Thursday, April 17, 2014

Random Black Dog Bark Bark Barking

In These Times

(Winston Churchill -- world leader, champion of England's titled class; boozer, dilettante painter and cigar aficionado -- used to call the bouts of depression which seized him periodically as "The Black Dog". I'm not a black dog, but am feeling a bit 'dark' these days (indeed; no surprise there), so be warned.)

The current economic situation in the United States, also described as 'The New Normal', could be summed up in these points:
  • Salaries and Wages = Nearly Flat For Over A Decade -- Luckily, we have had almost no inflation during the same period, but if you're not bringing home more money even a modest rise in prices can hurt;  
  • It's Not That Jobs Are Created; It's What Kinds Of Jobs -- Employment numbers have gone up to a degree in construction and some manufacturing sectors, but the broadest gains in total jobs have been in the Service Economy -- maids and waiters and towel boys and gardeners and spa attendants and boat crew lackeys;
  • Unemployment Figures Continue To Ignore The Lost Workforce -- A news item like "US Jobless Claims Hover At Pre-Recession Levels... [which offers] further evidence of the economy's underlying strength" might make you believe everything is 'finally getting back to normal' after the Go-Go, 'Lil' Boots' Bush years and the Crash.  
  • >>> The numbers receiving unemployment payments, as reported, is shrinking -- but the number of people who have been unable to find work since the fall of 2008 (no pun intended) is ignored. No one really knows how many people are in this category -- and even the new Fed Chairman, Janet Yellen, questions whether there is more unreported 'slack' in the labor market than unemployment figures suggest.
  • The Gap Between The Top One-Tenth Of One PerCenters And Everyone Else Has Grown in the past decade. Period. We are a more stratified and less socially-mobile culture than at any time since the end of the Second World War. 
  • >>> The proof is in two points:  The average annual income of the bottom 90% of Americans is approximately $30,000 -- the annual income of the .01% is $24,000,000 ; and, the distribution of all wealth (not just annual income, but 'who owns what') in America is lopsided:  42 percent of everything is owned by the top One Per Cent, while the bottom 80% of the population owns just 5%.  That's of everything -- real property (homes, office buildings, land), stock, bonds, cash, cars, et al.
The current definition of The New Normal is "Secular Stagnation", where job growth is modest (we still haven't reached the percentage of full-time employed in the overall U.S. workforce as existed before 2008).  Large corporate employers have continued to keep wages low, while executive and managerial bonuses have gone up. The pension and health coverage benefits of their retirees is shrinking, and those just entering the workforce understand their employers will only provide the minimum, band-aid-for-their-conscience safety net of benefits. It ain't your grandfather's work-world any more.

Obligatory Image Of Happy Children, Enjoying Life In Modern America ©
In Middle Of Nihilist Blog Rant

 It's just one Dog's opinion, but you might have the feeling, looking around, that we're becoming a society where a layer of the truly wealthy, the Owners, live in security and privilege, nearly invisible to the rest of the world, while the rest of us... don't.

We buy the products and use services which they've significantly invested in -- or, they own the raw materials, or the land, or the ships. It's like the difference in San Francisco between those who "ride the bus", and everyone else (though employees of Google and Facebook and eBay and Yahoo are just as much Tools and servants of the .01% as the rest of us). We're fleeced by corporations, finance companies and banks, manufacturers, and employers from our first day to our last, and in the end a company the wealthy own will rent our children pennies to put on our eyes.

But, take heart. Paul Kingsnorth, former environmental activist, is fairly certain that we are moving swiftly into a period of climatic upheaval and that the chance of an apocalyptic die-off in the human population, a Mad Max coming to a street near you, is a certainty as ecosystems fail and power systems can't be sustained. Meaning that (according to Kingsnorth, and other environmental researchers) no matter what we do, we're doomed.

The good part, I suppose, is that the Uberwealthy will suffer, die, and slide into extinction along with the 99%. And there won't be any pennies left for the Boatman, let alone our eyes.

Well. I recall a comment made by Martin Luther -- devout christian; constipation sufferer, author of the 95 Theses whose efforts created the Reformation and centuries of civil war in the christian world; religious and political radical, misogynist and anti-Semite.  He said: If I were told that the world would end tomorrow, I would still go into the garden and plant an Apfelbaumchen (little apple tree).

And so must we all.

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MEHR: BITTE SCHIESSEN SIE MIR SOFORT:  As another sign that civilization has passed its peak and is now in irreversible decline, if you were a shareholder of Warren Buffet's Berkshire-Hathaway corporation, you would be attending the company's annual meeting in Kansas City -- and like any gathering In These End Times, you get the chance to take home a Tschochki or two, you lucky, far-sighted investor, you.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. will sell rubber ducks of Chairman Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charles Munger wearing Mexican-themed outfits at the company’s annual meeting, which falls two days before Cinco de Mayo. The “fiesta ducks” sport sombreros, multicolored ponchos and — in Buffett’s case — a maraca, according to an advertisement in the visitor’s guide to the May 3 event, which will be held at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The souvenirs will be sold by Berkshire’s Oriental Trading party-supply business for $5 a pair.

 View The Terror And Shame: Click On Image To Enlarge! Easy! Fun!
(Picture courtesy of the Berkshire-Hathaway Annual Meeting Brochure,
Which You Can See In Its Entirety Here)

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