July 23rd, 2008
07:04 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Stating the obvious

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

The middle class is squeezed. A lot. And it’s getting worse.

Chances are, you know this first-hand. I do. Milk is outrageous, the price of gas makes me cringe, and my monthly electric bill needs to be opened sitting down. The worst part? As prices go up, there is less money coming in. No wonder “staycations” are the thing in summer travel.

Between 2000 and 2007, median household income dropped $1,175 – yet costs for the average family rose by nearly triple that amount. Daycare alone went up more than $1500 a month for some families. Who has an extra $1500 a month?! To make matters worse, to cover rising expenses, more and more families are turning to plastic, creating a vicious cycle.


One way to keep some extra money in your pocket? Don’t get a speeding ticket. Who knew you could get that kind of advice at CNN.com? Good stuff

Of course, if lawmakers could put their party troubles aside for a few minutes, maybe Washington could actually help you deal with these skyrocketing gas prices. Congress has a month-long recess fast-approaching – fast being next month… as in one week away. Would the bill currently stalled in Congress because of this partisan bickering be enough to get you some relief? Ahhh, the million-dollar question.

Dogs are amazing creatures. They can change your mood in an instant, they understand you without ever having to say a word, and they love you no matter what, asking only for love in return. Dogs also have an uncanny knack for knowing just how to help; Karen Shirk calls it “magic”.

Confined to a wheelchair and on a respirator because of a rare disease, Shirk first experienced that magic when she got her service dog, Ben. "He gave me a reason to get up in the morning," Shirk remembers. "I went from existing to living." And now she’s bringing that freedom to kids. For ten years, Shirk has been harnessing this canine magic and unconditional love to help autistic children. Meet Karen Shrik, CNN Hero.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note • T1
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Jim Dees

    Good morning
    I would like to salute a navy man very close to my heart
    my only son is serving on the IKE carrier he has been
    on an attack sub and has seen a many ocean mile
    He love his country and is part of a long line of family members
    that have served before him is root go back to the civil war.
    My family has always answer our call when need. He is driving home today As any proud father he is my hero as well as his new
    little sister 18 months old His name is Adam Dees and one hell
    of an americain

    July 24, 2008 at 7:47 am |
  2. jojanne

    hi erica i watched u in 360 ur a nice talented person ur one
    of the best journalist ur good abt stories u make hillarous

    July 24, 2008 at 1:10 am |
  3. Sarah KC

    Hi Erica,
    you should try being 57 years old and unemployed for almost a year. You'd be surprised the way prospective employers try to ask you how old you are and when you think you might be retiring without asking you how old you are and when you might be retiring. They just give the job to some 20 year old with no experience and disregard my 20 years of experience.

    to save on milk, 3/4 glass milk, 1/4 glass water and ice cubes. makes it hard to dunk, but who has the $$ to buy dunkables.

    back to the want ads.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  4. Dwaine K. A. Hicks Markham,IL

    John McCain Missed A Golden Opportunity To Appeal To The Everyday People. If You're @ The Grocery Store & Trying To Appeal To More americans. Pick Up The Bill You Tight Wad! That would Mean So Much To people Struggling With The Decision "Eat Or Buy Gas"?

    July 23, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  5. Genevieve M, TX

    Keeping within the speed limit does save gas.

    The only ticket I ever got for a "moving violation" was back in 2006. It was for going 37 in 35mph zone. The judge at traffic court looked at the ticket, laughed, and dismissed it. Apparently, the officer who wrote the citiation wrote alot of these "barely speeding tickets" to cover a "monthly quota". Thanks to the judge, my 17 year driving record is still clean. 🙂

    As for utility bills, mine remain about the same all year. The only change is less electricity/more natural gas in winter and more electricity/less natural gas in summer. Of course, it helps that I live in an area that has nice weather year-round.

    July 23, 2008 at 8:43 pm |
  6. Ruby Coria, LA. CA.

    Hello Erica, I can't take my dog "Comino" to the dog park any more it's to far- no $ for gas.. but he understands.. to cut down is good we are still over doing it on gas.. please no drilling* me & my dog will walk.
    see you tonight.

    July 23, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  7. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    Let's face it the cost of living is skyrocketing. What does Congress do? It takes a Summer Holiday. I think they should be forced to forgo the down time and stay after school, so to speak, since it's obvious they didn't complete the assignments they were given. Big Fat failures.
    Although I'm a cat person, I do love dogs too. Good story on man's best friend.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    July 23, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  8. Alexander

    Milk is so delicious, though, Erica. You can't really argue with that, now can you? : ) Now, Erica, I am with you totally regarding all these sky-rocketing prices of gas, electric, etc., etc. It really is a cycle that just keeps growing and growing worse, like a domino effect. As if we're not paying high enough gas prices as it is the products we buy now cost more, too, since it also costs the manufacturers or producers more to produce those goods. A very nice, informative post, Erica. Always a pleasure to read them.; )

    July 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  9. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hey Erica!
    I just got back from the San Francisco area and for reasons of wildfires or economy the tourism was slow.
    Many shops on the Wharf were going out of business. We drove down to Carmel where shops were selling everything cheap!
    Down as far as Big Sur there was some evidence of fires. The thing that hit me the most was a patch of woods burned up with a house in the middle. SAD!
    The wine country was beautiful and fun with no hint of smoke. Of course sipping wine all day makes one less cognizant of wildfires or small tremors like the one in Sonoma.
    Anyway, I am glad to be back in the region of Dolly. Ugh! I am inland.
    I am so glad to hear from you today and I am looking forward to the stories you mentioned, especially the one about the man's best friend. ;-D

    July 23, 2008 at 7:56 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    A sure way to know if the economy is bad around my house is if my daughter is researching where to get the least expensive gas, electing to stay home instead of running around with friends on the weekend, and only buying clothes that are on sale. She's pretty good at squeezing her money but she is fast becoming better. Of course, she doesn't have to pay the a/c bill which with the humidity and 100 degree temps here lately has been in overdrive; nor does she help with the grocery bill – every week I get less for the same amount of money. We're seeing how many meatless dinners we can come up with each week to help cut the cost down. I just wish Congress would do something for once and get us some relief. We sure need it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 23, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  11. EJ (USA)

    Still no job! Living off credit cards & 360 episodes!

    July 23, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  12. Megan Dresslar

    Helloooo Erica,
    I agree with you too, I have once drink milk, But I have taste milk so awful. I hate milk and I have allergy milk....... I heard that gas price are going up and up, Last time I saw Safeway Gas Station diesel cost almost $5.00 ( $4.98) too much, I know people cannot afford to pay gas to drive to work. They rode on the bus, bike, or train on the way to work...... I thought that they would pay the bill like phone, housing, for rent and to buy food.
    I am so proud of Karen Shirk, she have lot of busy with her dog. I'm so amazing for her. I am sorry for her health.... my heart go to her too.
    I will see you tonight at 11pm ET and 8pm PT. See you there on Live Blog tonight.
    Megan D.
    Shoreline, Wa

    July 23, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  13. Lilibeth

    For me, my way of saving money is to not go to Starbucks as often as I used to. Those lattes add up to a lot over time.

    I've heard so many miraculous stories about dogs. They have a sixth sense that can save lives and shield humans from danger. I've always felt they're put on this earth to protect us.

    See you tonight,

    Edmonds, Washington

    July 23, 2008 at 7:25 pm |