consumer-spending

Black Friday

So I majored in religious studies and have spent a fair bit of time in church, which may color my thinking, but am I alone in thinking that Black Friday is clearly a religious observance?

(I mean, obviously it’s a totally secular event and has nothing to do with God or gods or anything*. I mean religious in the sense that a religion at its core is just a worldview/orientation/value set and the traditions/rituals/practices that help codify and express that worldview.)

I would argue that all these people standing in line aren’t really there to save money. (Like, standing in line at Best Buy for four hours to save $20 on a TV is almost never an economically rational decision.)

They’re standing in line to be part of something. And the something is consumer spending, the foundational idea of (and driving force behind) America’s relative economic health. And because we associate economic health so closely with community health, Black Friday is a way of both giving thanks and making an offering.

In the end, I would argue the rituals surrounding Black Friday–combing through emails and advertisements for coupons, waking up before dawn, communing with strangers in large indoor public spaces (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.)–aren’t just similar to religious rituals. I would argue that they are religious rituals, just ones played out in a secular world.

As David Foster Wallace noted in his famous commencement address at my alma mater Kenyon College, “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

(For the record, I don’t find this particularly sad or tragic or anything. I just find it really interesting.)

 

* But then again, many religious traditions have little or nothing to do with God or gods.

1) Myth: The minimum wage was never supposed to be a living wage

This is probably one of the most dangerous—and easy to debunk—myths about the minimum wage, which was championed by Franklin D. Roosevelt beginning in 1933. During an address FDR gave about one of his many economic salvation packages, he explained that “no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

2) Myth: An increase in the minimum wage won’t help anyone if all other costs go up, too

One assumption about increasing the minimum wage is that it will force to the cost of living to increase at the same rate, and in doing so, we’d really just be speeding up inflation. This isn’t really how economics works. A 2013 study by the Chicago Fed found that increasing the minimum wage even just to $9 would increase consumer spending by $28 billion. When spending—i.e. demand—increases, manufacturers and other purveyors of goods and services can actually charge less or at least avoid increasing their prices, because they’re increasing overall revenue.

3) Myth: An increase in the minimum wage is bad for employers

Paying a higher wage to employees can also help employers cut costs in other ways, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Beyond simple supply and demand theory,” reads a comprehensive report on the economics of raising the minimum wage, “increasing the minimum wage may also spur businesses to operate more efficiently and employees to work harder.”

4) Myth: $15 is a random number

“Why not $20 per hour? Why not $50?” critics have asked. And the answer is simple: because those who are fighting for an increase in the minimum wage are being pragmatic, not bombastic. Wages of $10.10 (federally) and $15 (in cities with a high cost of living, like New York and Seattle) are hourly dollar amounts that raise workers above the poverty line and increase their purchasing power, while also being feasible for businesses. Research from the Policy Research and Economic Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst proves that these increases are absolutely possible without job loss.

5) Myth: It will cost us jobs and raise unemployment

So far, there is no evidence that raising the minimum wage causes an increase in unemployment or job loss. In fact, in a Goldman Sachs analysis of the 13 states which have raised their minimum wage, found that “the states where the minimum wage went up had faster employment growth than the states where the minimum wage remained at its 2013 level.”

6) Myth: Only teenagers and uneducated people work for the minimum wage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 4.7 percent of the working population make at or below the minimum wage. While a disproportionate percentage are under the age of 25—about 35 percent, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research—the population who would benefit from a minimum wage increase is—on average—35 years old. Eighty-eight percent are over the age of 20.

7) Myth: Seattle already has a $15 minimum wage and it’s terrible

Though conservative news outlets are already looking to Seattle to see if the economy has plunged into chaos, the truth is that the minimum wage in the city has only increased by a small amount, due to the slow transition written into the law. It’s $10 for some workers, and $11 for others, depending on the size of their employer, and many small businesses are actually very happy with it.

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Why Customers are Disappearing, Why Higher Unemployment Is the Likely Result, and Why Many in Washington Don't Have Half A Brain

Can we just put aside ideology for one minute and agree that businesses hire more workers if they have more customers, and fire workers if they have fewer customers?

