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jueves, junio 19, 2008

The End Of The World As We Know It

Or at the least that first effects of The Recession have finally arrived on privileged corners of Manhattan.

This from the The New York Times, which as you will recall, contains all the news that's fit to print, and chronicles events in the world from its lofty perspective. The headline: "In weak economy, forgoing $4 lattes for home brews."
The ''latte effect'' of the go-go years had consumers spending $4 a day on coffee. Now the downturn is forcing them to rethink the wisdom of such habits.

As inflation squeezes budgets, middle-class Americans are taking fresh stock of their spending in search of ways to save a nickel or a dime. The result: People are giving up a variety of small financial vices. ..snip

While the idea that little costs add up is nothing new, it comes with added sticker shock as food and gas prices sprint along at a record pace. The result is that people are finally putting the breaks on vices once considered necessary -- like frappuccinos. ..snip

The result is fewer latte runs. Literally.

Last month, Starbucks Corp. blamed rising food and gas prices when it reported a 28 percent drop in second-quarter earnings, and said sales at U.S. stores open at least a year had dropped -- indicating some may finally be summoning their inner Scrooges.
This cute article is a sign that even the New York Times, which usually lives in an opulent world, recognizes that the economy is crashing and that even greater discomfort is coming. Being The Times, it says it's no big deal. Ha ha ha. People are just tightening their belts a little bit. It's not a big deal, really. We're all doing fine, right?? Well, aren't we?

When a large coffee at the local coffee emporium reached $2.25 about 3 months ago, I stopped this "vice[ I] once considered necessary." I found that I could buy organic, fair trade, Peruvian French roast for about $11/pound and my own half and half. And that I liked my brew better. I did that initially because $2.25 felt like too much. Later I was scandalized by the arithmetic: 5 x $2.25 =$11.25 x 50 weeks = $562.50/year.

That kind of outrage has been happening with more frequency lately. Regular gas at $4.269/gallon means that a 15 gallon fill up costs $64.04. A 250 gallon tank of fuel oil at $4.699/gallon is $1,174.50. And a trip to the local health food and vegetable emporium is eye opening. I thank Goddess that my own vegetable garden is so very abundant this year, though it would be far, far better if there were more bees to pollinate the peas.

The signs of economic pressure are everywhere if you're paying attention.

I am not poor. I am self employed. I have a high income. My income has not measurably decreased because of the economic condition of the country. But I'm nevertheless deeply offended by what is happening to my neighbors as prices for necessities rise and they struggle to make ends meet and they do without and their wealth is gradually redistributed from them to the wealthiest Americans.

And now even the New York Times has noticed that fewer people, the people in its affluent audience, are buying $4 lattes. In other words, the decay, the rot is growing and has now begun to arrive even at the Times's door.

Have our insulated and oblivious politicians noticed this trend too? Are they sleeping? Are they waiting until there are numerous little Bushvilles, people living in refrigerator crates under highway overpasses, homeless people begging on sidewalks, families camping out in their cars before they recognize that there's a big problem in the economy? Are they waiting until fuel drive offs, thefts of gas cans, and siphoning reach record levels?

Do they have a solution for this? Are they discussing this? I mean, there's nothing to be concerned about, right? Do they really think talking about offshore drilling and drilling in ANWAR and suspending the federal gas tax and regulating kinds of futures trading speculation and investing in future green energy projects is addressing the economy? Do they think we're better off than we were last year? Or 8 years ago? Or have they decided that the market will miraculously solve this problem and that people should just suffer until it does?

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