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Events, food purchased away from home and live entertainment are increasingly unaffordable to the bottom 90%.

It’s starting to feel like a $5 bill is the new $1 bill: everything that could be purchased with one or two dollars not that long ago is now $5 or even $10. A few days ago I was enjoying the Butte County Fair in California’s farmbelt (the Central Valley), and it seemed like a rural county fair was a price baseline that was far enough away from the urban artifice of $100 meals at fancy bistros to reflect the statistically elusive real-world inflation.

Everything was $5, or close to it: the carnival rides for kids: $5. The games (ring toss, etc.): $5. Funnel cakes, cotton candy, etc.: $5.

Whatever wasn’t $5 was $10: pulled pork sandwich, etc. There was almost no need for $1 bills, except at the admission booth: adults, $8/day, kids/seniors $4.

So let’s add up the costs for a family of two adults and two kids. Let’s say the kids each get four rides–that’s 4 X $5 = $20 X 2 = $40. Each kid gets two food items: $5 X 2 = $10 X 2 = $20, and gets to play two games: $5 X 2 = $10 X 2 = $20.

That’s $80. The parents get something to eat and maybe play a game or two: that another $40. The admission fee is $16 for adults and $8 for the kids, $24. Parking is $5.

The family spends about $150 at the county fair for a day. Add an extra kid or a few other purchases and the cost pushes up to $200.

This trend of $5 being the minimum purchase price and outings costing $200 is not unique to county fairs. Some friends attended a S.F. Giants baseball recently, and they were delighted to buy seats online for a discounted price of $64 each. Add in $25 parking (or $20 in BART train fare) and a few $10 cups of beers and $10 hotdogs, and it costs $200 for two people to attend a major-league baseball game (at least in a desirable locale with a winning team).

Written and posted by: CHARLES HUGH SMITH  on WASHINGTON’S BLOG

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