My wallet was empty when I left for the Farmers’ Market Wednesday morning, so stopped at the ATM for $100 figuring I’d have enough left over for whatever comes up over the following few days.
At the Market I bought two melons, a lettuce, some blueberries ($7 a quart), blackberries and raspberries ($3.50 a half-pint), a bunch of four yellow beets, one huge tomato and a gorgeous peach.
To save a little gas, I have recently taken to doing my supermarket shopping on Wednesday too, on my way home from the Farmer’s Market. My list was short this week: yogurt and pineapple juice (for smoothies), a piece of fish for dinner, whipped cream (I’m not allowed, but the cat likes it as a treat), carpet spot cleaner (that cat throws up now and then), a good, whole grain bread ($4.29, up from $3.79 two weeks ago!), a pair of candles for the table and a bag of dry cat food.
On a whim, I picked up a pound of green grapes (Do you know how few that is? Grapes weigh a lot). Oh, and a box of three pot scrubbers. Ten items.
Near home, I realized I’d forgotten toothpaste, so I stopped at a drugstore and was shocked, when I opened my wallet to find only $20. How could that have happened?
I’ll admit I overdid on the amount of berries I bought, but not by that much.
This was not an extravagant shopping list, yet I spent $80! I don’t keep a close count, but not so long ago – only a few months - I would have expected to spend about $50 for the entire trip, both stores. CNN reported yesterday that food prices from July 2007 to July 2008 increased by 8.7 percent.
You have to ask what these folks are smoking. They certainly haven’t been in a grocery store lately; the increase is much higher over a year than 8.7 percent.
I won’t go hungry any time soon, but some people will – and some of them will be elders who have only Social Security to support themselves.
It doesn’t take much effort to find dozens of news stories about food banks and Meals on Wheels programs that are hurting financially and cutting back. Donations have dropped off, volunteers who can no longer afford the gas for delivery have quit and funding organizations have not increased their stipends.
For those of us not living in the deep South, the approach of winter is frightening. My heating fuel bill for the coming season is double what I paid last year and I’ll be turning down the temperature lower than even last year. Electricity costs are up too.
I’ll get by, but I fear for many elders and there doesn’t seem to be any planning or help coming from the government. Senator Barack Obama says he will eliminate income taxes for elders living on less than $50,000 a year. Well, first he must get elected (no guarantee) and then the legislation must get through Congress (no guarantee), so it won’t help any time soon.
And anyway, low-income people have small tax bills. Removing the tax won’t help enough at the rate of inflation we are experiencing which is predicted to increase even more.
In our May survey of elderbloggers, nearly 25 percent of 390 respondents reported annual incomes lower than $25,000.
Think of it. $25,000 is barely more than $2000 a month for shelter, utilities, transportation and food minus about $200 a month for Medicare and before the cost of any prescription drugs. Millions of elders live on much less than $25,000.
Unless we figure out some way to help the poorest elders, and do so within next couple of months, my own expenses tell me we will be hearing of elders dying from hunger, lack of needed drugs and freezing to death this winter.
It doesn't need to be this way. There is plenty of money in the U.S. It's just being distributed unfairly. Watch Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont explain why there is no money in poor people's pockets and think about what he says very carefully when you vote in November. [10:00 minutes]
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Elizabeth Westbrook tells us about a friend who made A Bed For Drunk Robins.]