Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I have decided to resume this blog shortly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rick Perry for president?!

Obviously I haven't posted here in a long time. Due to a combination of a job loss, relocation (at least part-time) and lack of anything new to say on the subject of what I consider to be the decline of our country, I have been silent for a long time.

I still don't see much of a recovery happening, and in fact the technical indicators I have seen on the fine blogs and news sites I follow lead me to believe we are still slowly circling the drain. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am proud to say that I am a staunch Ron Paul supporter. Having said that, I wish that as a lifelong Texan I could support Rick Perry because he is sort of more or less almost a conservative.

Perry loves to tout the job growth in Texas. There has been growth here and that really is good. However, these are just not the kind of jobs that you can support a family with. How would I know? Well I don't pretend to know what the jobs are or what they pay. I can however look up statistics on the 'net and guess what- Texas has nearly 4 million people on food stamps or the more politically correct sounding SNAP program. With a population of over 25 million this works out to approximately 16% of the Texas population receiving food assistance. Higher by a few percent than the national average. In fact, just taking into account total numbers, Texas appears to have more "participants" than any other state- at least as of August 1, 2011. If you follow this link to compare Texas to other states in terms of median income etc. you will see that things really aren't that great here in the Lone Star State. Rick Perry's fault? No. I won't blame him for problems here but he really should not take credit for all the "job growth" when it is obvious that whatever these jobs are, they pay poorly enough that millions can still qualify for food stamps.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Let the good times roll

The good times are back. Our economy is fixed and folks are spending like crazy. The Dow is gaining and all is right with the world. Maybe in your world but not in mine.

Let me start with an article from CNN money that  addresses one of my rants, one that is all too familiar to those close to me. While there is some job creation, many or maybe most of those jobs are low to medium wage. No shit. Big surprise I know.  I won't bother to link to the article but you can read it for yourself in the Yahoo finance section.

Here's the thing- most people know this already-at least those who formerly earned what CNN refers to as high wages. I was in that group but I guess I didn't know it at the time. I'm not being cute here. I really thought that most people in skilled positions earned those kinds of wages. Not now. But I digress. Suffice to say that I am having extreme difficulty finding a job to replace half of my previous wages. Health insurance is another problem that I will address at some future time.

I live in Texas. Great place to live. Wages not the best suck but you can't have everything. Well guess what- Texas has budget problems just like all but about 7 of the 50 states. Forecasting big cuts in the budget including education. Guess what else- my spouse is an educator. Texas may cut as many as 100,000 positions in education in the next two school years. Not a typo. 100,000! Nice! Good news is there are plenty of service sector jobs available where a person may be able to earn as much as $9.00 per hour! Whew. And I was worried.

In a nutshell, the gist of the article is that while there are jobs, generally, most don't pay very well. Speaking very broadly, many/most have a lower standard of living to look forward to once higher prices for food and fuel are taken in account. Many bloggers have been talking about downward pressure on wages for a long time but I rarely see or hear this discussed in the MSM.

Recently I heard an "economist" from SMU state that most people see rising fuel prices as a sign that the economy is improving. Huh? I recently conducted a very unscientific poll in which I asked 25-30 family and friends about this view. I don't need to tell you that not one single person I queried viewed rising fuel costs as a positive. Of course, it is certainly apparent that "the economy" means different things to different people. There is a lot of pain out there and I am afraid a lot more to come. You know it's bad when Mish starts talking about food preservation with a retiree named Stephanie. Mish offers very sound advice and this is no exception. I encourage everyone to read this as well as Chris Martenson's thoughts on food.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just as I thought

I have posted fairly often about the disconnect between the cheerleaders and the rest of us. The fact that sometimes I think I am the crazy one."I"meaning, you know, a doomer.  The fact that in my small non-technical, non-economist mind I see conditions as worsening. Even Stephen Moore is now bullish on the economy going forward! So, it was with great interest and, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, satisfaction bordering on glee that I read a post on Financial Armageddon which links to a report from The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

I feel somewhat vindicated in my views- at least to the extent that I apparently have a lot of company. If I am indeed wrong, then I can say that I am far from alone. Of course my view of the world doesn't come from Ms. Couric. My view comes from talking to my neighbors, a guy down the street, maybe a convenience store operator. People with and without jobs. And I live in a solidly middle class area of a small town. What I see and hear does not mesh with what I see on the tube. Nearly all express the same feelings that I have. They really don't see much improvement and don't expect much for a long time. The results of the previously mentioned Pew poll confirm that most of us are pesimisstic, at least to a degree.

I never discount the idea that I am completely and utterly wrong. I worry about it a lot in fact. Maybe I am unable to see what others can. Maybe things really are going to turn around soon. Perhaps I am wasting a lot of time growing vegetables, storing canned goods and water. I guess that's why poll results like those at least make me feel as though I am not alone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Expecting better than expected GDP

Well, it looks like GDP numbers are going to be better than expected (who woulda thunk it?) and consumer spending is approaching pre-recessionary levels. The recession is over, it's all good, the good times are here, etc. I'm ecstatic. So much so that I could just shit.

