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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Less isn't more

by Mike Masterson | August 10, 2021 at 3:00 a.m.

When does less appear more than it is? Answer: Throughout much of America's commerce today.

At least that's what I've been learning as inflation and the effects of covid inflate the price of virtually everything we need while the contents shrivel.

If that can or bag of chips appears to contain fewer salty crunchies than what you'd become accustomed to purchasing in years past, it's not your imagination.

Without officially announcing or admitting reductions in quantity, manufacturers have tried to hold the line on their expenses through selling us less product for our money.

The practice even has its own name: shrinkflation.

As CBS News reported, "The rising price of everything from berries to corn is placing food producers and grocery stores in a bind, pushing them to decide whether to increase the sticker price or shrink the package and charge the same amount."

Insider reported that Charmin toilet tissue rolls once held 650 sheets. Today even its mega super rolls don't have that many and sheet sizes have shrunk. Walmart's Great Value paper towels dwindled from 168 sheets to 120 without a price change. And Hershey has trimmed its 18-ounce package of dark chocolate Kisses by about two ounces. Hefty Mega Pack bags have gone from 90 to 80 in a box. General Mills has shrunk its family-sized cereal boxes from 19.5 ounces to 18.1 ounces.

Such adjustments are inevitable as inflation takes hold in a free-market economy where commerce thrives on profits that enable companies to remain in business. The only other alternative is to keep the amount of products the same and charge more for them as inflation takes its toll on income.

Because it's being done pretty much outside public awareness, the process can feel deceptive, especially for those who don't understand why it is happening, and how many companies squeezed from both ends in the age of covid are pulling out all stops to meet their expenses and remain in business.

Education rankings

Arkansas has the best overall early education system of all the states, according to the WalletHub website's 2021 report "States with the Best and Worst Early Education Systems."

Pre-school enrollment dropped by as much as 17 percent during the covid-19 pandemic, reported WalletHub, which said, "In order to determine the best early education systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 12 key metrics." Nebraska, District of Columbia, Maryland and Alabama rounded out the top five cumulative rankings.

Arkansas ranked third in the share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K and Head Start, fifth in income requirement for state pre-K eligibility, 10th for total reported spending per child enrolled in preschool, 12th in monthly child care co-payment fees as a percentage of family income and 13th in total Head Start spending per child enrolled in preschool.

Not a bad showing for our state's early education system.

Disrespectful behavior

In response to my recent column on the increasing disrespect for each others becoming increasingly prevalent across society, I received considerable feedback, including this from David Johnson:

"Mike--What's the answer? The following is from the hundreds of western novels, biographies, historical fiction, etc., I've read over the years. Let's start on the frontier in the 19th century where in most locales there was no law.

"Most men carried a gun on the hip, in the waistband, or rifle in the hand. This was not a sign of aggression, rather simple but certain protection for themselves, family, ranch or store.

"But as a result, most people in town or on the ranch were very careful of how they talked to one another. And women were treated with utmost respect and deference. Any other behavior would not be tolerated. Disrespect, rudeness, was seldom seen in either gender, as such behavior would be met with a painful consequence.

"Times and methods changed with civilization. Police took over protection. Guns were put away. And rudeness, disrespect among the citizens increased due to less severe potential consequences for same.

"Now in present times, there are no consequences for such behavior. Laws and lawsuits have taken over in favor of the aggressor.

"A personal example: A couple of years ago in the Little Bread Co. on Block Street, a man came busting in, yelling he's going to kill those dogs (tied up) out front because they barked and scared him. Since they were my dogs, I jumped in his face in strong disagreement. He argued back and I was about to grab him by the shirt, yes, just by the shirt, when he said, "Go ahead. I'd love to press third-degree battery charges against you and sue you for damages."

"I'm not an advocate for going back to frontier justice. However, I would suggest overzealous laws should be dialed back such that rudeness, disrespect, meanness, can again have immediate consequences."

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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