CATEGORY: Economy

We sell to the rich, to the poor — but not the middle class

My refrigerator is fatigued. Soon, but hopefully not too soon, I’ll need to replace it. Will I be able to buy a modestly priced, well-built but not fancy refrigerator that will last the rest of my life?

I am not rich; I am not poor. I have a middling five-figure annual salary. I am parked firmly in the middle class. But, according to a New York Times story by Nelson D. Schwartz, American business is becoming less interested in selling to me and the rest of us mired in the middle — because the middle class is shrinking. Writes Schwartz:

As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

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CATEGORY: BusinessFinance

Teaching underclass kids which fork to use

CATEGORY: BusinessFinanceI recently came across a useful article over at Ragan’s PR Daily entitled “What to wear to work in the PR and marketing industry.” After reading through it, my first reaction was that it was mistitled – what it offers is good advice for what to wear to work in just about any industry. From where I sit now, there’s nothing terribly innovative about author Elissa Freeman’s advice, but it’s also true that there’s sometimes significant value in being reminded of the basics and having them presented in a tight, coherent fashion. We have so much noise in our society, so many messages screaming for our attention every waking minute, that it’s easy to lose focus on something as simple as dressing appropriately for a work culture.

The main points? Continue reading

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #112: GOOOLLLLLLLL

“Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Unsolicited movie review: Capitalism…

…A love story. Which is what the film is, an unsolicited review of Capitalism. If you’re expecting standard, Michael Moore agit-prop you’ll be mildly disappointed. If you’re expecting a full deconstruction of Capitalism, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting a call to Socialism and all power to the proletariat, you’ll just be mildly confused. It’s a pretty good flick, partly because Moore doesn’t pull many silly stunts and spends less time than usual getting in your face. In fact, he’s downright nostalgic through the better part of the first half. It’s UAW, middle class autobiographical complete with old home movies. Now maybe it’s just that i was raised amidst the UAW middle class at the tail end of its existence, but this focus did a good job of setting me up. I know the way the story ends. His shots of abandoned neighborhood’s are depictions of my own mental imagery rather than cinematic. I’ve already got the sadness, confusion and anger that he’s hoping to build.

I’m curious if the set up works for others from a different background.

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Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #103: Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse

“To take people from the music world and give them the same kind of credibility that you give me, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker—that’s like an aberration. I know there’s some young actor sitting in New York or L.A. who’s spent half of his life learning how to act and sacrificing to learn his craft but isn’t going to get his opportunity because of some ‘actor’ who’s been created.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #101: Your Pal, Mike S.

“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading

Predicting the 21st Century: Nostraslammy's ten-year review

Ten years ago, at the turn of the millennium, Nostraslammy took a stab at predicting the 21st Century, with a promise to check back every ten years to see how the prognostications were turning out. Odds are good I won’t be able to do a review every ten years until 2100, but I figure I’m probably good through 2030, at least, barring some unforeseen calamity. And if you’re Nostraslammy, what’s this “unforeseen” thing, anyway?

Let’s see how our 22 articles of foresight are holding up, one at a time.

1: Researchers will develop either a vaccine or a cure for AIDS by 2020. However, it will be expensive enough that the disease will plague the poor long after it has become a non-issue for the rich and middle classes (although this is one case where political leaders might fund free treatment programs). The end of AIDS will trigger a sexual revolution that will compare to or exceed that of the 1960s and 1970s (unless another deadly sexually-transmitted disease evolves, which is certainly a possibility). Continue reading

Nota Bene #97: toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu'!

“To be truly free, and truly to appreciate its freedom, a society must be literate.” Continue reading

Democracy & Elitism: an introduction to the American false consciousness

Democracy+ElitismPart one in a series.

Is there a more radioactive word in American politics today than elitist?

Admit it – you saw the word and had an instinctive negative reaction, didn’t you? If not, then count yourself among the rarest minority in our culture, the fraction of a percent that has not yet had its consciousness colonized by the “evil elitist” meme. If not, you’re one of a handful of people not yet victimized by a cynical public relations frame that poses perhaps the greatest danger to the health of our republic in American history.

