Friday, May 13, 2011

This just in: Hitchhiking back in style

(Originally posted 5/11/11 but had an error)

We all follow the latest styles and trends (as responsible citizens of course). Who doesn’t want the newest hot item if it has the potential to make us happier, better people? Knowing what items make life easier is especially helpful when it comes time to get those gifts we’ve been putting off getting because we didn’t know what to get (don’t deny it). If you ever want to know what is “in demand” at the moment, there is a guide that is easy and free. Save your money for the US Weekly Royal Wedding issue (on stands now for just $9.99). By “guide”, I mean your local radio station (if your boss is around, claim you are conducting “market research”). What is your favorite station giving away today?

Mine is giving away “cash for gas” cards. Upon reflection this makes perfect sense. Gas prices everywhere are through the roof, and these prices are probably not going down anytime soon. As noted in a recent Economist piece (a.k.a. “the Bible”) our country has lower taxes on gasoline than pretty much every other developed country, signaling the limited room for government intervention (if anything the article makes the case to increase taxes). In other words, move over Ryan Seacrest (and your complete takeover of daytime radio), DJ Toby is the new genius. Gas gift cards are a great gift idea for pretty much everyone.

Further evidence of this gift being a great idea is in the numbers: figures released today show that in March the U.S. bought $31.3 billion (with a “b”) more in petroleum (the stuff we need for gasoline) from other countries than they did from us. This gap is about $6 billion higher than it was in February. This means we have a biig debt with other countries (called "trade deficit") that is accruing over time, especially with petroleum producing countries, that we are going to have to pay back (and probably with interest). Further affecting the amount of this debt are the ever increasing prices we have to pay for petroleum.  According to estimates released yesterday, import prices for petroleum increased by 7.2% in April over March, and 37% over the past year!  Yikes. 

Let's face facts, even though there is a lot of economic work out there that makes a compelling argument against forced holiday gifts, instead suggesting that we give gifts as we see stuff the recipient would like (perhaps for such silly occasions as “no reason”), the reality is our loved ones (us included, don’t deny it) expect gifts on those forced holidays. You cannot show up to your friend’s wedding empty handed (that’s like a “go directly to jail, do not pass go” card).   When that time comes, you can stand ready.  Just do the math: More oil imports + higher prices + our reliance on cars = get that gas gift card for your special someone.  It pays to do that “market research.”

(Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Economist)

No comments:

Post a Comment