Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Victoria’s got a Secret, and Mark Sanford does, too.

Just what we need: one more hack commenting on the economy. Never-mind, I’m doing it anyway, because that seems to be what’s on everybody’s mind these days.
I’ve actually written here about the economy a few times before, but mainly to urge folks to protect our LOCAL economy by shopping local. When the first round of stimulus checks started flowing nearly a year ago, I reminded readers that the Big Giant Corporations and their investors would profit handsomely, before sending on a share of our economic stimulus funds to the manufacturers of their products in China and beyond.

Way back last spring, I predicted that Wall Street and foreign companies would benefit nicely from this infusion of our cash… and that was before any of us had heard the term “bailout”.

The way things have actually unfolded in the last year makes me seem smart.

Actually, I’m not very smart at finances at all. Most of what I know about bank failures is what I’ve learned by watching George Bailey and Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” every year.

But I do occasionally have a dose of common sense, which, to me, seems to be missing these days. So here are a few of the common-sense observations I’ve made about the economy... or at least some questions that have arisen in my mind:

1. Last year, we bailed out the banks because they were taking a beating because people who had borrowed to buy a home couldn’t pay their mortgages. This year, we bailed out the insurance giant AIG, which had insured the banks in case people couldn’t pay their mortgages. So, doesn’t that mean we’re bailing out the same mortgages twice?

2. I keep hearing that this is the worst recession since the early 1980’s. Frankly, I was around in the early 1980’s, and I don’t remember any recession that seemed as bad as the current one. So what’s different? I think it’s because we now have 24-hour news, and far more pervasive news media than at any time in the past. The national media, you know, loves to report bad news… so they’re having a field day with this recession. The actual statistics say this recession is no worse than the recession of ’81-’82… but the media sure is making it seem worse.

3. We don’t produce things anymore. By “we”, I mean the US of A. I noticed it ten year ago, and I heard President Obama mention it on TV last week. Our economy is “artificial”. He said that 40% of our total economic growth had been in the finance sector. That means we’re just trading money back and forth, and adding a little value to it every time we make a deal. But all that money-swapping isn’t producing anything, except artificial wealth. Our manufacturing industries have left our shores, and a lot of agricultural products are now coming from elsewhere. That leaves Americans to trade money and information, and sell services to each other.

4. The new “global economy” is a bad idea for us. There is a reason our jobs have gone overseas. It’s because we don’t compete on a level playing field. We offer our citizens basic human rights. They don’t. As long as other nations are using what amounts to slave labor, we’ll never be able to produce goods as cheaply as they can. We also protect our citizens by insisting on standards for our products. They don’t. That’s why we’re seeing crisis after crisis of products manufactured in China causing problems here.

5. Everybody is dealing with the recession in their own way. The Girl Scouts made their cookies smaller this year.

6. At my house, we’re examining our bills a little closer than usual before just automatically paying them. That’s how my wife happened to notice an unfamiliar charge on her Victoria’s Secret bill: a charge for $109 for an item called “VS Escapes” that she was sure she hadn’t authorized, because she hadn’t shopped there in months. After calling a toll-free number, and spending an hour researching the charges online, we determined that she had fallen victim to something I would categorize as a “scam” of major proportions. Apparently, at some point during the online purchase or credit-card process, Victoria’s Secret customers unknowingly agree to this annual $109 charge to join a program from an unaffiliated travel company. I visited the Consumer Reports website and discovered this practice has been victimizing VS customers for years, many of them never taking the time to check their monthly statements, and forking over $109 a year for a service they didn’t ask for. While I may be a fan of Victoria’s Secret’s products, I’m not a fan of this scam… especially during tough economic times. So… I’m blowing the whistle on them… to help protect others.

7. Here’s an even bigger scam: Our governor is playing politics with our state’s future. You have probably heard that Mark Sanford rejected $700 million of economic stimulus money for our state. Now I’m going to tell you WHY he rejected it. He rejected it just so he would look good to arch-conservative voters across the nation during his upcoming campaign for President. While I admittedly don’t know much about high-finance, I do know a little about political campaigns. Make no mistake: Mark Sanford is selling out our state’s future for his own personal political gain. He’s all politics, all the time… even while pretending to be “above” politics.

So, next time you hear of a friend or neighbor losing a job, see a local business close its doors, or have to tell the kids you can’t really afford a vacation this year…. Thank your Governor!

There you have it: My common-sense observations about the economy. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled, 24-hours a day, national media news cycle already in progress.

No comments: