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The Big Mac Index

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 11:22 am - November 24, 2014.
Filed under: Economy,Food,Free Enterprise

Some people consider the price of a McDonald’s “Big Mac” to be a reality check for what is happening to consumer prices. Why?

  • Fast food is widely consumed, outside “the one percent”. A Big Mac may be a price that real people pay often.
  • The price reflects not only food costs, but also costs for hourly labor and benefits, commercial real estate, transportation, energy, manufacturing equipment and packaging.
  • Until a few years ago, changes in the price of a Big Mac tracked changes in the government CPI (Consumer Price Index) fairly well.

In recent years, Big Macs have gone up rather more than the CPI. Why? Several different explanations could be put forward. The least likely explanation is that McDonald’s has suddenly become inefficient at making Big Macs.

Another possible explanation is that the government keeps toying with how it calculates CPI, looking for ways to understate consumer price inflation. That is, to hide it. Which is in the government’s direct, financial interest: that way, the government can make smaller inflation adjustments to Social Security, income tax brackets, inflation-indexed bonds, etc. Plus the political optics are better.

Courtesy of Forbes, Big Mac Index Shows Official CPI Underreports Inflation:

What is the graph saying?

  • In 1996, the average Big Mac cost $2.36.
  • Going by the government CPI (and assuming Big Macs are still a good reality check), the average Big Mac in 2013 should have cost $3.49.
  • But it really cost $4.33, which is a lot more. (The price virtually doubled in 17 years; and of the increase, nearly half is “unexpected” by the CPI.)
  • The increase started in the early Naughties, but more of it is recent, in the last six years.

So, whom do you believe? Our noble government which always looks out for you? Or your lyin’ eyes, when you go to buy a Big Mac?

I believe my eyes. I’m more likely to to hit Starbucks or In-N-Out Burger than McDonald’s; but in all 3 cases, I’m always a little shocked at how their prices have gone up from 10, 5 or even just 1-2 years ago. Poor people, who may eat at fast-food restaurants often, must really feel it.

Bonus question: Why would things have changed in the last six years? Who has been in charge of the government – that is, both the CPI calculation, and our general economic policies?

Control Freaks Are the Same Everywhere

In Iran, six people were arrested by the country’s Islamic Government for making a dance video and posting it to YouTube. The Government called the video “vulgar,” and “harmful to public chastity.”

In the USA, a misanthrope who has made himself wealthy and famous warning that Global Warming dooms us all called for all climate change skeptics to be jailed. His PBS Interviewer lamented that there weren’t enough prisons to house all the skeptics.

In Saudi Arabia, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has sentenced five men to 32 years in prison and 4,500 lashes for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

In Pennsylvania, a group calling itself the “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” has begun a campaign to ban bacon from the local ballpark. In Connecticut, public schools are trying to ban chocolate milk in order to comply with the dictates of the First Lady of the United States.

Some people think the whole point of their lives is to deprive other people of joy; and they are invariably drawn to positions of power and government.

“It’s our choices that make us fat, not McDonald’s”

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 8:16 pm - March 8, 2014.
Filed under: Amazing Stories,Food,Health & medical,Social Issues

I do NOT recommend this guy‘s diet, but he claims to have lost 56 lbs and counting, eating all McDonald’s – all the time.

Get regular exercise and honestly limit your calorie intake, and you will moderate your weight…it’s math. (Or science; take your pick.)

Paula Deen and more, at American Thinker

I hadn’t visited there in awhile, but longtime commenter TGC put me on to this piece about Paula Deen. As many have noted, the frenzy against her seems ridiculously out-of-proportion: one occasion of saying the N-word privately 30 years ago, and her career now is to be destroyed.

The Deen witch-hunt may be an exercise in minority privilege, or/and, as Voshell’s piece suggests, it may be that Deen is several things which the Left simply hates: a Christian; a proponent of (delicious) lard, butter and sugar; a self-made woman (who doesn’t much push leftism); and more.

Once you’ve had one, you can’t stop. Some other AT pieces caught my eye:

UPDATE (from Dan): There is a little more to the Paula Deen story, suggesting that she was negligent in allowing her brother to engage in “juvenile behavior” while working at a restaurant they both owned (via Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt available by subscription).

