Tom Purcell, 7/14/2008 [Archive]

Food and Gas Pains

Food and Gas Pains

By Tom Purcell

"Life isn't much fun anymore now that the wife has me doing all kinds of nutty things to economize."

"Ah, yes, you speak of the way Americans are responding to rapidly rising fuel and food costs."

"You got that right. The wife and I used to enjoy dining out. Now we sit around clipping coupons, searching for bargains and thinking up ideas to cut our household costs."

"The horror."

"Take one of the wife's bright ideas. Because meat and poultry are so high, she decided we're vegetarians now. I wake nights dreaming of juicy burgers. As one wit said, if God didn't want us to eat animals why did he make them taste so good?"

"An excellent point."

"But it's not like vegetables are cheap, either. So the wife made me plant a large garden. I spend hours digging, planting, pruning and weeding. I thought mankind invented the suburbs so sluggards like me could avoid menial labor."

"I feel your pain."

"What's worse: the wife is so cost-conscious all we ever eat is leftovers. I got so frustrated, I took the advice of humorist Calvin Trillin. I hired a crew of archeologists to search for the original meal."

"That's no good."

"Then the wife reads an article in Money magazine about homemade laundry detergent. Next thing I know I'm grating natural soap, boiling it, then adding borax, baking soda and essential oils. It only takes several hours of what used to be my leisure time to make a batch."

"Rapidly rising fuel and food costs are surely agitating many Americans, but aren't there some upsides?"

"Upsides?"

"To reduce fuel and food costs, more families are dining together at home. They're carting their kids off to organized events less often and staying in. Such quality time is surely a good thing."

"Except that we spend our quality time doing menial labor and making soap."

"Many Americans are realizing how spoiled and wasteful we have been. We used to grab anything we wanted at the grocery store. Now we think things through. We look for lower-cost items and we're finding lots of ways to enjoy a healthier diet on a smaller budget."

"Believe me, the wife has mastered the concept."

"A little pain can be good. The hope is more Americans will begin to understand how economics and global markets work -- and how bad ideas can result in pain at the pump and in the grocery store."

"Bad ideas?"

"Look, 70 percent of the fuel that powers the American economy comes from foreign sources. That makes us extremely vulnerable -- as evidenced by the recent spike in gasoline costs. It took years of bad policy to make us that vulnerable."

"It did?"

"Some politicians want to produce more oil and gas at home right away and some are dragging their feet. Which ideas do you think are better?"

"I better bone up on what my congressman is thinking."

"One cause of high food prices is ethanol. As a result of hefty government subsidies, one quarter of our corn is being converted into fuel. That has increased the demand for corn, which has driven up its cost. It's driven up the cost of beef and pork, too, because cows and pigs eat corn."

"So everything is connected?"

"To be sure. It ties into the presidential election, too. One candidate will raise taxes and one won't. Higher taxes will slow economic growth, which will hurt the profitability of businesses, which will limit their ability to pay you higher wages. Won't that make it even harder for you to keep up with rising costs?"

"You're saying we can vote our way out of our food and fuel woes?"

"Not entirely, but it's an important place to start. Ideas matter and we'd be wise to carefully examine the policies our politicians hope to impose on us."

"Will do, but I have to go. The wife rigged up the stationary bike to a power generator. It's my shift to pedal."

© 2008 Tom Purcell. Tom is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. For more info contact Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email sales@cagle.com. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com or e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."



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