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View from Main Street.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Ordinary people don't generally put much stock in macroeconomics - the big-picture measurements such as gross domestic product, durable goods sales or the trade deficit. Main Street differs markedly from Wall Street in this respect.

Middle-class wage earners in Lane County get their readings on the economy the same way they decide whether to put on a jacket when they go outside: by how it feels to them right now. The most reliable measure is how much paycheck is left after paying the bills and buying groceries and gas.

And it's not as much as was left from the same paycheck one year ago, that's for sure. Food prices have risen 5 percent since May 2007 - more for some staples such as eggs, up 18.2 percent; and fresh whole milk, up 10.5 percent.

Gasoline prices have shot up an eye-popping 60 percent in Oregon since last August. The average price of a gallon of regular has risen to $4.33 in the Eugene-Springfield area. Roll a typical vehicle with an almost-empty 16-gallon tank to the gas pump and it will cost about $65 for a fill-up.

Sixty-five dollars! Here are a few items listed for sale Friday in The Register-Guard's classified ads for $65: an oak entertainment center with glass doors, shelves and TV slot; a Craftsman 5.5 horsepower self-propelled, big wheel mower; a solid oak coffee table, 50inches by 30inches with shelf; and a TiVo box, 80-hour dual tuner and adapter. Same as a tank of gas. Take your pick.

Evidence of a struggling local economy is all over the headlines, including one that hit painfully close to home for everyone at this newspaper. On June 19, The Register-Guard announced that it was cutting 30 positions, 11.5 percent of its full-time work force, in response to an un precedented revenue shortfall.

Last Wednesday's Business section featured a story about the University of Oregon Index of Economic Indicators having declined in May for the third straight month. That led Tim Duy, author of the UO index, to say Oregon probably has been in at least a mild recession since March.

Another story on that same page announced that Dunham Motors, a Lane County fixture for more than a half-century, will close its new and used car sales business in Florence. "We may be one of the first going out (of business)," General Manager Blake Brewstersaid, "but I seriously doubt we'll be the last."

The current economic climate may feel like a mild recession or something much worse, depending on individual circumstances. But another difference between Main Street and Wall Street is that down on Main Street, no one gets a golden parachute, just a hard landing on unforgiving concrete.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Economy looks pretty rotten to middle class folks
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 14, 2008
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