Why don't the media do the math on prices?

How come the press doesn't do the math and tell it like it is? Our prices and costs, in the United States, are not out of control for food and gasoline. The Mail Tribune plasters the gasoline prices on the front page implying we are paying too much at the pump. National television news does the same thing night after night. The general public has bought into this throughout the entire nation.

In the year 1951 I worked the swing shift at the Atlantic Richfield Truck Stop while attending Medford Senior High as a sophomore. Highway 99 was the highway through the Rogue Valley between San Francisco and Portland. Currently Ed's Tire stands on the footprint of the old truck stop.

Gasoline sold for 27 cents per gallon and the annual wage was only $2,799 in 1951. A candy bar was only a nickel, a new home cost an average of $16,000 nationwide, a Ford car ranged from $1,424 to $2,253, and a McDonald's type double patty hamburger cost only 28 cents. This data is easily available on the Internet under Cost of Living Index 1951.

The national average wage for 2006 was $38,651. Cost of Living Index data for 2008 was not available on the Internet. The ratio between 1951 and 2006 ($38,651/$2,799) is 13.81. So the cost of "things" increased 13.81 times. The cost of a home in 1951 was only $16,000. In 2006 the home should have cost $220,960 (13.81 time $ 16,000). In 2006 the cost of a Ford should range between $ 19,665 and $31,114; the double patty McDonald's hamburger, $3.60; the candy bar, 69 cents. All these of costs have hit their mark to the greatest extent when factoring in the cost increase.

Oh yes, let's not forget the cost of a gallon of gasoline. How well I remember the price of 27 cents on the gas pump in 1951. When multiplying 13.81 time 27 cents the 2006 gallon of gasoline should have been $3.73. Here it is 2008, two years later, why is gasoline such a great buy for the dollar? In the 1980s Americans spent 8 percent of their disposable income on energy. In 2007 we spend only 6 percent.

While in Sardinia, Italy last summer, the cost of a gallon of gasoline, converted from Euros per liter to dollars per gallon, equated to $7.52 per gallon. We have had cheap energy in the United States for many decades compared to the rest of the world. The price of gasoline per gallon is currently a great buy for the dollar.

What about the high food prices? In 1951 the Americans spent 22 percent of their disposable income on food.

In 2008 we spend only 9.9 percent of our disposable income on food. Then why are so many Americans in debt?

In 1951 the average American family saved 16.9 percent of their disposable income compared to 0.4 percent savings in 2008. At McDonald's in the U.S. you can purchase, from the dollar menu, a chicken sandwich and small soda for $2. In Sardinia, Italy, the same chicken sandwich and small soda costs 22 American dollars.

The major reasons Americans are "feeling" economically strained in 2008, compared with 1951, is we are trying to spread our monthly income over areas not known in 1951 (coffee stops, cell phones, Internet, Bluetooth. Blackberry, X-Box, Ipod, cable television, CDs, DVDs, brand-name clothing, gigantic square-footage homes, multi-car families with navigator, televisions, hands-free cell phone, etc.).

In 1951 the T-shirt was in any color you desired to purchase as long as it was white. No one, in 1951, would consider walking around wearing a T-shirt advertising a product where the retail store expected you to pay for the advertisement by charging $29.95. White T-shirts are available at Wal-Mart today for three for $10 to those of self-esteem.

In the future the cost of gasoline and food may rise disproportionately to family income because of world supply and demand, economic forces linked to world overpopulation. Currently I am grateful for stable gasoline and food product prices in the greatest country of the world.

Bill Walton lives in Central Point.

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