Prices Ahead

The value of most United States stamps have been falling over the last twenty years, and the CPI has been rising. Critics have claimed that the CPI overemphasizes increases in food, fuel, and housing (until the last few years, at least). We have not understood that price increases have been commodity driven and that many existing goods and non-commodity goods have remained stable in price or even declined, just as stamps have. I refer, of course, to the economic metric known as the “Lawn Blower Index” (the “LBI”), a personal index of prices and inflation which I compiled yesterday. Specifically, it was time to blow some leaves and clean out my garage yesterday, and my gas powered leaf blower was broken. About twenty years ago, I bought this low end gas blower for $149. Home Depot had one yesterday at $99, and it is about ten times easier to use, lighter, and blows more leaves per gallon.
A US #1 sold twenty years ago for about $200 and sells now for about $160. So the cost of a leaf blower has declined about 20% over twenty years on the LBI (My first leaf blower cost 75% of a #1 at the time and today cost 60% of a current #1 price). And that doesn’t even account for the far better quality and ease of use of today’s leaf blowers. The increase in the cost of living is real. Food does cost more. But many of the things that we buy are far cheaper and better than they were twenty years ago. And if many United States stamps still sell at the same or lower prices they did years ago, so do many of the other products that we buy. We should enjoy rather than worry about the affordability of stamps. After all, we can afford more of the stamps we want  for a smaller  portion of our income than was true twenty years ago.
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