Herman Cain:  Don’t Blame Wall Street?

"Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it is someone’s fault if they failed," stated Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate.
Actually Herman, I do blame them.  For good measure, let’s throw in the failed shot at globalization in which corporations outsourced hundreds of thousands of jobs and thousands of factories.  I get the whole money will flow to the lower wage areas as our labor costs are too high meme, but this became a wholesale gutting of our industrial base as our senior executives went for the Wall Street gold that comes with higher share prices and stock options. 
There was a time when I thoroughly agreed with him, when there were huge gaping holes in the welfare programs that permitted generations to go without having to find a job.  My wife and I worked long and hard and it didn’t seem right that we’d come home at 8 PM to eat briefly, watch a half hour of television before going to bed and starting the whole process again; the generational Welfare poster models could get by without having to do that.  Time and a bit of perspective has changed that view.  Of course, there was also a time when an executive who screwed up massively got the black boot instead of the golden parachute.
I do blame Wall Street and in their public way, the business networks.  The ongoing talk of quarterly profits and almost gossipy conversation about share prices over the decades has shortened our time frame to a point at which there’s never any serious thought about long-term strategies extending beyond the next three years.  The share price is languishing and we need to show the market that we’re serious.  Let’s cut costs by closing three facilities.  Bang, and there’s another 550 people out of work.  (For the record, I worked for a firm that did close facilities to make to a point to the Street and people living deep in flyover country lost their jobs as a result).   
I also blame the big banks.  Our national debt has gone on to ludicrous levels, almost 100% of GDP and dangerously near if not past the point of tipping the country into insolvency, partially to help support the financial system.  This is a system that has drunkenly acted to goose their profitability by providing loans to anybody that could fog a mirror and then slipped into Patient Zero mode with Wall Street by passing the ebola-laced loans to investors across the world.  As Captain Renault famously stated in Casablanca, "I am shocked, shocked that gambling is going on in here."  These same financial establishments reached Too-Big-Too-Fail status and the executives realized that they could figuratively boink any bad asset in the world and we’d have to keep dosing ’em with expensive antibiotics since we really had no choice.
Are these guys the only cause for the situation in which we find ourselves?  Honestly, no.  But they are poster children for the literal collapse of ethical and moral behavior in our society as they pursued financial gain to any end, completely devoid of any concern about the damage that would be ultimately wreaked upon other individuals and society as a whole.  Frankly, even I bear some responsibility for this mess as I also bought into both the globalization and materialism philosophies that helped bring us into this place.
Do I blame someone for being poor?  In the previous version of America, some poor person could rise to higher economic levels because of their smarts, actions and sheer luck.  But when folks are laid off because their employer outsources or simply goes bankrupt, this simply isn’t their fault.  In most cases, they played the game by the rules as they understood them and became collateral damage.  People can be poor because of bad decisions in a good economy, but with this mess that we’ve got, many of the "poor" are folks who are collateral damage in a much larger drama being played out around them.
Is it someone’s fault when they succeed?  No, I’d like to believe that people succeed through dint of their own effort and sweat*.  But I now believe that the asterisk to this statement lies in their career choice and locale; a guy who opens a barber shop and grows it into a chain of shops around a three county area did it via much effort and sweat.  Some 29 year-old with a salary in the hundreds of thousands or millions and who is connected to the financial establishment?  That’s where I furrow my brow and wonder.
I understand that Herman Cain is a self-made man and I applaud him for that.  My question today would be, could he accomplish the same thing in today’s bizarre economic environment and economy?



Occupy Wall Street:  What Do They Want?

The media question right now is what does "Occupy Wall Street" really want?  The media visiting see all manner of signs and wonder what the protestors want; what are the demands?  They’re belittled by many pundits such as Hannity and Coulter, who stated that they need to get a job, take a shower and move on.  What truly motivates them apart from envy of what the successful have accomplished?  My own mother – a solid Fox News viewer – stated her dislike of them and was taken aback when I not only tried to explain the movement, but actually vented on her. 

What’s driving this?  Let me paraphrase my vent.

After a decades long binge, the occupants of neighborhood America are awakening to find that their vicinity has been trashed.  A potent mix of ‘shroom and grain laced Kool Aid was prepared and handed out and many drank, some much more than others.  The music was crashingly loud and the lyrics were slick:  You can have it all; You have to do what’s right for you; more is better and there’s no reason that you should feel bad; Don’t worry, someone else will fix it.  In the course of this national debauch, we neglected our infrastructure, spent our money on the crap that was peddled to us – hell, we made a folk hero out of a chamois pimp – and let the most selfish of us take over the city council.  Put simply, we’ve had front row seats to the financial equivalent of the sacking of Rome.

