a dozen eggs: $46,713.88

2/22/09

You know a phenomenon isn’t so bad when the Usual Punditry won’t shut the fuck up about it – and so it is with the current Economic Freefall Meltdown Dollarpacolypse. I’m here to tell you this: the mainstream media hasn’t been right about anything in over a decade, and they aren’t right about this. Yes, I’ve read the facts and figures, I’ve seen all the graphs, I know people personally who are suffering with job loss and I’m not immune to the feeling that there is some fundamental change afoot.

However, I’m DONE with the shrieking, the furious wheel-spinning, the skyward beseeching, the rending of garments, the spittle, the End Times porn, and the phrases “uncharted territory” and “worst ever”. There’s something fishy about all this self-flagellation and masochistic simmering in misery, even if I can’t put my finger on it. Tessa remarked that it was reminding her of Y2K, and while I agree, I can’t help but think a select group of people are leveraging our doom for their benefit, the same way it was done after 9/11.

Let’s talk brass tacks here: there are several levels of “you’re fucked” and they all have solutions. At most, it means harboring an extra layer of worry on top of the jobs we still have. At piss-poor least, it means having a good stack of canned goods, some Sterno, and fresh drinking water – which is a good idea regardless of the economy, especially if you live on the San Andreas Fault.

Everything in between is doable with a strong family and good neighbors, but anything outside those parameters? Sorry, but none of us can handle it. If you hark the cassandras, we should be growing our own barley and salt-curing our own gazelle meat. I mean, I’m sorry, but kindly fuck off. That kind of talk merely makes the majority want to play more Wii.

The mainstream news outlets have one guiding principle: money. Right, no duh, but you have to keep it in mind even when they think they’re being sincere. In the last decade, what has sold more papers, and kept more eyes glued to the television?

– the dot-com bubble bursting

– Y2K

– 9/11

– The Iraq War

– white girls who go missing

– the 2008 Presidential election

In each case, we were given misinformation, groundless conjecture, and a horrific warping of the American dialogue in order to keep the crisis going on as long as possible. Think of the lies about the war. Think of how they propped up Hillary Clinton to tear down Obama for months, LONG after the Democratic nomination had already been decided. The sickest thing is they probably don’t even know they’re doing it.

I promise you, somebody is gaining power, fortune or influence with this financial disaster, and will deliberately keep us in a state of terror. I hear the conservative retort forming before they even say it: “yes, and that somebody is BIG GOVERNMENT™!!!” Well, maybe you’re partially right.

Does this mean Obama’s stimulus package is a mistake? No, because in this pursuit, emotions, unfortunately, are reality – and we’ve gone too far done the rabbit hole to find our way back. Some illnesses call for homeopathic herbs, others for laser surgery.

But for today, I simply ask: amidst the constant barrage of gloom, always consider the source.

0 thoughts on “a dozen eggs: $46,713.88

  1. LFMD

    I dunno. . . . things seem pretty dire these days. I am surprised that you are arguing these points, given that you live in CA — a state which is literally falling apart! Forced furloughs, laying off state workers, no income tax returns. What the hell????

    Reply
  2. josie

    i must agree with lfmd on this one.
    Although there is a shitload of hyperbole in the media these days, I think we are headed into a very deep, dark place for about two years. I think the stimulus will abate what could have been, but it will be hard to measure how far into the depths we would have reached without it.
    I see the following changes afoot once this is all over: 1) we will, as a culture, re-evaluate our values which have been somewhat misplaced over the last two decades, and 2) we will start to take the media a lot less seriously, not only because we have other sources, but also because we’re tired of the roller coaster they’ve put us on.

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  3. Sean

    I’m sure you won’t get the same level of commentary on this as you do when you jump on hot button topics, but the economic climate calls for sobriety, not flippancy. You can freely disregard mainstream news all you want, but the “source” to consider is the economist’s math, and that’s beyond reproach.
    At a certain point, people wanted good returns on their investments, and that’s nobody’s fault. Investment firms leveraged their investments and made a lot of money for people, and that’s great. They did this by bundling mortgages until the market was dry, and, in order for investments to continue to earn money, lenders made it easier for more people to borrow. This was all great.
    Because it was possible to buy a house for a great number of people who never thought they could, more homes were being built, and larger sprawling communities with more home stores and Walmarts and Targets started popping up. And that was great.
    As soon as people realized that they couldn’t pay their bills, the banks started canceling credit cards and foreclosing on the houses, which is their right and is totally fine. Except… it happened everywhere, to everyone. Now, the banks had houses instead of payments, and the houses next door, and the houses down the street, and they were all worthless.
    Which made those investments built on this foundation worthless. Which made the average investor lose a fortune, right at the same time that she realized that her introductory rate on her credit card just tripled, and her house is now worth a quarter of what it was worth three years ago.
    So. In any economy, it’s not like the same amount of money isn’t out there. It’s out there. Some people made a fortune on their investments during the 90s and continued to make a fortune on their investments during Bush’s reign. Those who made enough money on investments to live comfortably for the rest of their lives need to understand that this redistribution of wealth *up* might be one of the most catastrophic shifts of wealth in history. We were three hours from disaster back in September, when investors, en masse, decided to withdraw their money… we were three hours away from sterno and bottled water.
    I think it’s important to disregard the heightened comic political diatribes that we get from both the main stream media and from blogs. I think any news outlet, be it MSNBC or Fox or simply your gossipy neighbor, should be taken with a grain of salt, particularly if they decide that one political party is to blame for every bad thing and the other is completely clean.
    But if you are going to disregard the spin, then you need to find out who THEIR source is, and then find out what that source is predicting. America has existed and even thrived when the campaign promise of “a chicken in every pot” was effective, there’s no reason to believe it can’t happen again.