Here's the thing(s). Last time I checked, the UE was moving the wrong way (currently 9.8% or around 17% for the U-6), the long term unemployed numbers are worse than ever, and nearly 43 million folks on food stamps (SNAP) and climbing. Add to this states in perilous deficit situations and public unions that are catastrophically underfunded. Not a pretty picture, at least not to me.

Only two scenarios as I see it. Either I and most other doomers are full of crap, or the cheerleaders are looking at the wrong things. Maybe millions haven't filed for bankruptcy, lost homes, had to take government "welfare", needed food stamps, or known the despair of long term joblessness. Maybe there really aren't thousands of Americans living in tent cities or worse. Maybe we really aren't about to set a record for number of months with the UE rate above 9%- since the Great Depression of course.

Maybe all that matters is that retail spending is supposedly back nearly to 2007 levels. That is a tough stat for me to get a grip on. After all, it seems that consumer spending is increasing WHILE employment is worsening. I still believe that a lot of the job "growth" will later be identified as part-time, seasonal employment which will end after the holidays. Even if I am wrong, it appears that those of us who are not spending- for whatever reason- aren't really needed after all. Or is it that most of us are simply paying more for necessities like food and fuel?

Or is it that the "rich" are spending like crazy and skewing the numbers. Most of the "rich" that I have known over the years are rich precisely because they DON'T spend like idiots, but they do in general spend more than an average blue collar guy like me- A LOT MORE.

Whatever the reason for the return of retail spending and better GDP numbers, most doomers, myself included, feel that conditions are worsening and the middle class is dying, You can see our rationale for this belief in many blogs like Decline of the Empire and others. Many of us believe we are headed for a two class society. The elites and the rest of us. Maybe we the doomers are simply wrong. Maybe there won't be a collapse into extreme poverty. Maybe there is no such thing as Peak Oil. Maybe nothing is as bad as we think it is.

Government spending is driving GDP growth, but what will drive job growth? Another housing bubble? Doubtful. An internet revolution? Already done that. So where will all of the real, full-time, good paying jobs come from?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

According to Larry Summers if we don't preserve the current tax rates, we run the risk of a double-dip recession. Even if we technically are no longer in recession, I can guarantee that to millions of American, including me, times continue to be bad and in some respects worsening. The flip side is that if we continue them, we will add somewhere between 700 and 900 billion to the debt according to our government.

Many thinking people wonder how this could  add to our deficit. After all, tax receipts would not really decrease. The government was assuming an increase in tax receipts with no plan to decrease spending. In fact, they were likely planning for spending to increase by that same 700 to 900 billion (at a minimum). Tax cuts and spending increases basically got us here and only spending cuts coupled with tax cuts will get us out of this. But they will have to be drastic, painful cuts. Cuts that quite likely all of us will see and feel. Or we can just stumble along a little longer, the precipice fast approaching.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making ends meet

While reading Charles Hugh Smith's excellent blog Of Two Minds today, a phrase jumped out at me. A simple phrase- "make ends meet". The guest poster was lamenting the differences between now and then. Then being the age of the single income household. I grew up in those days. The stay at home Mom days. Believe me, I have thought about this issue a great many times over the years, and I don't mean just recently but for most of my working (when I did) life.

My Dad worked and my Mom stayed home with the kids, not unlike millions of other families in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s. Before you say it, yes I am well aware that she worked very hard too, likely harder. I am currently home with two grandchildren and know how tough it is to raise kids and keep a house clean. Believe me! That's not my point.

My point is how did my parents do it? I have read much about this over the years. I've seen tons of charts and graphs and wonky economic explanations. Very informative but missing what I believe is the basic issue- consumption. I know wages have been stagnant for a long time and purchasing power has diminished but there is, a least in my mind, a more obvious explanation.

My Dad had a good job. Not great but good. Solidly middle white collar. We always had two cars, television, an occasional meal out, and a vacation each summer. My Mom generally got a "new" two year old car about every five years or so and my Dad drove a clunker that required  frequent repair or replacement. We had a "big" RCA color TV (content via antenna) in the living room, ate out maybe once a month, and during the summer we would take a car trip. Life was pretty OK.

During what were in retrospect my AND my wife's prime wage earning years, there was and still is a TV in every room receiving hundreds of cable channels, several computers with the requisite high speed connection, cell phones for one and all, at least two new or almost new cars, frequent meals out due to lack of time and/or energy, activities outside the home for us and the kids, and all kinds of crap purchased to entertain the kids when they weren't playing baseball or whatever. We weren't a big vacation taking family because we really couldn't afford it. Some of my friends take ski trips and annual vacations in Europe or Mexico. Good for them! The thing is we are all two income families. No way could we have all this junk and go all these places on just one income- unless our names are Steve or Bill or Warren.

We all wanted to give our kids a "better" life. Give them "more" than we had. Looking back, there wasn't a damn thing lacking in my childhood. All we have managed to do in many cases is create unreal expectations for our kids, especially given our current, ongoing economic woes. Was it worth it? Hell no!