Our youngsters – whom we’ve cumulatively permitted to electronically anesthetize themselves because we were too stoned on the punch to care – are finally waking up and coming out to take their place in the neighborhood to find that the shutters are off, the roofs are holed, the street lights are burnt out and the sewage system is backing up.  If you think that "electronically anesthetized" is a poor choice, consider this.  There are 168 hours in each week and the teens are in school for about 40 hours weekly during the school year, or about 24% of their week.  The average teen also sleeps an average of 7 hours nightly – too little for their bodies – for 49 hours weekly, about 29%.  The average teen spends 50 hours weekly tied into some electronic device – television, computer, etc – for another 29% but an hour more plugged in than is spent sleeping.  This is time that’s not spent learning about the reality of the real world around them and when suddenly thrown into it after years of false messaging, the cognitive dissonance is overwhelming.  It’s something out of The Matrix as these kids are left trying to reconcile what they’ve heard with what they have to contend. 

The economics solidly support the notion that a college degree is necessary for a better future as incomes exceed those of high school graduates and they’re aware of this.  But the debt incurred to obtain the degree can never be discharged and they’re saddled with it; they’ll work multiple jobs, without benefits, to help pay the debt.  While the real, flesh and blood entities are held to account, the fictitious legal entities, the corporations, are given all manner of assistance to help cover for their mistakes.  There are no consequences for horrendous decisions and practices and the corporate leadership still manages to receive the benefits for whatever they do both right and wrong – socialize the losses and privatize the gains.  Yet these leaders have actively pursued practices that have sent the jobs overseas, living wage jobs that are desperately needed by the new generation to help remove the load and permit them to start a decent life.  In this new economic world that’s been created, there are certainly jobs but these are and will continue to such positions as baristas and desk clerks.  The factory and lathe jobs?  These went to China with the factory equipment.  The kids are awakening to find that what they’ve been told and touted is pure rubbish.  In their thinking, and I agree, they’ll be held to task for their debts while the corporate and financial leaders will continue to be coddled and protected for their actions and inactions.  They expect no assistance from the elected officials since many are in the pockets of the contributors who’ve financed their (re)elections and helped to maintain a privileged lifestyle in which they aren’t required to participate in the same systems – health insurance, for instance – as the rest of us.  What else is there to do but to take to the streets, as did some of their forebears? 

Given how many of these youngsters are already working multiple part-time jobs to somehow cobble together a life that ultimately frees them from what is essentially debt serfdom, I don’t believe the assertion that they’re unwilling to work.  I hear the increasing attacks on them coming from conservative commentators and candidates, such as Herman Cain, and for the first time truly believe that a class war is now being fully engaged.  These youngsters are now pushing back and it’s becoming apparent by both the verbal attacks and police mace attacks on young women that the established order doesn’t like it.  What these folks have to consider is that these protestors have parents, whom Nixon would have referred to as the great Silent Majority, and that we aren’t going to sit back and let our children be abused by the Powers That Be.

If my children should decide to join this effort, then I’m likely to join them.




PracticalDad Price Index:  Small Decrease Due to Grocer Substitution

The October results of the PracticalDad Price Index came in as the average cost of the 47 item marketbasket fell by $.23 to $188.34; the October index level is 105.58 and down from September’s 105.71.  The long and short is that the cost of the marketbasket has risen by 5.58% from the original cost in November 2010.

The month saw small price rises in 14 items against price declines in six products.  That said, the decline is due to a grocer making a significant change in their generic diaper packaging as they apparently heard  Representative Bernie Sanders’ filibuster refrain …and mothers can’t afford diapers.  There was a small total price rise in the package, but the number of diapers in that package increased significantly, from 76 diapers per box to 96 diapers per box, thus driving the per diaper cost down significantly (by more than 15%).  Had it not been for this instance, the market basket would have risen to 106.1 and providing yet another increase.

This particular grocer also managed to drive down the cost of their generic spaghetti sauce, probably by finding a different supplier; there was no change to the package sizing.


