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Friday, March 28, 2008

"Come on in! The free lobster buffet is straight ahead on the right."

Brilliant At Breakfast is, well, brilliant this morning (h/t Mike's Blog Roundup). Jill writes about the "next wave" of our rolling credit crisis - home equity loans - and closes with this "What's The Matter With Kansas?" observation (emphases mine):
Then the 1980's came along, and people watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on television and got this idea in their heads that they could have everything that rich people had, even if they had to go into hock up to their eyeballs to get it. You could drive a luxury car by leasing it. You could have that extra bathroom by taking out an equity loan. You could have the trappings of the rich -- the bigass entry foyer with the chandelier, and the luxury cars and the multiple garages and the vacations in St. Barths -- and the fact that the rich could buy this stuff out of ready cash while ordinary Americans had to go into hock to do it never occurred to people.

And so the debt culture was born. Creative forms of debt allowed ordinary Americans to kid themselves that they were gaining entry into "the club" -- and now they too could look down on the poor and the "welfare queens", because those above them on the economic ladder were opening the doors and saying, "Come on in! The free lobster buffet is straight ahead on the right." Except that there was no free lobster buffet, and the debt culture was designed not to enrich the lives of the middle class, but to anesthetize it to what was really going on -- a massive transfer of real wealth to the richest Americans, hidden by the debt being made available to the middle class.

And now the bills are coming due and Americans are only now realizing that the free lobster buffet is off limits to them. But instead of blaming the people who made the debt available and helped them get in over their heads, they're still pointing their fingers down the economic ladder and preparing to elect another Republican president who will continue to screw them over seven ways to Sunday until there's no more blood that can be wrung from the dry stone that used to be middle class life in America.
Being one who also indulged in this despicable fantasy, I attest that Jill is exactly correct. I'd also like to think that since I have come to see it, there must be millions more who have woken up as well and, as this economic slo-mo train-wreck proceeds, the breakfast brilliance should continue to alight upon American minds.

I wonder what that's going to look like. Oh, and up yours, Wall Street.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Quaintness Of Pensions

Monopoly Men
Image from BBC News
Another corporate media journalist has defected and now publishes at his own blog. Go there to find refreshingly frank observations on contemporary economics and politics. I like to consider Jon Talton a friend, though having only met with him once. I had been reading his business column in the local paper for some time, and was struck by the observations he "got away" with in that paper, and just had to arrange a chat through a mutual friend. We had a fascinating (for me) conversation discussing some of the arcanities of Phoenix economic development (such as it is).

So now I quote from and link to one of his posts, The time bomb ticking in American pensions. Please go and read it:
...People forget that for decades stocks had value because of their dividends, not their continuous upward price movement. If that upward movement is based on forces that are unsustainable, then Shareholder Nation is screwed.... the only hopeful math the "conservatives" can throw back depends on including the huge gains of the very rich.

The world of pensions and the old middle class was based on real work, producing real things. We've killed that world. The new world of 401(k)s is based on unsustainable bubbles and "creative destruction" as more Americans are pushed into marginal service jobs...
Thanks for adding your voice, Jon!

(Check out his fiction writing at www.jontalton.com, too.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who Is Cindy McCain?

Commenter druidity36 over at FireDogLake dug up this 1994 Phoenix New Times story on Cindy McCain - Opiate For The Mrs.
You're U.S. Senator John McCain, and you've got a big problem.
Your wife, Cindy, was addicted to prescription painkillers. She stole pills from a medical-aid charity she heads and she used the names of unsuspecting employees to get prescriptions...
Read on. Enjoy.

Update: Jon Talton has a fine breakdown on Senator McCain's questionable mastery and decidedly unpalatable positions on the U.S. economy. And this over at Crooks and Liars on the Senator's oh-so-patriotic economic positions (from the Kansas Democratic Party:
...In 2003, Sen. McCain authored an amendment undermining “Buy American” rules requiring U.S. military equipment, defense systems and components to be manufactured in the United States. By allowing the Department of Defense to purchase American military equipment from foreign companies, the McCain amendment laid the groundwork for the Air Force’s decision to outsource the production of refueling tankers for the American military....