There are two big categories of customer: One is comprised of individual consumers. The other is government.

We tend to think of the government as a direct employer – of teachers, fire fighters, civil servants.

But government is also a major customer of the private sector. It buys school supplies, pharmaceuticals, military equipment, computers. It hires private companies to build roads and bridges, dredge ports, manage data.

One out of every five Americans works for a company whose customer is the government.  

Here’s the problem: Both categories of customer are buying less.  

Individual consumers are buying less because they have less take-home pay. Their wages are dropping (the median wage is 8 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation). And their taxes have gone up. The expiration of the Social Security payroll tax cut will shrink the typical paycheck by more than $1,000 this year.

Less take-home pay is causing 45.7 percent of consumers to pull in their belts, according to a survey released Thursday by the National Retail Federation. A quarter of consumers are putting off big-ticket purchases. A third are cutting back on eating out. A fifth are spending less on groceries.

This is why January’s retail sales rose at their smallest rate in three months.

What about the other big customer – government? It used to be that when consumers spent less, government stepped into the breach and spent more in order to keep people employed. That’s what we were supposed to have learned from the Great Depression.

No longer. Government is cutting back, too. Deficit hawks and government-haters are insisting on it.

Last year, President Obama agreed to $1.5 trillion of spending cuts, which have already begun.

Unless Republicans and Democrats reach a budget agreement before next Friday, another $85 billion of spending cuts go into effect this year. They’ll begin almost immediately. 

With consumers and government both spending less, businesses won’t hire more workers; they’ll fire more workers. That’s likely to happen in coming months.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to understand all this. But apparently many in Washington don’t have half a brain.

The Big Stall

Bad news on the economy. It added only 88,000 jobs in March – the slowest pace of job growth in nine months.

While the jobless rate fell to 7.6 percent, much of the drop was due to the labor force shrinking by almost a half million people. If you’re not looking for work, you’re not counted as unemployed.

 That means the percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one dropped to 63.3 percent – its lowest level since 1979.

 The direction isn’t encouraging. The pace of job growth this year is slower than its pace last year.

What’s going on? The simple fact is companies won’t hire if consumers aren’t buying enough to justify the new hires. And consumers don’t have enough money, or credit, or confidence to buy enough.

It’s likely Americans are beginning to feel the pinches of January’s hike in the payroll tax combined with the government budget cuts known as the sequester. Increases in gas prices haven’t helped. All are taking money out of the pockets of most people – whose job situation remains precarious. So they can’t and won’t buy much.

One indicator: Retailers cut their staffs in March – by 24,100.

Yes, the stock market has rebounded. But only a small portion of Americans are affected by the rebound. The richest 1 percent own 35 percent of all shares of stock; the richest 10 percent own 90 percent.

And, yes, housing prices have stopped falling, and construction of new homes has picked up. The construction sector added 18,000 jobs in March.

But the turnaround in housing isn’t because prospective homeowners have been able to get new mortgages. It’s because investors are buying or building homes to rent. And a buoyant rental market doesn’t make most people feel wealthier.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is that we’re in the fifth year of a supposed economic recovery from the second-worst economic downturn of the past century, and we’re still not nearly back on track. Instead, we’ve had the most anemic recovery in history.

A Gallup survey released Thursday showed that the percentage of Americans holding full-time jobs has remained essentially unchanged over the past year. With 12 million people out of work and another 8 million holding part-time jobs who’d rather have full-time ones, this just isn’t nearly good enough.

We’re experiencing the burden of austerity economics and the continued scourge of widening inequality. Both are squeezing average Americans. Yet it’s impossible to have a buoyant and sustained recovery without a large and growing middle class.

 

Reasons I Want To Travel

I want to get away for a while.

Go someplace nobody knows my face.
Go someplace nobody knows my name.

I want to see the world from a different perspective over & over again.

I want to explore.
Experience something new everyday.
I want to drive someplace far.
Sleep in the car
Wake up & drive even farther

I want to visit museums
Listen to my favorite music on replay

I want to photograph everything & anything
With film cameras
I want to take photos of the sunrise
I want to take photos of myself
I want to let the chase for adventure consume me..