PracticalDad Price Index – October 2011
Month Price ($) Index 3 Month Moving Average
Nov 2010 178.39 100  
Dec 2010 180.30 101.07  
Jan 2011 179.51 100.63 100.56
Feb 2011 179.51 100.63 100.78
Mar 2011 180.51 101.08 100.78
Apr 2011 181.91 101.97 101.56
May 2011 182.10 102.08 101.71
Jun 2011 184.07 103.18 102.38
Jul 2011 185.00 103.71 102.99
Aug 2011 187.05 104.85 104.06
Sep 2011 188.57 105.71 104.76
Oct 2011 188.34 105.58 105.38
















PracticalDad Price Index – September 2011
Item Size Category 8/11 9/11 10/11
hot dog rolls (ct) 8 bread 1.20 1.20 1.20
loaf, wht bread, store brand (oz) 20 bread 1.22 1.26 1.26
spaghetti, store brand (oz) 16 bread 1.24 1.21 1.24
child cereal, sugar flakes, store brand (oz) 17 cereal 2.90 2.90 2.90
cereal, rice chex, store brand (oz) 12.8 cereal 2.74 2.74 2.74
oatmeal, one minute, store brand (oz) 42 cereal 3.26 2.92 3.29
milk, 2% (gallon) 1 dairy 4.01 4.04 4.06
butter, unsalted, store brand (lb) 1 dairy 3.49 3.49 3.49
vanilla ice cream, store brand (qt) 1 dairy 2.01 2.01 2.01
grated parmesan cheese, store brand (oz) 8 dairy 3.08 3.08 3.08
American cheese, deli (lb) 1 dairy 5.52 5.59 5.59
peanut butter, store brand (oz) 28 grocery 3.06 3.09 3.16
grape jelly, store brand (oz) 32 grocery 1.99 1.99 2.01
kidney beans, dark, store brand (oz) 15.5  grocery  .93  .92  .95 
can green peas, store brand (oz)  15  grocery  .96  .96  .99 
can diced tomatoes, store brand (oz)  14.5  grocery  1.01  1.01  1.06 
can cut green beans, store brand (oz)  14.5  grocery  .96  .96  .99 
can corn, store brand (oz)  15.25  grocery  .96  .96  .99 
spaghetti sauce, store brand (oz)  26  grocery  1.22  1.26  1.21 
cola, store brand (L)  grocery  .96  .96  .96 
caffeinated coffee, store brand (oz)  13  grocery  4.32  4.36  4.36 
diapers, store brand (ct)  100  hlth/bty  18.63  18.70  17.70 
formula, Enfamil Premium, Lipil (oz)  23.4  hlth/bty  23.29  23.59  23.59 
child ibuprofen, OS, store brand (oz)  hlth/bty  4.96  4.96  4.96 
adult ibuprofen, caplet, store brand (ct)  100  hlth/bty  7.41  7.41  7.41 
shampoo, Suave (oz)  22.5  hlth/bty  1.81  1.86  2.09 
pads, long/maximum, Poise (ct)  42  hlth/bty  16.09  16.09  16.09 
bath soap, Dial (ct)  hlth/bty  5.39  5.84  6.14 
aluminum foil, store brand (sq ft)  75  hshld  2.97  3.01  3.03 
kitchen trash bags, handletop, store brand (ct)  26  hshld  4.31  4.31  4.31 
paper towels, 2 ply, store brand (ct)  hshld  7.26  7.26  7.26 
hot dogs, meat franks, store brand (oz)  16  meat  2.69  2.69  2.69 
ground beef, 80% lean (lb)  meat  3.46  3.46  3.52 
eggs, large (doz)  meat  1.78  2.08  1.98 
lunchmeat, deli ham (lb)  meat  4.39  4.06  4.06 
chicken, roaster (lb)  meat  1.66  1.59  1.56 
fish sticks, Gortons (ct)  44 meat  7.49  7.49  7.79 
tuna, chunk lt, water packed, store brand (oz)  meat  .81  .81  .81 
bananas(lb)  produce  .59  .59  .59 
apples, Red Delicious, bag (lb)  produce  3.99  4.32  4.09 
carrots, bag (lb)  produce  2.39  2.39  2.36 
OJ, non-concentrate, store brand (oz)  64  produce  2.79  2.79  2.79 
potatoes, Russet (lb)  produce  4.32  4.66  4.32 
sugar, store brand (lb)  staple  3.22  3.22  3.26 
flour, store brand (lb)  staple  2.20  2.29  2.29 
canola oil, store brand (oz)  48  staple  4.39  4.39  4.39 
rice, white, long-grain, store brand (lb)  staple  1.73  1.81  1.73 
                                  Total     187.05  188.57  188.34