In California, the price of gas at the pump is now averaging $3.65 a gallon, going up to$4 in San Francisco and Chicago. Nationwide, it now stands at $3.38, a 20 cent increase in the last week. Meanwhile, in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke optimistically of the economy and dismissed the impact of soaring oil prices, allegedly spurred by turmoil in the Middle East. The most likely outcome, in his opinion, is that the recent rise in oil prices will lead to, at most, a "temporary" and "relatively modest" increase in the US consumer price inflation. Hold on there: Let's take it for granted that no one inside Washington's Beltway has to fill his or her own car with gas. For them, pain at the pump may indeed feel temporary and relatively modest. However, tell that to the official 9% of unemploy ed Americans who still have to drive a car in what Bernanke and everyone else who isn't suffering seems to agree is NOT a recession. (In 1940, the last year of the Great Depression, the unemploy- ment rate was at 14.6, but in those days they still had not stopped counting people too discouraged to look for work). In that light, consider what's already happening at the pump as the lifestyle equivalent of murder, and now imagine that, by summer the price of a gallon of gas nationwide may, as just before the 2008 global economic meltdown, close in on the $4 a gallon mark and perhaps still be rising!