Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“It's Stupid's Economy”

It Burns. The Stupid And God Knows, The Money.

For the first six-and-a-half years of the delusional Bush presidency, in the face of a sea of blunders—The War in Iraq, Katrina/FEMA, The destruction of confidence in the Justice Department, to name but a few—the one thing he was able to point a poop aroma-ed finger at with a modicum of feel good-ism was “the economy”.

Now, saying the economy was “doing great” was always a dervish-necessary job. Regular folks' financial states have long been a red-headed stepchild to Wall Street performance numbers. They've also been eminently taffy-like when projected against often subjective pulse-taking through prisms like consumer confidence levels and the like. That said, there were just enough numericals out there to spout that could gloss over the pains that “Johnny Lunchpail” and “Susie Run-in-her-stocking” were experiencing while trying to make ends meet from month to month.

Bush himself was saying that the economy was “robust” as recently as five months ago, when it was evident to anyone with eyes and a wallet (which when opened, moths would fly from sickly) that our collective money situation was not “funny”.

(AFP) — US President George W. Bush predicted in an interview Tuesday that the battered US dollar will get stronger because the US economy is robust.

“If people would look at the strength of our economy, they'd realize why, you know, I believe that the dollar will be stronger,” Bush told the Fox Business Network.

Yes, Mr, President. If, if, if. And if your mother had wheels? Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-nnnnnn, she'd be a bitchin' locomotive, too.

I'm no economic expert. I'm just a person like everyone not in the “Pioneer” rolodex who has felt the pinch for the last year or so, unlike those shielded from the reality of the price of a quart of milk's having gone up. This president would fail that test worse than his spiral-eyed father did when confronted with a question on it during his fateful re-election run. Ask Dubya the price of a “quart” and he'd probably say “Who cares? It's worth whatever you pay 'em when they hand you the presidency! (Insert all-too-familiar, wheedling “Muttley”-esque laugh here)

It's the little things you see, and have to live with—that hammer our country's financial health and then send it swirling turd-like down the “Trainspotting” toilet of insolvency. (NSFW)

There are the homes in the neighborhood that I've seen two families moving out of under cover of night, only to see a few days later a foreclosure sticker plastered on the front door. Those are the ones i saw. It doesn't include the houses I've simply seen the stickers on after being vacated.

There are the people like the man on my block whose SUV has sat in his driveway for the last five months or so. When I saw him this past Saturday as I walked to the park, I asked him if his car was alright. Did it have a problem? I knew a mechanic who was trustworthy and decently priced. But he demurred. “Gas costs too much”, he said. “What was I gonna do, pay for gas or oil heat this winter? I don't sleep in the car.”

Which made sense to me.

“You lookin' to buy? It's only got 16,000 miles on it.”

No thanks, br'uh.

That uptick in the price of gas. No...“uptick” isn't the right word. It's a patriotic, bald eagle-like soar into the clouds. The lowest-priced gas in the neighborhood is at the Hess station five blocks away, at $3.43 per gallon for Regular. $3.65 for Premium. The jitney cars who run their cabs up and down the main drag here have upped their prices for the run to the subway station. A Town Car packed with five passengers was $1.50 per rider up until the end of January. Had been since I moved here in 2001.

It's $2.00 now. The increase was pegged to the rising price of gasoline. That gas price rise is something that registers not a whit in the hereditary hand-down of real-world economic stupid that our vapor-like president shares with his father.

During a White House news conference Thursday morning, President Bush said the country is not headed into a recession, noting that the government has acted "robustly." His view of the economy, however, is far more chipper than that of many economists, who fear the country is entering a recession (or may even already be in one. In fact, when asked by a reporter about what advice he'd given an average American, who is faced by the prospect of $4 gallon gas, the President responded: "That's interesting. I hadn't heard that. ... I know it's high now."

The gas prices effect everything. There are signs in local eateries citing rising costs for meals due to pass-alongs from wholesalers and delivery outfits. Even the local White Castle. An argument there late one night arose from a customer's being angry over having come in late with exact change for a combo she'd evidently been getting with regularity. She would be short this night—by about thirty cents. After a heated argument with the countergirl, said countergirl said “All our stuff comes in on a trailer. Gas went up. I'm sorry...there's nothing we could do”. Another patron generously handed the woman the thirty-cent difference, but for her it was about “principle”.

“And when gas comes down, are your prices gonna come down?”, she asked angrily.

The man in front of me and behind the angry woman harshly laughed out a snappy response.

“The fuck makes you think it's gonna come down?”

Ba-doomp-boomp. Psssssh.”

It's real. As real as a person's money not being right when the price of a 2 1/2 inch burger goes from 54¢ to 59¢. Or a jitney ride the price goes up on. The car you can't afford to drive. A mortgage you skip lunches to pay. It's not some hazy, head game people are being mass hypnotized into believing—a desperate lie uttered ironically by one of the chief practitioners of the talking point / mass hypnosis game.

How did that old toy commercial go? “Some kids go, whooooo-woop! When they sit and spin...Take it away Ms. Matalin.

Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert pointed to a new CNBC poll showing that 83 percent of the American public rates the U.S. economy as only fair/poor. Right-wing strategist Mary Matalin tried to brush off that number, stating that most Americans are nevertheless happy about their personal finances.

When liberal strategist Bob Shrum pointed out that her statement is false, Matalin switched to the well-worn tactic of blaming the media for the problem:

MATALIN: Well, there’s an element of cognitive dissonance there, because if you ask them how their own personal finances are going, those numbers completely switch. Yes — he’s looking around. Those numbers are completely true. They absolutely switch on their own personal finances.

SHRUM: I think most people are getting very insecure about their personal finances.

MATALIN: That’s because they’re berated with these numbers.

As Johnny Carson would have said, “Wrong, rusty machete face!”

The numbers...are real: Painfully, brutally real. Via the Times today...

The consumer spending slump and tightening credit markets are unleashing a widening wave of bankruptcies in American retailing, prompting thousands of store closings that are expected to remake suburban malls and downtown shopping districts across the country.

Since last fall, eight mostly midsize chains — as diverse as the furniture store Levitz and the electronics seller Sharper Image — have filed for bankruptcy protection as they staggered under mounting debt and declining sales.

But the troubles are quickly spreading to bigger national companies, like Linens ‘n Things, the bedding and furniture retailer with 500 stores in 47 states. It may file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.

Even retailers that can avoid bankruptcy are shutting down stores to preserve cash through what could be a long economic downturn. Over the next year, Foot Locker said it would close 140 stores, Ann Taylor will start to shutter 117, and the jeweler Zales will close 100.

The surging cost of necessities has led to a national belt-tightening among consumers. Figures released on Monday showed that spending on food and gasoline is crowding out other purchases, leaving people with less to spend on furniture, clothing and electronics. Consequently, chains specializing in those goods are proving vulnerable.

The numbers are reality. The mortgage collapse, called by Atrios for many months before it would be acknowledged by the press and government. “Big Shitpile” he dubbed it. Could there be a more apt phrase for it? Companies we've come to see as part of the daily fabric of things shimmer and practically disappear like something transporting away on the Starship Enterprise. Bear Stearns. Nationwide. Beamed into insolvency.

Jobs? Matalin brooch-ugly. The country needs to rack up approximately 200,000 per month just to keep up with attrition. We went through months on end of numbers coming in between 50 and 120 thousand—some months under 20,000 created, equalling a net loss—then a few break-even months as the news from big name companies grew rank like a mystery dead mouse behind a wall. “Where's that smell coming from?”

And then, the first three months of 2008. The mystery death-stink concentrates in one spot.

January 2008: A loss of 76,000 jobs.

February 2008: A loss of another 76,000 jobs.

March 2008: A loss of 80,000 jobs.


Real. And painful. As late as the end of 2007 and this president (yes, I lower-case this man's shitmire of a tenure intentionally) was still hanging on to the foggy-brained lie that things were good economically. But what do you expect from a man who strums his way through a great American city's drowning, then upon looking at bloated bodies floating like bars of liquefying soap in the floodwaters, only to proclaim a “Heckuva job” was being done by those doddering incompetents in place to fix it. And as recently as forty days ago, this increasingly irrelevant “man” proudly proclaimed that we were not entering a recession...but rather, “a slowdown”

There's this guy who works for you Mr. Bush. His title is that of Federal Reserve Chief. Drop him a line sometime and get your Pollyanna-on-Wild-Turkey ass acquainted.

WASHINGTON - Ben Bernanke knows a recession when he sees one, and he’s starting to sound like that’s just what he expects to see.

A student of the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve chairman once served on the very panel of experts that unofficially determines when recessions begin and end — a finding that usually comes well after the fact.

Now for the first time, Bernanke as Fed chief acknowledged on Wednesday that the U.S. could reel into recession from the powerful punches of housing, credit and financial crises.

And so it sits. Reeking. The one thing...The one God-awful thing this president could halfway spin as if not a success, then not a Hindenburgian failure—the economy he trumpeted—goes up in a ball of flames. Thanks to his negligence. Shortsighted-ness. Tax-cut handouts to his rich friends and a dollar-gobbling sinkhole of a war. Yes...I got that same insulting little piece of...mail you got last month.

“Stimulus package”. Woo-Goddamn-hoo. The mumble-mouthed sorry after the two-by-four to the head and the steel-toed kick 'tween the posts.

The legacy is complete. Let the mortgage-burning party begin, ironically as the companies burn along with it. You own it in total Mr. Bush. This white elephant, money-pit of an economy. On your watch. Resulting from your over-action and simultaneous in-action. Enron, and HealthSouth, and Tyco, and all manner of corporate-kleptocracy fostered and profited from by your friends who gigglingly fucked hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions of people out of their money as you “hooked 'em up”. You own that. No “shell” corporation. You. Di-rectly.

Yours, oh now-reigning king of “the ownership society” you so crowed about.

What do they say? “Membership...has its privileges”?

Enjoy the “perks”.