Sunday, July 20, 2008

How're Things in Moneyland?

This weekend was filled with luxuries for my kids and I. On Friday night, we went to see the new Disney flick, Wall-e, which was quite frankly a brave little film considering the way it thumbs its nose at conspicuous, unconscious consumption. We loved it. On Saturday, we hit the ground running early to spend a couple of hours at the dentist (beats making three separate trips from Twinsburg to Richmond Heights). We grabbed lunch, my daughter and I took a quick dip in the pool, and then we all headed to the Cleveland Irish Cultural Fest to see friends and family and enjoy a roaring set with Liz Carroll and John Doyle (with a surprise pub-burning number when the duo was joined by fiddler Eileen Eivers and Cherish the Ladies' flutist Joan Madden). Since we forgot to turn the a/c on when we left -- it's been above 90 and extremely muggy the last few days -- the three of us "camped out" on the floor and went to sleep reminiscing about our fun couple of days.

In the middle of it all arrived this gem from Del McCoury, the well-timed Moneyland. My copy arrived Saturday just in time for us to head out. It's got a fabulous lineup and of course a spot-on message. Funny how we're all getting poorer and the handful of folks at the top don't even notice? The other day I spoke with a colleague at our community's major food bank. The enormity of the demand they are experiencing compared to years past is pretty staggering. And frontline agencies like theirs are getting hit from three sides: donations are down, expenses and demand are up.

Meanwhile, as Dr. Don noted in his recent post, the last bastions of American manufacturing, like the automakers, literally spin their wheels, ignoring the alarms while scheduling shutdowns and layoffs and, rather than redirect research and development to come up with more fuel efficient cars that Americans will buy, they are keeping an eye on their hefty severance packages. None of them will feel any pain.

I kind of like what the Continental Airlines exec decided to do. Since his airline isn't making as much money as it needs to stay in the air, he's forfeited his salary for the rest of the year. What a novel idea. Unfortunately it looks like he's a lone wolf out out in CEO wilderness.

A portion of the proceeds will be used to support homeless programs in the US, so if you were of a mind to buy something this week, think about making it this terrific effort featuring Del and his Boys, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Bruce Hornsby (with the Fairfield Four), and even the late President Franklin Roosevelt. For a limited time you might be able to pick up a signed copy. This tune, Breadline Blues 2008, features Tim O'Brien, Del, Mac Wiseman, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings. Some folks will notice that the tune smacks awfully like another blues tune you might be able to catch here.

Whatever you have to push uphill this week just to put bread on your table, I hope the load is a little bit lighter, and the bread's a little bit sweeter, and if you're lucky that you'll have real butter to spread on top.


At July 21, 2008 9:36 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Aww, I love getting a mention! It's interesting because, despite the economy, it seems like few people I know are really cutting back. It's like everyone says they're cutting back but you watch their behavior and they're not. The new Batman film made $155 million and I saw quite a few families at my showing. That's not a cheap afternoon and the evenings are even more expensive. Whatever time of day I'm out, I see tons of cars everywhere.

I guess my point is that Americans are just addicted to going out, doing stuff and buying stuff. Yesterday I stayed home the entire day. In fact, I even forgot that my cell phone was in my car from Saturday. So I sat home the entire day, watched TV, cleaned-up a few things at home, didn't talk with anyone or go out. That would drive most people I know crazy. It's almost like people are afraid to be alone with their thoughts anymore.

At July 21, 2008 4:08 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Don!
Sounds like a near-perfect day yesterday. As I've said before, I think people are actually afraid of stillness. Heaven forbid we should take a minute of quietude and ponder the choices we are making. Heck no! Forge ahead! Add to the to-do list! Puff up that false sense of feeling needed, stroke that ego by being able to tout the busiest schedule/most hectic job/largest brood/biggest gas pump spend/most accomplished overscheduled children/add new items ad nauseum here.

I think people are afraid of what they might discover by spending a few minutes by themselves. They might actually have to FACE themselves. If they would do that first, and then carry on with their lives, they might be surprised at how rich and real it is.

Solitude is fast becoming a lost art, but I am proud to be one of its torch-bearers! I'll send you a membership card! :-)

At July 22, 2008 9:54 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Well, I'd have to say that, in general, I prefer being alone. I like the stillness. Even on Sarurday when I went to Hinckley lake, I just sat on one of the docks by myself watching people fish. I didn't talk with anyone, didn't really DO anything. Just sat and watched and thought and relaxed. Until too many people with kids showed up. I'm not crazy about kids and even less crazy about parents who yell and swear at them the whole time.

