Free Money, the Cost of Living and Our Doomed Future

In Columns, Nation

One thing I really like to do, which seems kind of innate, is to get out and walk. Not to lose weight or anything, but just to walk. One misses too much when traveling by car or bike. Walking allows one to notice things that would otherwise be overlooked. What amazes me, while on these walks, is the amount of free money that’s out there. Yes, you read correctly. Free money.

There is money all over the streets in the form of aluminum. Cans that is, and on one recent walking excursion, I initiated a small experiment. I scrunched a couple of plastic grocery bags into my back pocket and headed out. Walking along the sidewalk picking up cans as I went, some were crushed by vehicles, but the ones that weren’t; I ended up crushing them myself with a stomp of my foot. Fitting as many cans as I could in one bag that I found on a roughly 5-mile round trip, I later found out that one bag of cans amounted to around 3 bucks worth of aluminum at current market prices. I had gathered two bags on my first try.

For fifteen days I did this. Some days were better than others, but I always came back with at least one bag full of cans. In that time, I had amassed $60.00 worth of aluminum that people just threw away. Now, there are all kinds of math one could do here, but basically, it boils down to an extra fifteen hundred bucks a year in my pocket. That is not peanuts and not only am I staying healthy by walking, but I am also cleaning up the environment, in a small way, and getting paid by others for doing it. One hundred and twenty dollars a month doesn’t buy what it used to, but it sure helps.

Speaking of the price of goods, I remember when I was young, my mom used to complain about the prices after shopping for groceries. She would remember when there were 10 cent loaves of bread, nickel soda pops, and penny candy when she was a little girl. That was back in the forties and fifties when she was growing up.  I remember back myself when I would run to the corner store for her.  Back in the seventies, a dollar would buy a pack of cigarettes and a 16-ounce coke, (in a glass bottle), and still get change back. Could you believe that minors could buy tobacco back then?

Depending on where you live, that same pack of smokes and a 20-ounce coke, in a plastic bottle, today would cost over 6 bucks, on average. My mom would have a sheer heart-attack today if she were still alive. I had it pretty good while I was growing up and she even had it better.

Which brings me to this stark reality: if in the seventies my mom complained how prices have jumped twenty years before and I am complaining to my children now, imagine what our kids are going to face when shopping with their little ones? A ten-dollar coke? And what kind of bottle will it be in then? Probably synthetic plastic. People will probably need a lawyer to garner a class-action lawsuit from the cancer-causing agents ingested from drinking coke from those containers.

What the hell are we going to be able to afford? It seems that social security won’t be around in my future, much less Medicaid or Medicare. For over thirty years I have been paying into the system. I have been helping to support the current crop of elderly recipients. Who is going to help pay for my retirement besides what I provide for myself in the way of my own IRAs, 401k’s, and such?

The baby-boomers provided a huge wage base to feed the SSI machine. Now that we are all starting to retire there are not nearly enough workers out there to sustain the system. We are in big trouble and we should all truly weep for the future. Guess I’ll just start playing the lottery.


Jeff Payne

blogger, photographer, environmentalist

Mobile Sliding Menu