consumerism


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Today’s news is a glimmer of sunlight in this trickle-down economic cave so many of us are living in.  No doubt it’s a glimmer of hope to hear a leader, (a world leader?) pick up the gauntlet and address the status-quo / the power structure and say, “enough – (basta)!” of the inequality and growing poverty that is a result of unbridled capitalism and to remind us of the value of humanity over profit (“A New Tyranny“).

Just what do you want?!  What is your message?  What are your demands?:  questions asked by those in the media as though the cumulative effect of co-opting our government and, effectively, our economy over decades into corralling the rest of us into financial pillories can be distilled into a single grievance when our life’s earnings have been distilled into a few gold-plated door knobs in the Hamptons (or elsewhere)…?.  The fundamental here is demonstrating our awareness; eyeing the enemy:  corporate power and their greed – financial thuggery.

I’m posting to share my awareness.

July 2003 I decided to start throwing money at a retirement account.  I was finally in a position where deferring taxable income while I still paid off student loans actually yielded a modest gain (taxes higher than loan interest rate).  Also, the account value was supposed to grow with the economy.  Guess what?  8+ years later it turns out that if I could have put away that money in my own personal tax-shielded, savings account (if such a thing existed for Main Street savers) and at the CURRENT savings interest rate, my balance would be in the same, if not better place.  Although I am forgetting the formulae learned in several calculus classes, I have reason to believe I would have been better off if given the higher savings rate returns at the time, earlier in my account.  As one of the 99% I demand a tax-deferred personal savings account (at my local credit union).  I want to cut out the fat-cat Wall Street  middle-man handling my retirement savings / masturbating my money into their personal mega-mansions.  Personal savers would get taxed on withdrawals and accounts can be personally prioritized based on need:  retirement, unemployment, disability, etc. while incentivizing personal savings in general.  Until something like this happens, I have to pay my fees to the top 1% for a 1%-gain-retirement account or pay my taxes to close the account which will end up in the same fat-cat paws anyway (bailing out the too-big-to-fail failures / income pimps).

Meanwhile, at the time when I’m being approached about retirement accounts, my husband and I are being told we need to buy a house.  NOW is the time.  Interest rates were dropping and values were going up:  house values, supposedly, never decline.  In fact, here in West LA house values more than doubled in less than 4 years (2002-2006).  But LA’s unemployment rate was 6% at the time – significantly above the national rate of 2% for a healthy  national economy.  Hmmm – what exactly am I being urged to signup for?  My other demand is for the 99%:  have some critical awareness.  Quit being a God-forsaken lamb lead to slaughter.  Know the field and know what you’re signing up for!

When we’re living in a country where, after 9/11, nearly 3,000 people died (immediately) and our president tells us to “go shopping,” you have to know something’s gone awry.  All I can fathom is that our economy is in the hands of global-economy casino lords.  In this global system you’re either a gambler, a slave, or one of the 1%.  And given this scale and concentration of power, our corralled earnings can amount to little more than a few gold-plated door knobs somewheres:  http://www.losangelesdailynews.org/now-shy-of-glitz-owner-to-sell-mansion/

First of all, wherever there’s blame there’s a failure to take responsibility.  Take responsibility:    divest from the corporation.  Save your hard-earned money! Support your local credit union and KNOW their structure.  Don’t use plastic, debit or credit, use cash.  Shop local:  farmer’s market, crafts market.  Either grab the Wall Street bull by the horns and know how to join the 1%, or recognize the bull markets for the bull-shit bubble markets that they really are (bull farts then?).  Balance, if not prosperity, lies beyond Wall Street.

And so my questions are these:  what do the financial services sector produce really (other than the fees they take playing investors off one another)?  How is this sector relevant to the GDP – gross domestic product?  Fundamentally, what is the financial services sector producing other than money ethers?  What, really (in a GDP sense), is the cost-benefit ratio of saving banks that are running on ether?  Is it me or has the cost clearly outweighed the benefit?  I think we all know the benefit is limited to “1%” (in all it’s iterations).

I don’t suspect there’s anyone out there:  not Bernanke, not Geithner, not Paulson, and Bloomberg seems to be in denial, etc. who realizes just how inflated the financial services sector is and so the rest of us, the 99% pays.  And so all we can do for now is occupy:  recognize the vacancy or lack of will until there is a breakthrough.  Just what does the top 1% contribute?  Floating jobs in fee-based ether to mitigate the unemployment demand? – a modest show of responsibility when you’re in cahoots with the government anyway.

Thank you occupiers!

