Indentured Servants

For anyone out there who thinks we in the States are NOT regressing towards rabid capitalism have only to click on the title of this entry to read all about it.

Microsoft has essentially made an indentured servant out of one of its executives. He does not have freedom of contract. He cannot ply his trade elsewhere. He cannot make a LIVING except at Microsoft.

Microsoft claims that its trade secrets would be in jeopardy related to search engines. Since when did they have any ideas to steal?

So this guy is screwed, but for how long? How long is that dumb judge going to force this guy to work with Microsoft? Doubtless the executive is senior in his business and has a lot of knowlege. Is he now supposed to start something else as a novice?

Econo-Girl is wrestling with this problem herself. She has a manager who won't let her go and stops other opportunities for her. So there she is, in a box like a bug. Oh, and did I mention that I am not being promoted LIKE THE TWENTY-SOMETHINGS I WORK WITH? He does this with others, too. I mentioned to someone the other day how indentured servitude is illegal and someone should tell this guy. It seems I was wrong.


More on Radio Lies

Leisure Lad pointed out to me that, indeed, everyone knows that DJs take payoffs.

He also asked a very good question: what is the real harm?

There is harm to excellent artists whose work is not heard because the money is not behind them. That's all Econo-Girl can think of.

Leisure Lad remarked that, yes, New York was awash with bad music because of the corruption, but so what? That didn't justify the big fine Sony had to pay. In his mind, no one was really hurt and the state of New York should have better things to do than chase DJs who play lousy music.

Econo-Girl still believes the prosecution of corrupt DJs was a good idea. The economic impact of promoting lousy music is that the recording industry is in a slump, and a well-deserved one from the looks of it.

Bribes and Lies

So did you hear the one about the DJ who was paid $100 every time he played a JLo song on the air? Maybe Econo-Girl should start calling radio stations and asking about it.

It seem Elliot Spitzer, like Elliot Ness, is fighting crime and the issue is our bad taste. You ever wonder what some of these pop stars are made of? Now we know. Payoffs. Elliot Spitzer has just announced some settlement on the issue of bribes with Sony, and other ones are soon to follow. So maybe our taste isn't in our mouths after all.

The music industry has long seen demand for its product decline. Would that be because its product was bad? Would that be because it doesn't listen to its consumer and instead tries to tell the consumer what to like? In some dark corner of the dark world of recording artist management, a man needlessly wearing shades is saying, "We drive demand, baby. We create it."

What they are really creating is the appearance of demand. For the younger among us, that may spiral into some follow-up demand for the Simpson girls' albumns. But what a poweful tool propaganda is. Do you dare to admit, even to yourself, that some idea or creation that seems to be loved by everyone is despised by you? Beliefs are powerful. In law school, everyone was studying six hours a day. So my frame of reference was a six hour study time. That affected my internal sense of 'how much studying was enough.'

So in the music realm, our sense of what is popular music is actually a cleverly scripted propaganda campaign of which we are the target.

How to counter this artificial demand? Maybe calling these DJs and telling them that these songs stink. Maybe an e-mail campaign. Econo-Girl thinks that all music sold should be labeled as to whether or not the singer's voice had to be digitally mastered to get the pitch right. Otherwise it could be false advertising because they aren't really singing. Picket lines would be good, too.


'Eff You, You Stupid Ugly Pig's Poo-Poo

Econo-Girl felt glad to get that off her chest. Of course, with any more specificity, she could get fired. Did I mention I am doing this blog on a work computer? See the link above.

There seems to be a liability pit around free speech these days. If you identify the object of your ire too well, you and your company could be sued.

What if I say that George Bush has a high-pitched, squeaky voice? Could I get shot?

But Econo-girl was so looking forward to the explosion of honesty! But we little bloggers are cursed by not being journalists. No First Amendment for us, although more integrity applies. But a clever little duckie could find ways around it, I bet.

What do my little dumplings have to say? How would you do it?


China's Currency

Econo-Girl's loyal readers may remember her prediction that China would never end its peg to the dollar. Ahem. It seems that China would end its peg to only the dollar. Now it will be pegged to 'a basket of currencies.' (Love that word 'peg')

What will be interesting is how this is approached. How will that formula be calculated? Essentially China is hedging its bets and loosening its ties to the U.S. economy. Has China lost faith in the dollar? Econo-Girl will keep her gimlet eye on the calculation.

