more, more , more and bigger, bigger, bigger
So, like I said I wish I was an ostrich and could stick my head in the sand and let this all kind of roll over. But, there is another part of me that thinks that what our culture needs is more interaction with our neighbors, more local living, more dependency on each other and more grace given. I don't know what the future holds but I'm going to try my best.