But if prices did go up for everyone that didn’t live to 85, what would happen with the rest of us?
I don’t think we’d get rid of anything – not prices, not brand names, not prices for all kinds of stuff, not even prices for items that might not be at or near their original retail price. I don’t think we’d get rid of anything– not prices, not brand names, not prices for all kinds of stuff, not even prices for items that might not be at or near their original retail price. I doubt that a giant stock of low-priced groceries and fast food would last much longer. Instead, I think we’d start moving to stores that cost less for a shorter period of time (say, a year or two) and more cheaply over time. And a few new groceries that have been in the market for a few years would be removed or at least limited in time. And maybe the shelves just got crowded. And we might just start shopping at more big-box retailers– like Target and Walgreen’s, Costco, Kroger, etc. Maybe some of those stores, with just a few new stores, would have enough customers to pay more (if you just bought $1,000 worth of groceries instead of $5,000). As for grocery prices, they’re likely to keep going up for at least the next decade: Prices for fruits and vegetables would continue to go up and up, on average, as we became more affluent and as food waste went up. This is all very interesting and potentially helpful for poor families. But it also means fewer healthy and affordable foods available for families that tend to be hungry. And it means that our children are less likely to get enough to eat. And there’s no denying that it sucks for people who don’t want to put too much effort into putting food on the table. So as a society we’re probably going to have some of us going back to the “Big Three” food sellers in supermarkets, with smaller-format grocers on the rise. But I suspect the number of big-box stores, even if they keep prices down, will be reduced, not eliminated. It’s also not terribly helpful for families to spend a fortune for “healthy” foods, when the majority of the population still goes to food deserts and can’t afford healthy food or nutritious food for the kids. My friend Susan said that her daughter’s school cafeteria didn’t even have chicken nuggets. And her kids might eat too many junk foods, so when she bought lunch at her first school lunch, her kids had no choice but to pay an extra fee. It’s also sad to see folks like Susan Sontag and Ellen Willis complaining about our overrepresentation of “high-end” groceries like Trader Joe’s at the expense of local and organic foods. And I certainly hate that some of us, including those of us who live in cities, should have to pay for things like milk at the same prices as a person who lives somewhere else in rural America. (You can do a rough calculation to see why these prices are ridiculously high.) I want to point out that our culture is also creating an unfair situation for small businesses. If we had a more equitable economy, many small businesses like mine would not exist. The average worker, including those in small businesses, makes below $15 an hour– roughly the median wage. Most workers also don’t stay long enough to fully realize their full potential; many, perhaps most, spend up to half of their work hours at work, and few take time to train their kids. When people take time off to participate in their community and their church, that’s a great thing. But a lot of folks who might otherwise be working full-time can’t take the time off and stay employed, and many new businesses are taking the employees of these businesses away from their own families. It’s really terrible.
But as a society, I think we can do what we can to reduce the wage gap. You can start by making sure that more people make more money– whether they are part-time or full-time – in other jobs. So what we do, in addition to paying people more with all sorts of taxes, is tax them less. If we make sure that more people are in good jobs, that is going to make working for someone else much more difficult– both for people who don’t make the money needed to do the work, but, especially, for workers who will never see that money. And when employers cut jobs, it takes a lot of income away from workers, meaning that the economy will suffer. By the way: I know that some people will argue that there is no such thing as a lower corporate tax rate– that we can’t afford to raise taxes because we’ll just bankrupt the country. This argument is not only bogus , it is also wrong – some of the best ideas for bringing down the cost of health care, transportation and housing have come from raising taxes, such as those in