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  4. CM

    That’s a great idea – let’s instead report on the hundreds of safe landings at the airports instead of gluing ourselves to tragedy, so that we don’t have to focus on what went wrong when there’s a crash, and how the hell to make absolutely sure people are watching so it doesn’t happen again.
    Quite frankly, this notion that the media (collectively) played up 9/11 or anything else for money is bullsh*t, and so is the idea that the mainstream media never gets anything right.
    If you don’t hit people over the head with issues and problems, they ignore them completely until they explode. I’ve seen it time and time again at the local level, and it certainly happens on the national and world level. We will write for months that there are budget problems and the next tax increase will be huge, but everyone ignores it until they get their bills in the mail and then they start screaming, “Why didn’t you write about it?”
    On a larger level, the media covered the strife in Rwanda, but did anyone bother to read it? Or did they just wait until the film version?
    Yes media is a business and needs to stay in business, but the idea that the media creates scares is nonsense that often (not always) comes from people who want to believe the world is sunny and nothing bad will ever happen. I’d rather have an idea of what COULD happen and how to protect myself, than get hit in the face and feel a problem went uncovered. I don’t believe you are among these people…but I do believe maybe you are taking the media for granted. In fact, blogs like the Drudge Report are not the mainstream media.
    If all you see when you look at the media is car crashes and 9/11, then you are actually part of the problem because you are focusing on that while COMPLETELY IGNORING all of the investigative and non-profitable pieces newspapers do for the greater good. You don’t read them, them complain they don’t exist. If you read the Times today and don’t want to read the economic disaster stories, wouldn’t you like to know about the civil war in Chad and people being murdered (yes, I know, no one knows about that) or at least one of the things the media busts its gut to report that won’t make it a dime?
    Sure, the NY Post is going to be about flash, but that’s only one newspaper. The problem is often readers who only focus on the glitzy or dire stories and don’t read the other investigative reports, then blame everyone else when the situation gets out of hand (including the media).
    And as for the economic crisis, do you remember any situation in your life where people were shooting their entire families, and then themselves, because of the economy? Or abandoning their kids at hospitals?
    One of the good things the media does is make us aware so we can prepare. Look at hurricanes. Often, nothing happens and they hype us up to prepare, and it’s all over nothing. But then again, look at what happened with Hurricane Katrnia. The newspaper down there did an investigative report 3 years earlier saying what “could” happen in such an event. I’m sure many people (particularly politicians) dismissed the story as a false scare and meant to sell newspapers…I’m sure they took a lot of grief.
    Would you have dismissed that as gloom and doom? Trying to sell papers? Maybe.
    Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone listened? Heck, wait a second, this blog was one of the ones that told us it might happen! But yet you are taking on the media for doing similar things. You don’t mention Katrina in your list, but that’s another thing the media showed us lots of pictures of, and hopefully as a result, such a screwed-up response will never happen again. Of course, that will mean preparing for the worst every time a similar storm hits, and lots of media hype. What’s the alternative?
    The points you made today on this blog are commonly held opinions and I respect them. I agree there are newspapers like the Post that thrive on sensationalism. But the mainstream media hasn’t gotten anything right? Is that fair to say?
    Newspapers are dying, and some of you critics might get your wish. But when that happens, all you’ll have left are blogs that don’t report on anything unless it’s glamorous or shocking, and you won’t know about anything “boring” like foreign affairs or which countries have nuclear weapons or political corruption until it’s too late.
    Anyway, good post, but as a member of the (albeit small-time) media, I had to make my points.

    Reply
  5. LFMD

    . . . amidst the constant barrage of gloom, always consider the source . . .
    Allow me to be a source. My 401(k), which I have amassed since 1993 and which is intended to be my retirement nest egg, went from a six-figure number to looking like a check book balance. It will take years to recover, and I will be working for that many years longer than I had planned. . . .
    If that is not sufficient reason for gloom, I don’t know what is!

    Reply
  6. kent

    This shit is real. The fact that cable news is a sideshow just means that you should only watch it for entertainment. I get mad that it IS how so many people get their news, because they have people one who distort, lie, and just plain make shit up all the time, and the only guy who ever calls bullshit on them is Chris Matthews. And he has his own problems as a source of good information.
    What is interesting to me is this: People who still have their jobs, can still get loans, can still make their house payments have stopped spending, along with those less fortunate. The structural correction that will have to take place over the next couple years may be long enough to (GASP) change consumer behavior.
    For example, pulling numbers out of my butt, I think 1/2 the drop in auto sales can be attributed to people who can’t afford to buy a car. The other half is people who figure they can get by another year or two without buying a new car, or bought a used car instead of a new one.
    What if it dawns on everyone that they don’t need a new car every couple years? Or — incredibly — that they can get by without a car at all?
    The point being, the real engine of the US economy has been people buying shit they don’t need and can’t afford. What will happen if the culture becomes less materialistic? Is there a stable, high employment economic system possible without people buying what my son Sean calls unnecessary plastic objects?

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  7. josie

    I didnt mean to jump on the bandwagon of media bashing. What I refer to as a “roller-coaster” ride is the commercial news’ propensity to dramatize every day to day move of the economy. An uptick in the market one day has us elated, and an equal downtick the next day is another nail in the country’s coffin. That shit is exhausting.
    And Kent has hit it on the nose…. we move a lot of crap in this world. The crap takes resources to make, creates pollution in its manufacture, can be purchased with pennies, and then fills up landfills when it breaks two weeks later. Don’t even get me talking about the insidious institution of the Happy Meal toy. “Millions served” with unnecessary plastic objects. I am so deeply ashamed each time I buckle in and partake of this destructive cycle. When others start to share in this shame, then real change will happen, and we will have upgraded our american values.

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  8. Caroline

    Yeah, things are bad but, I agree, can we please not just spin our wheels on the news about how bad it is? Because that makes me feel so much better. I can see what my investments look like and that the small ad agency I work for is loosing clients left and right, which will probably leave me jobless shortly. But does CNN et al have to go on and on AND ON about it? We’re living it – enough already.
    I’ve begun to hate the news. (I know, I’m slow.) I was watching CNN at some point over the weekend and they were interviewing all these people who have lost their jobs, homes, you-name-the-depressing-it. They broke for commercial and literally said “more grim stories after the break”. WHAT? Who, pray tell, stayed tuned for that? I turned on my DVR and watched 4 hours of Days of our Lives.
    Times suck but who are these gluttons for punishment???

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  9. kent

    Caroline> RE hating the news? I’m trying to remember when I LIKED the news. Maybe the week of the inauguration in January. Maybe when Carter’s mideast peace plan went through. Pretty much the rest of the time it can be summaried as “Boy we’re fucked, and hey it’s getting worse!”

    Reply
  10. Carolyn

    Ian, thank you for this.
    I had my Sunday phone call with my parents yesterday and the first piece of “dialogue” out of my mother’s mouth was: “Its all over the news that there aren’t any film gigs…people aren’t going to movies because they don’t have the money for the luxury so Hollywood is cutting budgets and there’s less being made. Hollywood isn’t recession proof. You might want to reconsider what you are doing and why you are there. Things are only going to get worse and we are in for some really hard times. Everyone is.”
    I had to explain to her that special effects are being cut in some cases true because of the imbalance in ROI but all projects are different and there is still product being made. Why not take the temperature of the situation by getting information from people who actually live and breathe in Hollywood as opposed to what Fox news says? If they even said anything at all.
    AND it really pisses me off that every time there is a fire (Malibu, Griffith Park in the last year) or mudslide or earthquake I get frantic phone calls telling me how California is just an awful dangerous place and that the whole place is going to fall into the ocean and die. This hysteria is based on awful pics and stories broadcast on the news.
    I can’t deal with anyone else’s limitations and fear. I just can’t.

    Reply
  11. craughill

    are you really that out of touch?
    please explain how sterno and canned goods pay the bills.
    i guarantee if you spent one day in downtown charlotte you’d change your tune. don’t worry – they have direct flights from both LAX and LGA.