Pretty dire language there, huh? Perhaps we’ve ventured a little too deeply into the land of hyperbole? It might seem so at a glance, but in truth the success of any society is largely a function of the things it believes and how those beliefs shape its actions and policies. Continue reading

How DARE you?

by Nan Rhyner

How DARE you stand on that stage, on the shoulders of generations of women who have struggled and sacrificed to allow a woman to achieve what you have, and spit in their faces the way you have done over the past few weeks? For a serious candidate for vice president to turn in such a poor performance in interview after interview that the fact that you managed not to pee on the stage meant that you exceeded many people’s expectations is a crying shame. Continue reading

Meet Satan's towel boy, Ralph Nader, and other famous rabblerousers in a call for open debates

He’s the man who caused Sep. 11, war in the Gulf, a million Iraqi deaths and probably mad cow disease too, as you’ve no doubt heard from disgruntled Democrats. Of course I’m talking about Evil Incarnate, consumer advocate and political gadfly Ralph Nader.

As evidenced by the comments to my piece on him way back when, he’s still roundly feared and loathed by countless Dems for supposedly helping George W. Bush, no matter how indirectly, steal the 2000 election from Al Gore and allowing everything that followed to pass. Well, he’s running for president again, and his anti-bigwig rhetoric has grown more pointed and caustic, just as the general lefty revulsion for him and his supporters has. Continue reading

Nota Bene #18 Part 2 of 2

With the downturn in the economy, the welfare reform Bill Clinton enacted during his presidency might not seem as politically prescient as it once did. In his New York Times article, “From Welfare Shift in ’96, a Reminder for Clinton,” Peter S. Goodman reports on Peter Edelman, who quit his post as assistant secretary of social services at the Department of Health and Human Services in protest after Mr. Clinton signed the measure. Not only Bill, but Hillary, doesn’t “‘acknowledge the number of people who were hurt,’ Mr. Edelman said. ‘It’s just not in their lens.'”

Once Hillary was in the Senate, Goodman reports, “When the overhaul bill came up for reauthorization, Sandra Chapin, a former welfare recipient affiliated with a coalition called Welfare Made a Difference, lobbied Congress to allow more women to attend college while they received aid. Mrs. Clinton ‘wouldn’t have anything to do with it,’ Ms. Chapin said.” Continue reading

Democrats should run on the economy instead of Iraq

By Martin Bosworth

Like my colleague Bonesparkle, I am often possessed of thoughts that diverge significantly from the accepted paradigm, and could be considered heretical in some circles. Okay, that’s a little self-important, but I still find myself questioning a lot of commonly held assumptions, because they may actually not bear up under scrutiny.

In this case, something I’ve been wondering about for a long time is the idea that in order to win the 2008 Presidential election, the Democratic candidates should forgo making Iraq the central issue to campaign on, and adopt the lesson of the current front-runner’s husband–“it’s the economy, stupid.” Continue reading

Obama tsks-tsks Wall Street about guile and greed

Presidential candidate and senator Barack Obama said something earlier this week worth noting — and the audience he said it to as well.

Sen. Obama stood before a sea of Wall Street executives at Nasdaq headquarters and told them to behave:

Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. And so from time to time, we have put in place certain rules of the road to make competition fair and open and honest.

According to The New York Times, he “described this summer’s subprime lending crisis as a case study of greed among mortgage lenders and the agencies that provide information about them.” He argued for protections of the middle class and additional oversight of those agencies that rate credit.

If more Americans were armed with this kind of information before they purchased risky mortgage loans, the current crisis might not have happened.

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“Faith-based investing” and total economic collapse

By Martin Bosworth

In looking at the various examples of bad economic news over the last few days, I’ve been struck once again by how the supposedly rational, logical, God-forbid-we-regulate-it-because-it-works-fine-on-its-own free market is driven by the very human fears, frailties, and stupidities that govern so much else of human life. Continue reading