Article – Greek banks reopen but cash limits remain; taxes soar

An article about how things in Greece are nowadays since they signed up for another austerity plan. Here’s an interesting paragraph:

Ready cash is something Greeks will need as new taxes also came into effect on a wide array of goods and services Monday.

Sales taxes have risen from 13 percent to 23 percent on many basic goods — including some meats, cooking oils, coffee, tea, cocoa, vinegar, salt, flowers, firewood, fertilizer, insecticides, sanitary towels and condoms.

Most European countries already have a VAT on things, but a haircut of 23 percent on something as essential as meat….well, thats a tough pill to swallow. How do you adjust your budget to suddenly accommodate this sudden redirection of your spending power?

Well, if you’re smart, you either have connections or networks to allow you to buy things without paying the tax. (Which, really, has been part of Greece’s problem all along…tax-evasion and avoidance is something of a national pastime there.) This is why cash is awesome….so you restrict cash and limit people to the use of debit cards or other instruments that leave a trail of paper. That trail of paper means that you can’t really evade those pesky taxes. So the winners here will be the folks that have lotsa cash (or cash-like instruments such as gold or silver), folks with heavy stockpiles of goods, and folks who can get those two groups together for a little piece of the action.

Look at that list of things that these new taxes affect….mostly things that are pretty easy to store for the long term. interesting, that.

Prices

After a little bit of a spike, silver has dropped back into the low $16 range. While I think the odds of things ever hitting the stage of bartering for your life with a couple Silver Eagles is pretty slim, I still like having a little box full of tubes of them on hand. It’s some sort of primitive lizard-brain thing, but I just like the feeling of having them even if, from a pencil-and-calculator standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of prices going down, it’s been a long time since I saw gasoline for less than $2. I’m no economic expert but, to my uneducated eye, it appears this is a simple price manipulation by the oil producing nations to make domestic oil production economically unfeasible. If they make oil cheap enough, folks will just by it from them rather than dig up North Dakota and Canada. Simple business economics….undercut the other guy. An unfortunate side effect is that all those guys that were making bank out there in NoDak are now fearing for their jobs. A good reason to always tuck a little something aside when youre doing well…you never know how and when the fat times are gonna come to a screeching halt.

One thing prices have not been going down on is food. Meats are pretty high these days. Even buying in bulk it can add up quickly. We’re buying half a beef from a somewhat-local ranch next month and thats been, in our experience, the way to go. It’s the same price per pound regardless of cut…ground beef or t-bone…its all the same. It’s been a good way for us to buy meat but, obviously, you have to have the freezer space to pull it off. My experience, which you can read about if you search through the blog, has been that you can stuff a properly packaged piece of meat into a deep freeze and have it be just fine five years later.

On paper, its tough being a survivalist…you sink a lot of money into things that, arguably, you might never need. I’ve seen guys die with thousands of dollars tied up in things they owned ‘just in case’. The outside observer might think its a waste of money or ‘misallocation of resources’ but there’s a non-tangible benefit. It’s very much the same benefit you achieve from that other ‘waste of money’ – insurance. It buys me peace of mind and a general feeling of security which, in my opinion, does have a financial value. Still, it’s a hard thing, sometimes, to spend money on ‘just in case’ stuff when what you really want is a WarCraft subscription or a new iPad.

Of course, once the zombies rise it’ll be a whole different story and that money will look like a brilliant allocation.

Article – Panic in Greek pharmacies as hundreds of medicines run short

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries.

Hundreds of drugs are in short supply and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator. The government has drawn up a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies it accuses of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country.

More than 200 medicinal products are affected, including treatments for arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, anaesthetics and immunomodulators used to treat bowel disease.

Why would a drug company ship millions of dollars of product to a customer who apparently has no ability to pay?  Simple math…no one stays in business long when they give away the product instead of selling it.

The lesson here is that when an economy collapses (or comes close to it) those convenient modern miracles may not keep coming. Of course, anyone with hard currency (cough*gold*cough) shouldnt have any trouble getting their drugs since there’s always someone somewhere who can deliver for the right price.

Oh yeah, silver is down…….

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

I’ve been so wrapped up with the gun stuff going on (and rightly so, I believe) that I completely overlooked the fact that silver has dropped below $30 and is, at this moment, right around $28.75…time to buy!