    Reply
  12. xuxE

    i don’t listen to mainstream news, but i do read financial industry news and really get a lot out of the financial industry blogs in the “econoblogosphere” as it’s called, where there is pretty pure research to be found from very solid folks in the know.
    for me, i was really saddened to see George Soros’s dire outlook, he is an extremely left leaning philanthropist -slash- hedge fund genious, and speaks his mind without reservation. i also was really saddened to see the reports on the state of emerging europe where there are some statistics showing real risks of depression close at hand, also Spain, Ireland, lots of countries who may be in worse shape than Asia in the late 90’s. and what a tragedy it would be if the EU were to break apart rather than pull together right now.
    so i think part of the reason there is so much ghastly shrieking in the mainstream media is that they tend to exaggerate every crisis with extreme histrionics and milk it for all it’s worth – that’s just what they do. i think what we are seeing is the equivalent of the oversaturation in the media we saw when they reported on 9/11 and all the other media blitzes you mention. these events are the equivalent of a kind of global financial 9/11 and thus the media is hysterically trumpeting this news ad nauseum as they naturally do.
    the tragic events themselves are real, and the uncertainty about the way forward is also real – there is no crystal ball.
    but just because the media flies into no-holds barred hyperbole doesn’t mean the situation isn’t extreme enough to justify it. what i think it does mean is that if you’re looking for the real intellectual discourse on what is happening in the world, you’re looking in the wrong place.

    Reply
  13. Jody

    Doom, Despair and Agony on me-
    A deep dark Depression, excessive misery-
    If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…
    Doom, Despair and Agony on me-

    Reply
  14. Bud

    Ian makes an excellent point: this is not the end of the world.
    Perhaps it’s the end of the world as we know it — and that may be a Very Good Thing.
    Yes, we are going through a difficult time; Chauncey Gardner put it: “In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”
    Of course the news media have to report on the details of our winter but we’d all be better off if they’d simply give us the facts rather than to sensationalize them. If they won’t do that, we’re better off not watching.
    When I was in Kansas City during the Great Flood of 1993, I saw media coverage shift from the sensational to the factual and saw what a difference it made. People went from being paralyzed with fear to being busy helping. We need that now.

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  15. ChrisM

    Fortunately I haven’t had time to watch the latest cable news circus.
    One point. Even though the US is screwed-up financially, it is much less so than other places, including Europe. The bad paper in the US banks is estimated to be roughly 2 to 3 trillion dollars. That’s huge but…
    Western European banks loaned TENS of trillions of euros/swiss francs into Eastern Europe that have all but vanished. Plus, those debtors do business and pay wages in zlotys and other currencies that have tanked. Add in more huge losses in places like Ireland and Greece, and total losses for European banks are about FORTY TRILLION euros.

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  16. xuxE

    yep, and when the wolves come out of the walls – it’s all over.
    (just found myself thinking the wolves in the walls is kind of a nice parable about fearing the worst and how you handle it when it happens…)

    Reply
  17. KTS

    Yeah, well, even a blind pig will find an acorn in a haystack once in awhile.
    The economy is in even worse shape than the Punditry makes it out to be. When George Soros says, ”We witnessed the collapse of the financial system. It was placed on life support, and it’s still on life support. There’s no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom…
    The crisis is actually more severe than the Great Depression … It’s like watching the demise of the Soviet Union, and … There is no prospect of a recovery any time soon,” I tend to listen. This is not Y2K hysteria. (I don’t think Soros made that statement to make money.)
    It doesn’t surprise me that the Usual Suspects – Republicans, bankers, establishment Democrats, health insurance companies, etc. – who all have a stake in profiting from this depression, are getting most of the TV coverage as respectable experts. They are cohorts who will make many bucks off of bumming people out. Be that as it may, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a serious Problem.
    The Dow is down to nearly 7100 today. The local news is broadcasting more local layoffs. If anything, the mainstream media is sugarcoating the depth of this mess.

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  18. Randy

    Can I get an Amen. Preach it brother, Ian. I agree the the comments on both sides of the aisle. This is a true financial mess. It is going to take years to pull out of. I have a feeling it is going to last longer than Obama’s 4 year term and there isn’t a darn thing that the government can do about it. I agree that they are trying and they are going to help some people with what they have done, but I’m not so sure that an absolute change in the fundamentals of the free-trade economy have been in order for a long time as the path we were on was not sustainable. I also believe that those of us living through this mess will come out on the other side stronger human beings for it and it could transform us into a second Greatest Generation. Bring on the media hype, they can’t change anything and can only fear monger so long before things like this get written and people say “Enough” and start to live their lives without fear. It will happen, someday.

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  19. Kevin in Philadelphia

    Thank you, Ian. This was some much needed reason and calm in an – IMO – overly frantic world. This too shall pass.

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  20. Bob

    Sorry to say, Ian, it’s worse than you think.
    If you want to castigate the media–and it’s always open season–then ask why they didn’t aggressively investigate unregulated financial instruments back when it might have done some good.
    As for what Obama can do about Bush’s mess, well, as someone said, once you’ve driven the car over a cliff, the options on the way down may be limited.

    Reply

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