One Area of Job Growth And Trash Bag Inflation

Signs of the times, my friends. First, from Flash News, with foreclosures and other repossessions on the rise, there is growth in one employment category: auctioneers. The Worldwide School of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa, (worldwide school of auctioneering? really?) says enrollment is up for its 9-day course teaching people how to talk really really fast without breathing. The cost of learning how to be a professional auctioneer is $1,200.

Inflation Nation
A friend of mine has created his own personal "Totally Fabulously Cost Calculator for the Possible Recession". He created it A YEAR AGO, before the "R" word became official...before Bear , before Lehman, before WaMu and GM . "I am obsessed with the cost of beer, trash bags, tuna, Kleenex, soap and salmon," he says, which may say more about him than the economy.

His findings tracking costs over the last year:

--Hefty Grip trash bags rocketed up 18 percent in price from July to October, from $.34 per bag to $.40. "That's a pantload," my friend exclaims. The bags are of petroleum, and oil reached record prices in July. They have since plummeted, but the prices of the bags have gone UP. I will attribute that to a time lag.

--A Lever 2000 8-pack one year ago was $6.99 at CVS , or $.87 per bar of soap. Now it's $8.29, or $1.04 per bar, a 20 percent hike. Give new meaning to "cleaning you out".

--"The biggest finding is that crackers are dramatically overpriced," my friend says. Carr's Water Biscuits are three times the cost of Stone Wheat Thins, $.39 per ounce versus $1.18. "It's salt on flour, people!"

Finally... LESS-O LOTTO
California's deficit is growing faster than my waistline after a week of eating out in New York (man, I've had a good time). Blogger and friend Jason Jepson wrote that with California going broke, "Are lotto sales up? Lotto sales are supposed to go to schools, yes? So with a bad economy and people looking for a dream - are lotto sales up? And if they are up, where is the extra money going? Finally, can I expect to get paid when I buy a lotto ticket from a bankrupt state?"

Well, yes, lotto money (after prizes and costs) goes to schools. But the state long ago cut spending to schools counting on lotto money to fill the gap. It wasn't that much of a win-win for schools.

As for whether lotto ticket sales are up, California Lottery spokeswoman Monique Blue tells us that sales are off 10 percent from July through October, the latest numbers she provided. "We do know other lotteries around the country are experiencing declines for the same four-month period." We also asked if the state has insurance to guarantee lottery payments in case California goes BK (can a state go BK the way a city or county can?). She says the lottery is self-funded, so that's not an issue.

I would have thought more people would be playing the lotto, given the economy and the $1 price of a ticket. "It is a down economy due to recession, and lottery dollars are discretionary," Blue says. "But we're hopeful to get some relief, and we have a new show hitting airwaves in January that should bring more excitement to lottery and ramp up sales."

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