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I’m fortunate that I have a buddy in the gold/silver biz (and, wow, has he been busy lately or what!) so he only gives me the mildest of dirty looks when I ask him to drop by the shop with just one or two silver rounds or Eagles for me. (Honestly, I prefer the rounds for the better value but the Eagles are probably more ‘recognized’.) It sucks that between the sputtering economy (and how are those job numbers these days, anyway?) and the gun control shenanigans it’s mighty hard to decide which direction to point my disposable dollars at. (Although, after typing the term ‘disposable dollars’, I think I’ve figured out where to point that wallet.)

Really, the ‘investment’ plan is really the same as it’s always been: gun stuff, metals, food. (Not necessarily in that order.)

I realize that there’s a certain demographic (a short-sighted one, in my opinion) that says “If you cant eat it or shoot it whats the point of it? When we’re all living in caves and eating our children no one will want your Eagles!” and thinks buying this sort of thing is a waste of time. That’s cool, I can respect that..I disagree with it, but I respect that you have an opinion. So take your money and buy more mags, ammo, land, guns, food, fuel, clothes, meds, household supplies, tires, and tools…because while we can disagree about the metals thing, I think we can agree that there’s virtually no point in holding onto anything more than a small amount of cash when it’s looking more and more like the only economic courses available to this country involve bank runs and inflation.

Article – Why your toilet paper is shrinking

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Everything shrinks in a recession: GDP, investment portfolios, even the products on store shelves. Consumer  goods companies know that customers won’t go for price increases during a downturn. Instead they often use a different tactic to offset things such as new competition or the rising cost of raw materials: cutting quantity while maintaining price. Yet it may not be obvious that your ice cream or OJ containers have shrunk. Manufacturers must note new specs on packaging, but the changes don’t have to be advertised (ever seen a now smaller! label?). Here’s a look at one of the most recent examples:

This still comes as news to some people. Apparently, there are still folks out there that don’t actually read the labels on the containers of food they purchase. I’ve been noticing this for a while now. Most notably my 1/2 gal. of Breyers has been melting faster and faster as the packaging continues to shrink and the price remains the same. Same for the spaghetti sauce I buy. The price stays the same, the quantity shrinks and the net result is you pay more for what youre buy but you don’t really notice.

This is kind of a ‘soft inflation’…it’s happening, but it’s being quietly slipped in under cover of careful labelling and packaging. One of the reasons I notice is because a) I almost always evaluate prices by comparing price/oz. and b) I have items purchased last year that I can compare against. This has been going on for a while and if more folks were aware of it more folks might realize how their purchasing power is slipping away.

This is another reason we stock up on things when we can. That can of vegetables that cost $1 per 15 oz. this year may wind up buying an identical sized can next year that only holds 13 oz. at the same price. When you see those sales, stock up.

We’re planning on hitting the local grocery stores Friday and seeing what kinda discounts we can get on turkeys. ‘Cause, let’s face it, prices ain’t going down.

Car rental, Walking Dead, economic recovery

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Buddy of mine in NY is learning a few things about post-disaster mopping-up that I never considered. For instance, think about this: the insurance guy comes to your house, takes one look at your car, and doesn’t even say anything other than “Yeah, that things toast. We’ll cut a check for you in the morning.” Now you have no car, but a nice check coming to go pick out another. What do you drive in the meantime? Well, your insurance also covers rental, right? So you call the rental agencies and thats when you discover that every car within fifty miles has been rented and the waiting list reads like a phone book.

So…next time you might want to rent a car in advance of things. If your car doesnt get washed out to sea, you can always cancel the reservation.

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Latest episode of Walking Dead: not gonna miss her at all.

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Since the nation douled-down on four more years of Carter II, I’m pessimistic about an economic recovery in the near future. (Or, an economic recovery that doesn’t require something drastic to jumpstart it.)

Really, I anticipate no major changes in anything we do around here in regards to the election results. About the only thing different will be a bit of an emphasis on securing more gun-related items and countering further economic malaise. Otherwise, business as usual.

As I expected, calling most of the major magazine and AR manufacturers and vendors was an exercise in futility. Most simply had their phones go straight to voicemail. Most of the answering messages started off with “Due to higher than normal call volume…” and ended with “..delays of six to eight weeks.”

Theres a few dissenting voices I hear from, from time to time, saying I have nothing to worry about…between the administrations lack of movement on gun control (cough*fastnfurious*cough), the Heller decision, and whatnot theres no signs that new regulation is in the works. Well, if that’s true (which I dont thin it is), then wheres the harm in putting two, three or seven more Glocks and AR’s in the safe, hmm?