Will China now undervalue its currency compared to everyone else too, and not just the dollar? Essentially, will the amount a yuan gets in dollars remain the same or go higher, even though the dollar is only a part of how the Chinese now value their currency?

What practical consumers can expect is that our prices will go up here in the States, which Econo-Girl happy that she bought that glass- stained front door recently, before the price went up. I'll let you know when Leisure Lad buys that one.

Supply shocks - like rising prices for clothes and other things made in China. That's what inflation is made of.


Econo-Girl is Distraught

Econo-Girl needs to get her COBRA health insurance in gear because Leisure
Lad needs medical attention badly. This should not be a problem, just a
delay as paperwork is processed. Nevertheless, it is indicative of serious
issues in the U.S. health care system. The cardiologist won't even see my
husband until the insurance is in place. Isn't that an ethical issue? Can
doctors really REFUSE to treat a patient unless the patient has insurance?

Health costs in the U.S. are the highest in the world. More people declare
bankruptcy because of health expenses than any other reason. Both are signs
of a system failing to meet its obligations.


More on Chocolate Potato Chips

Like Lazy Iguana's remark. Chlorine in the genetic pool. Heh heh heh.

So these people want less government interference with business? Or none at
all? Then narcotics should be legal, shouldn't they? People should be
allowed to buy and distribute lethal doses, right? And drive while high?

Econo-Girl is not writing from her home computer and so hesitates to
speculate on what kind of society that would be. But all vices would be
legal. All toxic drugs. All pollution.

The marketplace is driven by greed, not divine intervention. Econo-Girl
remembers with sadness when the U.S. meat supply never killed anyone, back
when meat was safe and you could bank on it. No more. But we wouldn't want
to hurt business, would we? So go ahead and make cannibals out of your
cows. The ones we eat. Yum Yum.


New Frontiers

Today Econo-Girl saw for the first time in her life: chocolate covered
POTATO CHIPS! UGH! Doesn't that make you want to HEAVE? The girl offering
them was so nice, so Econo-Girl feigned an allergy to grease.

This experience raises the last topic of the efficiency of the marketplace.
There is really a demand for such morsels as chocolate covered potato chips.
Just as there is a demand for heroin. Should we intervene and save people
from themselves? Should little rules make us cozy in our superiority?

People decry helmet laws. A friend once said, "I don't want to be told to
wear a helmet. I'll wear one. It just should be my choice." And about the
non-choice of taxpayers who pay to scrape you off of the pavement?

Similarly, these adventurers who get trapped by nature and need to get
rescued by (of course) the government are in need of government service.
ohoh - boss nearby


Which One Is Econo-Girl?

Like the 70's sofa? Those things in the hair are called curlers. Women used to sleep with them in so they would have curly hair the next day.

Puppies and Pandora

Another reason that the marketplace is not efficient is the oversupply of dogs and cats in this country. Each year thousands are killed because no one wants them. How efficient is that?

And yet, others are willing to spend a thousand dollars to get a specific kind of dog. Sure, mumble about supply and demand, why don't you. There is a demand for a certain kind of dog and not for another. But, you see, the natural breeding process hasn't been given a lesson on the Invisible Hand of the marketplace. There is an oversupply of dogs. Then we have to kill off the extra. But the issue isn't being resolved in one dog generation. More dogs are being created than are being used. Because no one coordinated with God, these damn animals are still breeding even though the marketplace has no use for them. Impudent! And we have a lot of dogs.

Now Econo-Girl is not going to lie to her readers. Leisure Lad is going to get a Pug. Not a shelter dog, a Pug. Yes, they are cute. Yes they look funny. And it would be a fun little thing. And Econo-Girl feels a little guilty about it.

But the DC Animal Shelter doesn't trust my husband and myself. They have actually turned us down for adopting an animal because they said we lied about how many dogs we had. I told her, we have two dogs now. The other one was taken from our yard.

So you have three dogs?

No, we don't. We have two. One, two. Two. Three minus one is two. We have two dogs.

So you have three dogs?

