Joe Pisani (opinion): Nothing is as good as it used to be in America, and it costs more

This artwork by Donna Grethen refers to inflation and companies artificially raising prices because they know consumers will pay them. Meanwhile the companies are raking in huge profits.

This artwork by Donna Grethen refers to inflation and companies artificially raising prices because they know consumers will pay them. Meanwhile the companies are raking in huge profits.

Donna Grethen

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone is trying to steal your Social Security check … even if you’re not collecting Social Security? You just can’t trust anyone with your retirement money.

And I don’t necessarily mean people like those cryptocurrency fraudsters or the con artists who send phishing emails. I mean the institutional pickpockets.

Everyone is trying to nickel and dime us to death with higher fees and higher prices.

My wife always comes back from the supermarket, grumbling about the grocery bill, and I can almost predict verbatim what will come out of her mouth:

1. “What did I get for $175?”

2. “How can people on fixed incomes survive?”`

3. “I’m not going back to that store.”

Last week she surprised me with a new complaint.

 “A package of Oreos cost almost $6!” she snarled.

 “Were they imported?”

Now, before all you health fanatics, vegan purists, vegetarians and organic foodies start sending me emails, attacking us for buying Oreo cookies instead of Ritz oven-baked crackers, let me say they weren’t for me. They were for my grandkids.

Do you think I’d consume all that processed sugar at my age, jeopardizing various body parts, including my teeth? No way. My grandkids, on the other hand, have a lot of teeth, and they’re baby teeth, so they can afford to have a cookie or two or 22 and lose a couple of teeth in the process.

(Fake news alert. That was — pick one — disinformation or misinformation or lying. I don’t give them to my grandkids because my wife and daughters won’t let me. The Oreos were actually for a friend, who’s not afraid to indulge and is probably on the way to her first set of false teeth. Besides, wolfing down a package of Oreos won’t hurt her as much as smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco.)

But back to the pressing issue of high prices, which we’ve been reading about for months, or at least as long as the government has been insisting inflation isn’t a problem … and repeatedly reassures us this so-called “non-problem” has been solved.

As patriotic Americans, we have to look on the bright side. I never read Adam Smith but I read Karl Marx, and I have a revolutionary economic theory. I predict inflation will go down, but those prices will stay up, so get used to them.

Let me share some fiscal principles with you, but first, in the interests of full disclosure, I admit I’m a guy who can’t balance his checkbook. My credit score was in the toilet until my new bride took control of our finances after we got married.)

Here’s my theory: Manufacturers and corporations and everybody trying to make a buck will not suffer as much as ordinary working men, women and retirees, because they’ll keep their profit margins up by resorting to higher prices, lower quality and smaller portions. Let’s be honest. Nothing is as good as it used to be in America, and it costs a lot more.

Look at your electric bill. I’ve read a dozen stories that said electric bills are doubling and increasing by an average of $85 a month. Our elected officials insist there’s nothing they can do about it because their hands are tied. On the other hand, they vow to do everything possible, using their political superpowers, to help Taylor Swift fans who got bamboozled by Ticketmaster — most of whom don’t pay electric bills because they live with their parents.

All of us have inflation horror stories about steak, lobster and toilet paper, but here’s one for the record books. A year ago, I bought a pair of khakis on Amazon for $17.25, which I admit was a true bargain. I recently thought I could recapture the magic so I clicked the “buy it again” link. The price had increased to $42. According to my calculations, that was a 143 percent increase. (I had my wife double-check my math.)

For a while, I tried to convince myself that higher prices were just a figment of my imagination, or Joe Biden’s imagination, or someone’s imagination.” I thought I could beat the system.

Now, before I set foot in the grocery store, I prepare for the shock and ask myself, “How bad can it be?” Can inflation really be a problem when there’s a line for the Starbucks drive-thru out to the street? A lot of people apparently have enough money to buy a $6 cup of coffee.

The thing about inflation, especially record-high, history-making inflation is that it will take a long time to come down … but the prices won’t. In the meantime, we have to look on the bright side: A gallon of heating oil costs as much as a Starbucks latte and it lasts longer.

And when you get depressed, always remember the glass isn’t half empty, it’s half full. And if you don’t like a glass that’s half full, then you have to get a smaller glass, which is something everyone in America is doing. 

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.