Snow, Jarbox, Coke increase

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Well, it went from 75-80 degree days to snow like *that* [snaps fingers]. Guess it’s time to pull out the cold weather gear and do all the ‘winter is almost here’ stuff.

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The wife brought this product – Jarbox – to my attention. Definitely one of those ‘why didnt I think of it’ kind of products. I figured if you had to transport canning jars you could just get some foam pipe insulation, cut it to length, and make little beer cozies for each bottle. This seems handier, although a good bit more expensive. I’ll have to see if theres some sort of discount program available or something. Be nice if they had it in a size to accommodate pint jars as well.

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I don’t have a lot of self-destructive vices…I dont drink, smoke, do drugs, etc. My biggest bad-for-my-health vice is that I suck down a few cans of Coke every day. Okay, maybe more than a few…probably about…mmmm….five or six a day. So when we go grocery shopping I pay close attention to the price of the little red cans of death. For quite a while now the best price I could find was $0.27/can at either WalMart or CostCo. Since both places had the same price I figured that was about the best price they were going to get from the company. Went up to CostCo the other day and, surprise, it was now $0.31/can. Headed over to WallyWorld and it was also $0.31/can there as well. Obviously the new floor price was $0.31….a 15% increase. Why the increase? Price of corn syrup going up, perhaps? Whatever. The point is that a 15% increase in the price of *any* grocery product is worth standing up and taking notice of. True, this only comes out to about a $0.24/day increase in my drinking habits but that translates into $7.20/month…which is about the cost of a case of Coke. In short, I’m paying for an extra case of Coke per month but not getting it.

I expect these sorts of revelations about groceries to continue as our economic …turbulence…continues. This is why, folks, you gotta make every dollar count.

Why economic issues translate into personal safety ones

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Fella comes to the door yesterday, clipboard in hand, to take a survey for a political candidate. Among the questions was “What is the most important issue to you this election?” and he rattled off things like the economy, debt, jobs, immigration, etc, etc.

Among that list was jobs, federal spending, the deficit and the economy. To me, they all pretty much roll together into one big category of “the economy”.

I was talking to the wife later about the questions and she asked me why I said the economy. To me, that encompassed the most amount of things that directly and indirectly affected our lives. Bad economy? Higher prices. Bad economy? Higher unemployment. Bad economy? Business failures. Bad economy? Higher taxes.  Bad economy? More desperate people.

Once in a while, I get asked why I would prepare with fuel, food, ammo and that sort of thing against what I forsee as an economic disaster. After all, if it’s an economic disaster then all you need to guard against it is an economic defense…such as a big ol’ box of cash and gold, right?

Nope. Here’s todays example..a fella laid off from his job comes back with a gun and shoots former coworkers. And although the story is still very fresh, and the details will probably change, what remains true is that in a bad economy more people are getting laid off, putting them under more stress as they try to keep their homes and their families together and some of those folks are just gonna snap under that stress and take some folks with them. And that doesn’t even include the folks who don’t snap but simply start knocking over 7-11′s, daylight burglaries and doing stickups at ATM’s to keep their houses they couldn’t afford.

So, indirectly, thats how a bad economy affects your safety. It creates a larger group of desperate and unstable people who at some point are just going to go off the rails and commit acts of violence. And this is why in a bad economy it isn’t far-fetched to believe that your preparations and plans against that bad economy should take into account some serious personal safety plans…like things that have triggers and magazines.

Silver > $30

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Well, that was fun while it lasted.

I can’t tell the future but, hey, it’s an election year with a lot at stake. Might be some folks are stocking up against the possibility of continued economic fail.

Of course, it could also drop back below $30 as people see ‘$30′ as their ‘sell trigger’ and unload a buncha the stuff. Who knows?

In the meantime:

Link – Hazlitt’s ‘Economics in one lesson’

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

Hazlitt’s ‘Economics in one lesson’ is, I think, an excellent book. It’s very dated material, since it was written shortly after WW2 when the economy was very different than it is now, but it’s one main message remains: “…the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

Long-term thinking….yeah, I’m a fan.

Anyway, here’s an online copy for you to read at your leisure. You may not agree with it, you may think it is simplistic, dated, or biased in some areas, but it does get you to think.

How does this relate to preparedness? Well, first of all, looking at the long term effects of things is definitely in the realm of preparedness. Secondly, understanding why some things in the economy happen the way they do is also a big advantage…forewarned is forearmed, and all that.

I’d be interested in hearing the opinions of those of you who read the whole thing.