UPDATE (from Jeff): That link still doesn’t give enough to justify firing her. “A moonlight-and-magnolias romantic view of Southern culture and history”, and a “redneck clod” brother who (gasp!) needs drug treatment and watches pr0n…Probably not news to Deen’s public.

UPDATE (from Jeff): What rusty just added in the comments from blacklegalissues.com, would be more serious. Systematic abuse of minority employees, something everyone should condemn – if it’s true. First question to ask is, whether it is true. If it is, I’ll join with the Deen-bashers.

UP-UPDATE (from Dan): I saw that post yesterday from blacklegalissues.com on Facebook and had planned on looking into it as time allows. If that story bears out, then, Paula Deen’s actions are in a word, despicable and she merits the condemnation she has been receiving in the media (and more). But, my preliminary research suggests that her greatest crime appears to be a failure to supervise a mean-spirited sibling; he may be responsible for the worst excesses.

Still, this bears looking into.

UPDATE (from Jeff): Worth noting that Deen is reportedly a Democrat, and that Jimmy Carter defended her a few days ago. Since I know that Democrats can be racists and have a tradition of racism in their party, I don’t take either of those as necessarily in Deen’s favor; for now, I am really just noting them.

The Food Network has fired Paula Deen; Will HBO fire Bill Maher?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:45 am - June 23, 2013.
Filed under: Food,Liberal Hypocrisy,Mean-spirited leftists

Both used ugly epithets to describe other individuals.

Tales of the Obama Economy: Do-it-yourself and make-your-own

Lately I’ve noticed more and more posts from people on Facebook about how to do a, b, or c yourself or to make your own x, y, or z.  It could be that my personal social network overlaps more with the “crunchy” demographic which shops at the local food co-op and Whole Foods, but it could be a larger social trend.  I think it is a little of both, but I’m curious to see if other GayPatriot readers have noticed the same thing.

In the past three years or so, I’ve started learning to make many more kinds of things for myself than I had in the past.  Most of the stuff I make for myself has been foods that I used to buy at the store, and the transition originally occurred because I wanted to have a healthier diet.    I was a tolerable cook before, but I depended on lots of store-bought staples.  But the more I’ve learned to do for myself, the more I’ve wanted to learn how to do, as well.  I’d say that while I was originally motivated by a concern for health, as time has gone on, I’ve also been motivated by the increased sense of independence in learning how to make things I used to buy, by the ability to control my own ingredients, and by the opportunity to be able to make better quality foods than I would have bought in the past and still have a cost savings.

Although I started with food, I’ve also made some of my own household cleaning products, and I’ve considered making my own personal care items, as well.   I have a friend who makes and sells her own deodorant and is thinking of making other products, as well. But there’s no need to stop there.  When television stations switched from analog to digital broadcasting, I built my own digital TV antenna using coat hangers and a 1×4 using plans I had found online.

One of my favorite websites to browse in the last few years has been Ana-White.com which contains hundreds of build-your-own plans for furniture.  The site, which is maintained by a self-described “homemaker” in Alaska, was originally called “Knock Off Wood” because it started with home-built knock-offs of items found at stores and in catalogs.  I’ve not attempted building any furniture yet, but I would like to try doing so at some point in time.

I haven’t taken the time to research this topic yet in depth, but it’s my belief that part of what we’re seeing with this trend is a reaction to the Obama economy.  As people worry more about their finances, frugality and independence become more important–at least for a certain segment of the population.  During the Great Depression, these kinds of household arts were quite common, partly out of necessity and frugality, but also partly because the population wasn’t quite as urbanized.   Store-bought items were  both a rarity and a luxury.  I don’t see it as a coincidence that make-your-own and do-it-yourself projects are proliferating these days, much as they did during the Depression years.

What do other people think?  Have you noticed this trend, as well?  Have you made such changes personally?  Are there items that you used to buy at the store that you’ve started making for yourself?

