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AROUND THE BEND: With fuel prices and everything else going up, what are we supposed to do?

The average on-highway price of a gallon of diesel topped $4 in mid-April for the first time since 2008, and it doesn’t appear that it will go down anytime soon. (The Trucker file photo)

By DOROTHY COX
The Trucker Staff

5/6/2011

I read something the other day that really pushed my mad button.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was quoted by The Associated Press as saying the recent surge in oil prices would “lead only to a modest and short-lived increase in consumer prices.”

Excuse me? How short is “short-lived” and is Ben Bernanke really hurt by high oil prices, anyway?

Diesel topped $4 a gallon last month and gasoline wasn’t far behind and by the time you read this no telling what they will be.

Another AP article said that food prices are expected to go up 3 percent to 4 percent this year, mostly in dairy, meat and coffee, and that clothing prices are expected to go up to offset soaring costs for labor in China and for raw materials such as cotton.

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What about American-made and American-grown products, then? No mention of that.

But my point is this: How can truckers, or any of us non-truckers for that matter, continue to keep our collective heads above water financially when fuel, groceries, clothes and other necessities continue to increase in price?

You’ve got to know we non-Bernanke, non Washington beltway, middle America folks are hurting when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. realizes it’s got to go back to lower-priced items to regain all the customers it lost by stocking fancier stuff with even fancier prices.

You’ll start seeing the new Wal-Mart ads pretty soon, with the slogan, “Low Prices. Every Day. On Everything.”

Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer told AP that the chain had lost consumer confidence in having the lowest prices. Wal-Mart is trying to reverse an almost two-year slide in its U.S. revenue and AP said the giant chain is facing increased price competition from dollar stores and Amazon.com.

Well hello. What do they expect?

Meanwhile, in Dublin, Ga., which is about 130 miles southeast of Atlanta, members of the Beacon of Light Christian Center had planned a prayer meeting last month at the gas pumps outside a Kroger grocery store there.

The pastor said with gas prices at close to $4 they were asking God for help. We are hurting here, politicians. Do you even care?

Although retail sales were up in March, and the “experts” were commenting that higher fuel prices weren’t holding back consumer spending, they forgot to mention that fuel prices hadn’t really gone up as much in March as they did last month.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices are expected by the Energy Information Administration to average $106 a barrel this year and $114 per barrel in 2012.

So excuse me if I don’t faint with giddy frenzy over March retail sales being up.

What are middle- and lower-income people supposed to do?

I’m told by some of you that freight is up a little, but is it up enough to help you stay in business?

And, are you getting the benefit of fuel surcharges or are they gone before they get to you?

Lastly, can any of us survive, can the country survive, when we are hard pressed on every side by higher grocery prices, higher fuel prices and higher almost everything prices?

Home prices are still down, at least here in central Arkansas. But if you don’t make much it’s hard to scrape up enough to put down on a home.

You guys and gals are out on the road every day and your pocketbooks are taking the brunt of all this.

What do you suggest?

Write us; call us, with your answers, suggestions, gripes.

Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at dlcox@thetrucker.com.

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