The “Big Zero” decade may be over, but there’s still no escape hatch from this pyramid scheme of an economy.  We’re still beset with deflated (if not vaporized) retirement accounts, paying mortgages that are more than the home’s worth, paying usurious interest and fees to the big credit card banks – to get by, paying premium health insurance rates to health insurance companies that will ditch you as soon as you sneeze, and keeping our chins above or below the water of record unemployment.

Essentially, what started off as “trickle down” economics and deregulation of the Reagan Era has spun (with the reversal of the Glass-Steagall act of the Clinton era followed by Bush era “go shopping” leadership and Greenspan’s interest rate reductions) into Wall Street alchemy :  while the middle class was studiously diversifying their earnings into:  1.   failsafe savings & mortgage; 2. insurances; 3.  retirement; 4.  (if affordable) investment; the boys in the smoke-filled back room stirred 1 through 4 (savings, insurance, and investment) into one big usurious, fraudulent bank.  Additionally, not only did they restrict the safety-valve (vest) bankruptcy clause out of the financial contract, our interest rates on our savings went bear-market too.  Trickle down economics has become a washed up economy.  We’re all victims of this economic Katrina.  Slavery may have been sanitized by exporting it to overseas sweatshops, but while we were charging up our credit cards with dollar-store tchochkes, Wall Street seduced our government into prostituting the middle class and delivering it into middleman slavery.

Obama may be President, but here is our Pharoah (Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs:  doing, as his holier-than-thou-self says, “God’s work”):  

This guy’s so enrapt with his financial jihad that he can’t see the water rising.

Fortunately, among the sentient, there is Elizabeth Warren rendering the financial fiasco for what it is with her article America Without a Middle Class.  Additionally, tune into Huffington Post’s “Move Your Money” if you’re interested in undermining the big bank alchemy and supporting local lending.

It surprises me that for all the  financial “talent” lost and dispersed from the big investment banks that closed down through the financial crisis (Bear Stearns et al) that no one has developed the infrastructure to facilitate microlending in our own country.  Between the gaseously high risk of the stock market and the one-point-something percent savings rate of CD’s, I’d love to help chip away at the big banks’ fangs and buy someone else’s debt at half (or anything better than one-point-something percent) the interest rate being paid – if there was some safe (for both parties – no thuggery), secure, insured way to lend money directly.  We have Paypal, we have Kiva Lending, why don’t we have something to help our fellow citizens out?  That’s REAL deregulation.

Happy New Year and New Decade!  Goodbye “Big Zero” (Blankfein), this decade the dime is ours!

It’s not what you think. Thankfully, I’m not in debt. In fact, I’m a “deadbeat”. …Still…, it’s not what you think (per dictionary definition). I pay my credit card in full, on time, because I refuse to pay fees (because I refuse to pay “the man”) which, by credit-card-company definition, makes me a “deadbeat”. So what makes me “in the red” on Black Friday?  It’s “Buy Nothing Day” that one day of the year otherwise designated for abstinence from the capitalist consumption machine.  If that sounds a tad Marxist, that works for me and that’s why “I’m in the red” on Black Friday – a day well spent not spending.

It’s actually pretty tricky to figure out what to do and how to entertain yourself without spending

money -particularly in LA.  In general, “going out” costs. Nevermind the expense of gas or commuting, just parking your car begs for a fine:  $9 to hang out downtown on the weekend; $5 to park to take a hike.  Fortunately it’s free to park and watch the planes land at LAX.  It’s also pretty awesome to watch jet-engine machinery hurdle over you just a few (seemingly) feet above, and then there’s the experience of the shock-scale 747 lumbering over you:  it’s otherworldly – “priceless”  …for everything else there’s shoes.  Those  I’ll purchase on “cyber-Monday.”  I’m not a saint.

P.S.:  Here’s the Marxist Holiday video list (to watch while everyone else is out shopping):  Maxed Out, In Debt We Trust, Walmart:  The High Price of Low Cost, Power and Terror:  Noam Chomsky, Enron:  The Smartest Guys in the Room, What Would Jesus Buy?, and my extra-fave, Manufacturing Consent:  Noam Chomsky and the Media.

ford_fail

It’s tax time and it looks as though my husband and I are going to have to write a check to the IRS. But let’s be real: those letters are the cryptogram for AIG among others including (2 of *) “the big three”- which reminds me of Ford and my post of June 9, 2008. My post prompted a snarky comment from “I Believe.” With a little curiosity and a quick google search at the time I had unveiled an uneasy irony of information which now is hauntingly relevant.

