Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Few Rambling Thoughts

I cruise the news sites of the internet and day after day I am bombarded with headlines I can only call bull shit. Headlines like the "Dow Passing 11,000", "Housing Starts Up", "Unemployment Down".

And I sit here having a tough time buying what the main stream media (MSM) is selling. Perhaps some companies are hiring, perhaps the number of people actually collecting unemployment is decreasing, but from where I sit, my real world view on things, I don't see companies hiring people into good jobs. I watch the job markets in the software and defense contracting business, since that’s what I do. When I look at those markets, I don't see reason for optimism. I see employers whom I would never choose to work for. I call them body shops, the benefits suck, the job security is nil, the work conditions are less than favorable, usually. And I would likely be looking at a 10-15% haircut on the salary if I had to find a new job today.

I can usually find a good deal on something that will fill the need which forced me to go to the store. If you’re finding good deals at the mall, business is bad. Retail stores are in the business of extracting as much cash from your wallet as possible. If times were good, things wouldn't be 30% off, 40% off or even more sometimes. Even laser eye surgery and hair replacement surgery is on sale, so don't be a loser, tap into that last sliver of home equity and ditch your glasses and hair piece.

I go to the gas station, can't live without gas, now can we? Nope. It’s more expensive than it was yesterday, last week, last month or last year. Why? Oil prices aren't going up on the backs of Wall Street gamblers, as the MSM would have us believe. Oil prices are going up, because our dollars buy less on the international markets. Our dollars are worth less because our government is devaluing our currency by printing more and more with reckless abandon. Where do you think the money comes from for homeowner bailouts? How about 2 wars? How about a well intentioned, but totally unaffordable health care plan? Well that one hasn't hit yet, but its going to hit like a brick though a plate glass window. We have to print money because our President and Congress spend like a college freshman with her first credit card.

The money to fund all of that spending sure isn't coming from the 1% of the population that obama promised to make pay, so all us middle class suckers would have a scapegoat to blame for our predicament. It sort of reminds me of a certain post Weimar republic politician. Stirring up the populist angst against a small group who used to wield some influence.

I go to the grocery store and the same bag of food costs more than it did 3 months ago. Why? See the previous paragraph. What however is the fallout? I can tell you that my pay check isn't growing faster than my energy or grocery bill, which is bad news for me and its bad news for you.

I look around and the pot holes from this winter still haven't been repaired. Why? Because our municipal governments are pushing the limits on solvency. California is less solvent than Lehman Brothers was 18 months ago. Talk about too big to fail. Again, this is not good news for all Americans, especially Californians.

The current rally in the NYSE is a farse. I'll call it a suckers rally. Volume is low, far to low to be driving this rally. The Ibanks are walking a thin line as danger lurks from commercial real estate, the financing from the tail end of the real estate boom and the abuses of home equity lines. The Ibanks claim to be putting money aside to cover those losses, I am will to gamble that they haven't put enough away and its likely that some big bank is going to sink like an anvil with billion of tax payer dollars.

The NAR managed to glom onto some statistic about housing sales being up, so it’s all good news there, but not really. Nobody with a half open, objective mind believes the headlines. They couldn't possibly be hoodwinked by the headlines. Our government is doing everything and anything in a vain attempt to prop up housing prices, which in most markets are still vastly over valued with respect to historical norms and personal income. And the means are no longer there to support those prices, like they were 3-4 years ago. There is no more loose credit. There are no more exotic finance options. There is no more home ATMs to fund $100 rounds of golf, $3000 TVs, $45,000 SUVs or $350,000 lakes homes. The party is over. The real value on goods and services are going to have to go back to normal.

Housing has further been falsely proped up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who are spending uncle Barry's freshly printed monopoly money. That can't last forever.

And it’s not going to get any better. The baby boomers who lit the fuse on this debacle are headed toward retirement. They aren't going to be buying anymore; they are going to be net sellers. And here is the rub. Gen X, Gen Y, the millennials who are supposed to be coming into their own right now are learning a lesson that their grand parents learned during the great depression. Spending habits will never be the same. The money simply doesn't exist. You and I can't print money like our government. We'll never tap into our consumer credit like we did 5 years ago, because of our experiences today. Not to mention Gen X, Gen Y and the millennials don't have the same kinds of resources the boomers had to abuse and they aren't going to inherit the wealth of their boomer parents.

Before the McMansion was the American dream, the real American dream was that your children would live a better life than you. That dream is dead, probably killed by your parents if you’re under 45. A stake driven though its heart by ARMs, credit cards, beach houses, boats and host of other forms of conspicuous consumption.

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