Dollar Drain editorial: Real people need real solutions
Most readers probably didn’t need our four-part Dollar Drain series this past week to tell them what they already know: All facets of the economy are hurting and our wallets are being stretched so thin that choices we never thought we’d have to make are dominating our weekly household budget decisions.
To those in the upper stratosphere of income, the continuing economic downturn is merely a blip on the radar. But those of us who dip into principal just to buy a candy bar and soda know the spike in health care costs and rising fuel prices are forcing many to live from paycheck to paycheck.
What the series did is put a real face on the problem, talking to regular folks who are struggling with the alarming spike in food prices that saw the biggest one-year increase – 4 percent – since 1990 and an expected equivalent hike this year.
The prices, like everything else, have been fueled by increases in raw food prices coupled with higher transportation and processing costs.
And those higher fuel costs are hitting those of us who drive cars as well at the same time that we have to cope with an average increase in health insurance costs in Massachusetts of 77 percent since 2001 while wages failed to keep up with the increases, hovering around 4.3 percent over 2006.
The series gave good “common cents” suggestions from your friends and neighbors about how they save money on their grocery bills, gas and other areas. We think sharing ideas with each other is one way to stave off the wolves at the door but the average family needs help beyond advice.
While those in Washington may be reluctant to use the “R” words – recession and reality – there is no doubt that the faltering housing market and Wall Street struggles must be addressed before the elephant in the living room becomes a depression.
A comprehensive measure to aid struggling homeowners, unlike the erroneously titled Foreclosure Prevention Act the Senate passed Thursday that is more about tax breaks for businesses than a lifeline for homeowners, needs to be put in place.
Congress also needs to enact measures to wean us of our dependence on foreign oil, with tax breaks and incentives for alternative energy.
Locally, Massachusetts officials have done well to implement more stringent guidelines on lenders and helping debt-ridden families try to keep their homes. Lawmakers have also acted to trigger investment and research into alternative energy while promoting energy-efficient vehicles.
But the bottom line is it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. The best we can do is help each other. If you have any suggestions, let us help you share them by going to the series on our Web site and add your comments.
The Patriot Ledger