The Dietary Delusion

Over the past few weeks, I have awakened to hear snippets of stories such as this one on NPR about “the obesity epidemic.”  The stories are all part of a series reporting on a recent poll undertaken by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.  The poll looked at the attitudes and the self-reported actions of parents towards the ways their children ate and about their children’s activity levels.

Among the key findings of the survey highlighted in the NPR reports have been these two points:

  • “Recent public opinion polls show that most American adults think obesity is a serious problem for society, but most parents in the poll here are not concerned their own children will become overweight as adults.”
  • “In most cases, parents don’t seem to believe that the way their child ate on a given day is likely to make them gain unhealthy weight.”

The NPR story linked above blames a psychological factor known as “optimism bias,” and says that parents may think they are doing the right things, but really they are just poorly informed and/or deluding themselves.

Since this is an ongoing series on NPR, one can expect it to culminate with an interview with Michelle Obama or someone behind her “Let’s Move” campaign, or with a series of suggestions for more government action, or calls for more spending on government nutrition programs, or possibly with all of the above.

What hasn’t occurred to the geniuses at NPR, though, is that perhaps the parents really have been listening to the advice coming from the government and the media for the past twenty five years and they really do think they are doing the right things, but the advice is flawed.

Ronald Reagan famously remarked that “the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”   In recent years, Gary Taubes has become the best-known of those who have challenged the nutritional and dietary orthodoxy which has been promoting a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.  Writing in Newsweek last spring, he explained that:  “The problem is, the solutions this multi-level campaign promotes are the same ones that have been used to fight obesity for a century—and they just haven’t worked.”

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How’s your coffee?

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 4:54 pm - January 9, 2013.
Filed under: Economy,Food,Free Enterprise

Like most things that people need to live, coffee has gone up these last few years. Even after a big decline in the last 18 months, the commodity still costs about three times what it did ten years ago.

If you read Zero Hedge, you may have seen a recent item from Daily Finance on declining coffee quality. It seems that the brand producers have lately been swapping in the cheaper Robusta beans for the better-tasting Arabica.

“Why should I care?”, you ask. Because this is a good little example of inflation at work. Many things have gone up a lot, in the last 10 years. But the coffee makers don’t want to ask people to pay (much) more. They figure, people will settle for Robusta, a worse taste.

So, retail coffee prices rise don’t rise (as much as the commodity has). Then the government elves who compile the consumer inflation statistics say: Look, the consumer price isn’t rising! Whee, no inflation! If you say “But Robusta isn’t as good”, they say: It’s a change in consumer preferences! Not inflation!

Except… it was inflation. Declining quality – the substitution of inferior goods, for roughly the same money – means a lower living standard. That’s one form of inflation; especially if it keeps happening.

GayPatriot LiveTweeting Experience – 6:30PM ET Tonight!

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 5:21 pm - August 8, 2012.
Filed under: Food

I’m becoming a part-time foodie blogger!  Tonight, the PatriotPartner (John) and I are going to our favorite restaurant in Charlotte again — Blue Restaurant & Bar.

Blue has special dinners regularly and tonight is a wine pairing dinner with special entrees matched to wines from the Justin Vineyards in Paso Robles, CA.

Below the jump is the menu for this evening.  Live tweeting begins at 6:30PM Eastern.  Consider this alternative programming to the Olympics.

And no tape delay!

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

MENU BELOW THE JUMP….

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A GayPatriot LiveTweet Event Tonight!

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 6:16 pm - July 18, 2012.
Filed under: Carolina News,Food

In just about an hour, my partner John and I are going to be embarking on a social media event of our own making — we are going to live-tweet dinner!

But let me step back…

One of the first restaurants we went to when we moved to Charlotte in 2006 was Blue Restaurant & Bar in Uptown Charlotte. The food has always been terrific, the staff great, and the wine selection awesome.

Well, I found out last week that Blue has a new menu. So John and I decided to check it out and share it — real-time — with all of our Twitter followers.

So check it out, beginning at about 7:15PM on my Twitter feed – @GayPatriot.

Also, please support Blue by liking them on Facebook and following @BlueCharlotte on Twitter.

During the course of the “event” tonight, I’m going to ask my followers to help me pick my eating selections. Hey, what could go wrong?

-Bruce (GayPatriot)