Even if you are an atheist, you probably have faith. Almost all Americans have faith in the metal tokens, printed slips of paper and electronic impulses that we call money. We have faith in them to provide us with food, shelter, clothing and some pleasures.
We also fear invisible, malignant forces that threaten our well-being. One such force is inflation. There are signs of inflation in many places. One inflation sign was an actual sign—a billboard that I used to notice along Highway 101 in northern Atascadero. It advertised Motel 6.
The Motel 6 chain started in 1962. In the beginning they’d rent you a room for one night for $6. The evidence of inflation on the billboard was the current room rate that it quoted. It was always much more than $6.
I haven’t noticed that sign lately, but I can still find the room rates on the website for the Paso Robles Motel 6. This week it said the rate for one person for one night is $53.99. I figure that’s an 800 percent increase since 1962. That’s the power of inflation.
You can see the power of inflation almost everywhere. I recently stopped at a Denny’s restaurant. As usual I ordered the Grand Slam breakfast, which in the old days cost less than $2.
Now it’s called the Build Your Own Slam and costs $6.49. But, to be fair, I must say I was able to choose hash browns in place of the sausage and I could have chosen several other substitutions. But a 200 percent increase is still inflation.
And, being an old guy, I remember our son Mike’s birth in 1955. Mamie’s medical insurance didn’t cover births, so we had to pay for everything, but our total cost was still less than $500. Today that wouldn’t cover an ambulance ride.
I’m also old enough to fondly remember Five and Ten Cent stores. These days the only things that come close to those Five and Dimes are dollar stores. That’s inflation.
Also I remember when $1 would buy you four or five gallons of gas, with your windshield washed and oil checked. Now, if you shop around, you’ll pay $4 for one gallon and serve yourself.
And although I can’t remember 100 years ago, I did find the CoinNews website U.S. Inflation Calculator that goes back that far. It says if you bought something in 1913 for $20, that same item today would cost you $469.02.
Many economists these days believe a little inflation, maybe 2 percent per year, is a good thing. But one economist, Leon Henderson, who headed the U.S. Office of Price Administration early in World War II said, “A little inflation is like a little pregnancy, it keeps growing.”
Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.