Today, during my daily walkabout, I happened upon a couple of friends who I had not seen in some months. We talked about old times, new times and everything in between, but, in each case, I detected a nervous undercurrent that seemed to hog-tie attempts at humor. After cutting to the chase, they each confided that times were tough on the economic front and that they were all looking for a second or third job to make ends meet.




Later, in an epiphany, everything gelled into a crystal that made gazing facile, yet not necessarily a thumbs-up experience. A perfect storm of economic disasters have conspired to undercut our nation, though it is the less wealthy who are being squeezed with the most vigor.




Thus it was of great interest to monitor the City Council as they moved toward increasing the lodgings tax from 7 to 9 percent. The good news is that they will generously hold a public hearing. The bad news is that this tax increase seems like a done deal and giving it a little sunshine is only perfunctory in nature as the minds seem set. The city has never seen a tax that it did not like.




The cost of gas is going through the sunroof, which is not a good thing for a tourist town 300 miles away from both Portland and San Francisco. We already greet our visitors with our oh-so-special meals tax, which was originally pitched as making them pay for their load, as it were, on our sewer system. Yet this 5 percent pinch also goes on the tab of any local who wants to occasionally frequent a restaurant or buy a sandwich at the supermarket. As budgets get hammered, fewer locals eat out, resulting in dining doldrums.




The cost of food is skyrocketing due mainly to the dramatic surge in the cost of oil, which has more that tripled since our flattening of Iraq. Adding to the effect is that we pay farmers (mostly large agribusiness corporations) not to grow corn and wheat needed for feed. Then we take the best yellow corn and turn it into ethanol to somewhat offset our addiction to the ocean of oil upon which our occupation floats.




Hispanics are blamed by some Americans for their lost outsourced jobs, claiming that they would work in the orchards laden with petro-chemical fertilizers and pesticides were it not for the bum knee incurred playing football or the aching back ultimately caused by too many hours watching sports from the EZ-Boy. Not stopping to think who will do the hard labor, they yearn to break up families and send undocumented workers back to some poor village, where they will instantly find that the cost of tortillas, made from the prized yellow corn we use to fuel our insane obsession to motor about in an oversized, inefficient vehicle, has tripled in the last two years. Yes, the basic staple of the Hispanic meal, the bread of life, has soared in price because we want a full tank and we want it now.




Unfortunately, we've noticed that both our food and our fuel are going one way. Ironically, if you imagine the cost curve, roll your head back and squint, you see a brilliant solution Ol' Mr. Sol.




Based on the simplistic thinking that anything that seems to focus on getting money from visitors is A-OK, regardless if it backfires and wounds us after a short-term fix, our council seems to think that nothing will dissuade the devout from their three days of plays.




We desperately need a vision for Ashland that keeps all businesses going while providing good jobs for the local workforce. Increasing a tax because the receipts are in decline is hardly inspirational.




Lance was last seen studying alchemy in an attempt to turn dandelions into diesel. You may transmit or transmute to lance@journalist.com.