I found that the struggling Ford Motor company, instead of investing in producing a relevant and quality product, threw money at a high-priced advertising agency for strategic marketing (i.e. “emerging media strategists” who use blogs, for example, to promote and defend their brands) and at the same time I found articles about how the company was monitoring employee bathroom breaks because of a supposed slowing of production (not sales…?). Essentially, Ford Motor focused on the vapid marketing of its brand and its tired line of autos and scapegoated its employees – policing the personal habits of its workers instead of making the effort to create an authentic meaning for its brand by increasing the value and quality of its product; instead of investing in better tools, better materials, better quality of life for its employees, and responsive design approaches for its cars, it threw money at ad agencies and timed employee bathroom breaks – bringing new meaning to the term “bottom line” instead of to its cars.

When did brand-boostering, instead of producing something substantive, become economically viable?…oh,… that’s right, it hasn’t!…

…’scuse me while I go cut a check.

*(note) although Ford did not accept TARP money, they’re still culpable.

My velveteen rabbit – my ’89 Mitsubishi Colt: I traded it in. I was hoping to take it to the 20 year mark. And in this down-size decade, I was starting to feel a little competitive in keeping “down” with the Joneses. I eyed my neighbor’s old Honda thinking he would get a new car first – even though my car is still a few years older than the neighbor’s – I wanted to think they were the more indulgent, must-have shiny-and-new consumer. My old car was, somehow, my badge; my resistance to this image-conscious town and a genuine display of wanting what I have. I loved its clean, un-fussy line. One of the latest model Volvo’s looks nearly identical to my 19-year-old car. But I had already sunk some serious cash into it to maintain it and now the suspension was breaking my Colt into a spring horse and the clutch was losing conviction. I was advised that these further repairs would be costly and I was compromising my safety.

I was fixed on getting a used Honda Civic si 2003-2005 – still a hatchback; a form-factor I prefer. A dealer was asking 13.4k out the door for over 60k miles. I couldn’t do it. I eyed a used, hardtop Miata, numbers still didn’t stack up; and then I shopped for a used Mercedes C230 coupe, hatchback (gorgeous), but ultimately decided the engineering was too fussy, not as reliable as a Japanese car, and expensive to maintain. So I ramped up from there and decided to buy, reluctantly, a NEW (late year, on sale) Honda Civic. I cringed at how the Civic has become so over-sized. For preferring the utility of a hatchback, the new Civic is a form factor I don’t care for. After calling around I found the best deal on exactly what I wanted of this lesser evil and went to the dealership. I parked on the street right in front of a beautiful, used Mini. It was exquisite. It had a Baroque play of light with tonal changes grading from a black top to silver body to chrome accents. I checked in with the dealer I made an appointment with and test drove the Honda I inquired about all the while thinking about that Mini. “So how do you like it (the Civic)?, “Very nice – uh -huh – can I test drive the Mini?” He was accommodating and went and got the keys. I went over to the car and noticed it’s sunroof (yes!) and manual transmission (score!). John liked it too and my heart raced in confusion (still had a few issues with the Mini though like having to bench-press the clutch and gear shift and minimal sunroof cover; but it was a hatchback). Long story short, it was out of my budget (leather interior). So I got the Civic. And you know what? I love it! It is a larger car than what I’m accustomed to, but man is it sporty! I feel like I’m driving a GTO but I got the EX (had to get the “moon roof” and a decent sound system) so I feel like I’m driving a Lexus too. I love driving it!

So I traded in my old 1989 Mitsubishi Colt. Sometimes you have to let go of the “badge” and the sentiment and discover a new form factor isn’t so bad.

P.S. vote for Obama.

…uh…what war?…what gas prices? …”CPR for the dead of night” (marketing tagline – how goth!) – what does that mean??? Exactly what do you want to resuscitate? How buffered do you have to be to WANT this car (or any brand-spanking-new-gas-guzzling SUV) and to have the time in the middle of the day (before lunch hour) to report to a falderal for the Ford Flex? I work nearby where this event took place and I watched in bewilderment over the wrong-place-wrong-time callousness of this event. Nevermind that after over 5 years of America at war in Iraq, Ford Motor lacks the foresight NOT to produce a tank of a vehicle, but to come to eco-conscious Venice Beach to launch this 4-wheeled totem of conspicuous consumption is brazen. What an incongruous coincidence that this event was just 2 doors down from the Smart Car launch – having observed both, I can tell you one was a crowded party with live music and the other looked like an EST meeting…guess. It’s no wonder to me Flex marketers are desperately targeting the narcissistic, independently-wealthy bachelor demographic because we all know that anyone with a conscience or a budget wouldn’t be caught dead in one – even though there’s room for the coffin.

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