When I was in high school, the cool thing was to cruise Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Although cruising was technically illegal, there was a Bob’s Big Boy hamburger joint at each end of the route, so you could always safely tell a cop you were on your way to Bob’s. One of the first items of business before embarking on a night of cruising was to poll the passengers for gas money. A few bucks would suffice; gas was 29 cents a gallon.
Gas now runs around 3 bucks, and the simple explanation, without getting wrapped up in Middle East geopolitics, is inflation. Inflation is nothing more than the rise in price of goods and services. Economists will tell you that some is good, too much is bad, and deflation is dangerous. No matter how the experts spin it, most of us can agree that inflation sucks.
The inflation conversation these days usually focuses on healthcare and private college tuition. Since 1984, these two critical items have risen in cost by 425% and 311% respectively. In the same period, household income to pay for these has risen only 128%. As bad as all that sounds, none of these is number one on the inflation list. That honor belongs to political campaigns, which weigh in at 555%.
It’s easy to brush this off, since healthcare and tuition are probably coming out of your checkbook, while some deep-pocket special interest group is paying for the mailers and TV ads. As a society, we can’t afford to overlook the underlying message; where we spend our money says a lot about who we are. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)