Spend hours in a field gazing up at the stars, taking it all in.

Talking about everything & nothing all at once.

I want to feel the wind in my face
I want my lungs to fill with satisfaction as they inhale the aromas of an unexplored place.

I want to meet people that will force me to never forget them.
I want each day to be filled with new memories.
I want to be able to reminisce & smile.

I want to live.
I want to feel alive.

-NW

flavors of quantum leap episodes

  1. Big Issues™: racism, misogyny, institutionalization, homophobia, etc.
  2. Elaborate sexy roleplay scenarios Sam Beckett is too chaste and/or demisexual to willfully participate in
  3. “But we can’t mess with our own timelines!1!”–> try anyway –> doesn’t work out –> angst
  4. did u know… just checking, were u aware… that scott bakula cn play the piano
Economic Storm Clouds Ahead

Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. But the recent jubilance is enough to make even weather forecasters blush. “Just look at the bull market! Look at home prices! Look at consumer confidence!”

Please.

I can understand the jubilation in the narrow sense that we’ve been down so long everything looks up. Plus, professional economists tend to cheerlead because they believe that if consumers and businesses think the future will be great, they’ll buy and invest more – leading to a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But prophesies can’t be self-fulfilling if they’re based on wishful thinking.

The reality is we’re still in the doldrums, and the most recent data gives cause for serious worry.

Almost all the forward movement in the economy is now coming from consumers –  whose spending is 70 percent of economic activity. But wages are still going nowhere, which means consumer spending will slow because consumers just don’t have the money to spend. 

On Thursday the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose 3.4 percent in the first quarter of this year. But the personal savings rate dropped to 2.3 percent – from 5.3 percent in the last quarter of 2012. That’s the lowest level of savings since before the Great Recession. You don’t have to be an economic forecaster, or an astrologer, to see this can’t go on.

Yes, home prices are rising. The problem is, they’re beginning to rise above their long-run historical average. (Before the housing crash they were were way, way above the long-run average.) So watch your wallets. We’ve been here before: The Fed is keeping interest rates artificially low, allowing consumers to get low home-equity loans and to borrow against the rising values of their homes. Needless to say, this trend, too, is unsustainable.

What about the stock market? It’s time we stopped assuming that a rising stock market leads to widespread prosperity. Over 90 percent of the value of the stock market – including 401(k)s and IRAs – is held by the wealthiest 10 percent of the population.

Moreover, the main reason stock prices have risen is corporate profits have soared. But that’s largely because corporations have slashed their payrolls and keep them low. Which brings us full circle, back to the fundamental fact that wages that are going nowhere for most people.

Not even fat corporate profits are sustainable if American consumers don’t have enough money in their pockets. Exports can’t make up for the shortfall, given the rotten shape Europe is in and the slowdown in Asia.

So don’t expect those profits to continue. In fact, the new Commerce Department report shows that corporate profits shrank in the first quarter, reversing some of the gains in the second half of 2012.

And, by the way, the full effect of the cuts in government spending hasn’t even been felt yet. The sequester is going to be a large fiscal drag starting next month.  

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade. But any self-respecting weather forecaster would warn you to zipper up and take an umbrella. Don’t be swayed by all the sunny talk. There are too many storm clouds ahead. 

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Bartkira :  the Animated Trailer


In the days of old, deep in the dredges of the “Do the Bartman” VHS, there was a trailer.

In partnership with Chicken Tonight, Butterfinger, and CC Lemon, the early 90s execs of Fox and Toho made an animated short. An attempt to appeal to American consumers without having to spend a lot of money. Until a changing of the guard decided the kids needed more Poochie and it was lost…until today.



Bartkira is an animated parody mash-up of The Simpsons and Akira. Based on an idea by Ryan Humphrey articulated through comics, the concept was expanded with the Bartkira project, a comic collaboration of Simpsons fans, curated by James Harvey. In association with the comic, Moon Animate Make-Up producer Kaitlin Sullivan pitched the idea of an animated trailer to match and with the work of over fifty artists, produced the Bartkira animated trailer.