I think that many people would do well to just shut up once in a while and enjoy some silence. With cell phones it seems like people are talking all the time. Since when did we have so much to say? It's all nothing. As you say, a way to make us feel important. I'm the exact opposite. I often prefer to feel small. It gives you better perspective.

At July 22, 2008 5:42 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

LOL, well, my opinion is that the people who are small are the ones who act like they are in charge of everything. For some reason, I know my fair share of this personality type, but you learn to deal with them.

There was an interesting article on today about how the economic distress is influencing decisions about commuting. There are folks who can't make a 50 mile round-trip commute AND keep their house. I do not grasp this. How did things get so far off track? Then again, I'm afraid to check the bluebook price on my home and find out that I might owe more than it's worth, too. But so is most of the stuff I have. I have to live somewhere, it's cheaper than renting, and eventually things will turn around. So it's odd to try and get an accurate and complete picture of whether people are cutting back or not. I do see a lot of the same things you mention, though.

Interestingly, the track ball on my dingleberry stopped working last night. So I can take and make calls but can't do other things like check email. It's a pain but kinda nice, too.

At July 22, 2008 8:32 PM, Blogger Bob said...


try taking the battery out for a minute... like a reboot.

no good? trackball needs cleaned. let's take that puppy apart.


At July 23, 2008 8:48 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Mando - I can't fathom someone not being able to make a 50 mile round trip commute and still affording a house. Something is amiss in this person's finances. A 50 mile commute might use 3 gallons of gas a day or about $12. I'm not saying that's peanuts but when people complain about this, I take a close look at them.

I hear women complaining about the price of gas who are carrying Coach purses. I'm no expert but I know you can't buy these purses for under $100 and some are considerably more than that. Many of these same women spend $120 or more on their hair every 4-6 weeks or spend $15 a week on pedicures or manicures. Now, I don't begrudge people looking nice but it is all about perspective.

I hear men bitching about fuel prices but still managing to go out for beers a couple times a week or buying the latest video game for $50. I see people on TV talking about how hard it is to make it and behind them is a cabinet with over 100 DVDs.

My point is that Americans rarely seem to be at a loss when it comes to spending money on what they want versus what they need. They get all pissed about spending money on food, gas, and housing but you rarely hear any bitching about luxury items and "wants."

I was driving with my dad last week and as we passed a Best Buy I remarked to him how crowded the parking lot was. Let's be honest, Best Buy sells almost nothing that would be considered a necessity. It is an entire store devoted to our wants and largely makes money by preying on weak-minded people's needs to keep up with their friends and neighbors. Yet the parking lot was about as crowded as always. Apparently people who can't afford to drive to work and keep their mortgage can still afford $100 a month for cell phones.

At July 23, 2008 11:16 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hi Bob,
Found a way around the trackball absent my own personal ATT cellular consultant. Whew! Moved to next week's list.

Don, my guess is that people are not being honest with themselves about their spending. Even a couple of the people in my office can't conceive that there is no way I'd pay $100 for a pair of $200pants on sale. Hell, I can't even justify paying $80 and up for cable -- I almost never have the TV on when I'm at home by myself so why waste money that would pay for two tanks of gas a month? These folks packing the BestBuy lot must be making the opposite types of tradeoffs that they're not talking about, or carrying debt that they piled up and which now is catching up with them and they just keep running faster.

I really have to advocate for Wall-E. It's a fairly slick commentary on American consumerism and the fate it could lead us to. I was beyond surprised that this was a Disney venture considering the fairly significant consumer market share they hold. But the message is clear.

At July 23, 2008 2:38 PM, Blogger DrDon said...

I think you're right. My final take on it is this: People can spend their money on whatever they want. It's their money and they earned it. However, I have two simple rules regarding this:

1. If you're going to spend money on entertainment/luxuries/wants, do not complain about the costs of needs. No one NEEDS a cell phone, certainly not an iPhone. No one NEEDS a Wii or Playstation. If you have $50 for a video game, you have money for gas.

2. Don't look to me to bail you out if you engaged in fiscal irresponsibility. This mainly goes for mortgage and bank bailouts. I do not want my tax dollars used to keep people in homes they never should have bought in the first place. Unfortunately, I have no say over this one so I'm screwed but they're still my rules.


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