A Reflection on Inflation

January 28, 2022

Growing up in the late 80's and early 90's, I was a latchkey kid from a single-parent household living in a housing project.   Although I didn't go without, there wasn't much room for EXTRA either.  To get extra - I worked.  I can't remember my exact age, but I was probably 10 or 11 when I had my first paper route.  You "collected" money each week from each house, and if you were lucky, you got a small tip from each house you delivered to. 

It was 30 years ago, but I can sort of remember when I first started that the price for weekly delivery was $2.25.  So I might have been receiving between $2.50 and $3.00 per house.  With 30 houses, and after paying the newspaper company their share, I might have been making about $15 - $20 per week.  I certainly wasn't getting rich, but it was enough for a kid that just wanted items like candy bars, ice creams, sodas, and baseball cards.

Then the delivery increased to $2.50 per week.  However, I was still getting the same $2.50 to $3.00 per house.  So instead of making $15 to $20 per week, I was down to about $10 to $15.  Because that quarter was not passed on to the consumer.  It was passed on to me!

And the newspaper was not the only thing that went up.  I can remember candy bars going from 50 cents to 54 cents to 60 cents.  Sodas went from 75 cents to 90 cents.  Baseball cards went up too (some brands were insanely priced for a kid)!  Obviously, these are not the only items that went up.

So not only was I now making less, I was buying much less!  This was not only due to inflation, but was also due to the New York state sales tax going up at the time.  Oh, and not that I knew it at the time, there was a recession around this time.

What was the point of me coming home everyday after school, or waking up early on the weekends, to work when there was not much of a benefit to do so?  Was I even aware at that time that there was no "getting ahead" for me? A little naïve? Probably.  Because I didn't quit.  I think I had at least 3 different paper routes throughout my younger years.  The pride of working and getting my own money are the only reasons I can think I kept going. 

Many Americans today have chose to stay home and not return to the workforce.  Some of them were laid off during the COVID shutdown, and some had to quit to take care of their young family as schools and daycares were closed.  Now that the country is mostly opened, these Americans do not seem to be in a rush to get back to work despite the many job openings that are available.  

Driving to work today is now going to cost you $1 or more per gallon vs. a year or two ago.  Buying lunch is going to cost you more.  Clothes for work will cost you more - and don't forget your mask that you most likely will have to wear.  If you have young children, then daycare is going to cost you more.  Unless somehow you are able to find a job that is going to pay you dollar for dollar on all these increases, then I can understand why many have chosen not to go back.

One of the strangest things to come out of this inflation rise, is that people don't appear to be rushing to work to try and keep up with it.   The media and many tend to label these people staying home as lazy.  When I was a kid, if I decided to quit my paper route, I am quite sure I would have been labeled as that.  However, it might just be that these people staying home are just not as naïve as I was when I was a kid.