It is in no way officially associated with Fox Animation, Toho, or any other legal properties that own the rights to The Simpsons and Akira. We are a bunch of fans who did this for free and are profiting in no way off of this other than having a larf.

For more information on Bartkira, you can visit these sites:
bartkira.com/
bartkira.tumblr.com/
bartkiraroadshow.tumblr.com/

It’s difficult to understand why food inflation would cause riots in Egypt … until you realize Egyptians spend 40% of their earnings on food. It’s hard to believe a housing bubble and high energy prices could take down the U.S. economy … until you realize that Americans spend half our paychecks on housing and transportation. Consumer spending maps tell us more than how we spend. They reveal the DNA of an economy.
What's Your Consumer Label?

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(credit: Marketplace)

Labels: not just for food anymore. Companies have to organize their customers somehow - otherwise they’d be marketing denture cream to 8-year-olds and tampons to middle-aged men. Are you a High Rise Renter? Part of Main Street USA? Live in a college dorm? There’s a label for that.

How do they do it? Well they used to just make their best guess about who was watching a given channel at a given hour (guess who was watching Oprah at 4pm every day?) and tailor their advertising appropriately. But now marketers have all sorts of information about us. From online profiles to credit card transactions to Google searches and Foursquare check-ins, everyone with some kind of connection to the outside world is pretty much leaving a trail of data every where they go.

So - surprise! - a huge industry has sprung up to collect and analyze this data (called “data mining”) and sell it to the companies that want to sell you stuff. You can read all about it here, and “identify your lifestyle category" here.

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MAKE the PLEDGE to not shop on Black Friday for #BlackoutBlackFriday here: http://bit.ly/11ve49m & STAND up against police brutality!

#BlackoutBlackFriday: We ask those who stand with Ferguson, victims of police brutality and us to refrain from shopping on Black Friday and participate in a nationwide day of action and activism. Our lives are joined by the money we spend as consumers. Today, more than ever, the levers of power – civic, corporate, industrial, capital – are tied to one another and to our economy. The US economy depends on our shopping, especially during the holiday season. But the lives of our brothers and sisters are worth more than the dollars we can save on holiday gifts. Together, we can make a historic stand against police brutality and spark change. Let’s demonstrate our unity. Take this single day off of shopping to #showyourworth and join us in a day of action: http://bit.ly/1vkOBdw

Stay updated on #BlackoutBlackFriday and follow Blackout for Human Rights on social media:
YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/1EpynUp

Twitter Account: http://bit.ly/1r5eUz5

Instagram Account: http://bit.ly/1nphFzZ

Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/ZYtWBf

How Much Would Walmart Prices Rise If They Paid a Better Wage?

  • According to researchers Ken Jacobs, Dave Graham-Squire, and Stephanie Luce, 41.4 percent of a pay increase to $12 an hour would go to workers in families with total incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • The researches conclude that even if Walmart were to pass 100 percent of a $12 wage increase to consumers, its average impact on a Walmart shopper would be negligible: it would raise prices only 1.1 percent.
  • This 1.1 percent increase in price works out to $0.46 per shopping trip, or $12.49 per year, for the average consumer who spends approximately $1,187 per year at Walmart.
newamericamedia.org
Black Buying Power Nears $1.1 Trillion

According to the report, consumer trends include:

• With a buying power of nearly $1 trillion annually, if Blacks were a country, they’d be the 16th largest country in the world.

• The number of Black households earning $75,000 or higher grew by almost 64 percent, a rate close to 12 percent greater than the change in the overall population’s earning between 2000 and 2009. This continued growth in affluence, social influence and household income will continue to impact the community’s economic power.

• Blacks make more shopping trips than all other groups, but spend less money per trip. Blacks in higher income brackets, also spend 300 percent more in higher end retail grocers more than any other high income household.

• There were 23.9 million active Black Internet users in July 2011—76 percent of whom visited a social networking/blog site.

• Thirty-three percent of all Blacks own a smart phone.

• Black Americans use more than double the amount of mobile phone voice minutes compared to Whites—1,298 minutes a month vs. 606.

• The percentage of Blacks attending college or earning a degree has increased to 44 percent for men and 53 percent for women.