This country might be better run if all the members of Congress, those in high government office, corporate CEOs, and others in exalted positions would do weekly grocery shopping.

When one dines at fine restaurants, either on an expense account or with a lobbyist picking up the tab, or has cooks or hired help to do the grocery shopping for the occasional home meal or entertainment, one tends to be divorced from the realities of escalating costs that the “average American” contends with.

We all recall how George Bush The First, during a photo-op at a supermarket, was amazed by checkout scanners — he hadn’t a clue that the technology even existed; heaven knows if he’d ever set foot in a grocery store to actually shop for something.

Granted, it’d be cost prohibitive (hordes of security people, vehicles, etc.) for a president to go to the local Safeway for bread, eggs, milk, TP, and a six-pack of Bud, but the experience could be eye-opening for all those who develop policy, impose taxes, set prices, and otherwise make decisions that affect the lives of the general populace.

There is perhaps no better way than regular visits to the supermarket to be aware of the inflation — both visible and hidden — that is taking place.

I’ve always liked going to the grocery store. I enjoy wandering the aisles and marveling at the array of products, even in my small-town supermarkets, and poking around in a big city grocery is an adventure, but now there’s sticker shock at every hand.

Potatoes that not long ago were 69 cents a pound are $1.19 (recently, one store priced them at 88 cents per potato!). Lemons that were 49 cents a pound are 49 cents each, other citrus equally dear. Milk, for some time, has been almost as expensive per gallon as gasoline. Meat, poultry, fish — well, you might need a sub-prime loan.

Then there’s the hidden inflation when manufacturers keep the same size package, but put less in it. From time to time, I buy Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cookies. Not long ago, a bag contained 12 cookies. Then, only 10 cookies, but the bag remained the same size. Last time I bought ’em, only 8 cookies rattling around in the same size bag, and to add insult to injury, the price had increased.

A “pound” of bacon now may be only 12 ounces, a half-gallon of ice cream only 1.5 quarts, a bag that held 12 ounces of potato chips may now contain only 10 ounces, paper towels and TP have fewer sheets per roll — and on and on.

When Congressman Travis Childers, D-Miss., said at a recent meeting, “I personally go to the grocery store, and I know firsthand how the price of eggs, milk, and everything else is going up,” I wanted to say, “Right on, dude! Keep shopping … and persuade your fellow members to do likewise.”

Acknowledging that most of the food price inflation is the result of energy and transportation costs, Childers noted, “I don’t know of a farmer anywhere who’s getting rich as a result of high grocery prices.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com