It went on like that. So we avoid the shelter now although we would have taken in several dogs from them. But they hate us, or at least view us suspiciously. So off to the puppy shop we go.

CNN Money Charts for Fools

Hey look! CNN Money has another daily chart onscreen that shows the wild ride of today's stocks. Wait! What is that I see? The fluctuation was only 20 points. Hmmm.

So CNN puts a chart up that looks like a major deal in trading today, but it isn't. You wouldn't know that unless you looked at the numbers on the Y axis. Oh! They are only one point apart. That's why it looks like such a change took place.

It reminds Econo-Girl of Reagan, who showed the nation a chart without ANY NUMBERS on it at all. NONE. "If we do this," he said "the line will go up." Wow! The line will go up! Lines going up are good, America thinks (to the exent it does think). The ol' Gipper must be right once again. Let's cut taxes for the rich and mental health benefits and give ourselves a homeless problem. Econo-Girl remembers before there were homeless in this country.

But at least that line will be going up.

Bush Logic on the Populace

Both Bush Presidents had the same idea in terms of getting the economy going. They chirped that things were fine and thought if they could con America into believing them, everything would be fine.

It is not fine.

Let's start with unemployment. If you have been out of work for over 18 months, you are no longer counted. What?!?! Because you are assumed to have stopped looking for a job. Sooo, let me see. People don't need to eat after 18 months of unemployment? They don't need to fix their car? Do they just vanish, like the uncomfortable statistics they are?

W. learned from his father. He rigged it so that no really bad numbers could be thrown in his face. Of course, the media wouldn't go to the trouble of actually thinking to see behind this. So it is up to us to spread the word.

Plenty of people are suffering from long term unemployment. They are not lazy or stupid. And they deserve to be counted.


What if ....

The rain is fierce here in DC, putting Econo-Girl in a wistful, romantic mood. Her thoughts turn to pork belly futures and gasoline. She taps Leisure Lad on the shoulder to whisper the latest job figures in his ear. It's not good news, but somehow that intensifies the love between us, the knowing that we are in it together, for and with each other.

What if the real estate market crashes? Forget that. It might even be fun to hear the gnashing of teeth from the non-savers. What if the job market crashes? That's more important. And the latest job numbers are not impressive.

This low employment trend has been going on for a while, which is important. As Econo-Girl has noted before, the US consumer has been spending far too much, but a slowdown in spending will trigger a recession.

Businesses are saving dramatically right now, and refraining from hiring and building more factilities. Does that mean they also have little confidence in the current system holding up over time and expect a downturn when it all hits the fan? US consumption of goods is based on borrowing too much. What will happen when that stops?

It has become fashionable now on CNN Money to predict a housing bubble. Copycats. Now every talking bean brain is doing it. But will it be cataclysmic, Econo-Girl asks. Depends on the reaction of business. If they continue to refrain from hiring and expanding, where are those jobs coming from?

One day our economics will be laughed at and used as an example of how lying about unemployment rates boosts consumer confidence and what a shallow fix that is. Remember the first Bush? He really thought if he just kept repeating that the economy was great, people would believe him and feel like spending. Didn't work. His son, W, is a chip off the old block. He believes that if we lie about unemployment by not including long-term unemployed, no one will notice it.

He's wrong.


Shoes and the Economy

It's Day Three without sugar and Econo-Girl is dragging.

One of her favorite books, sure to lift her spirits, is "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In it, there is this strange planet where the entire economy is based on the manufacture and sale of shoes. It's a wonderful satire of an economic bubble.

On planet Earth these days, economists herald the virtues of specialization, where a country specializes in manufacturing a certain type of product and then trades with another country that makes something else. The idea is that by specializing, a country can lower overhead costs and make it cheaper than anyone else. Then the marketplace will be efficient!

And this is what is starting to happen. The US can produce grain cheaper than local, third-world farmers. And once let into the market, the locals are out of luck. Is this really a good thing? Doesn't it lend itself towards stability if a place is a little self-supporting in the matter of food? And what are the ramifications if all these local people are suddenly out of cash? It sucks the wind right out of the national economy.

So we really need to think about the fallout of some of these theories.


Why the Marketplace is Not Efficient - Reason #1

Econo-Girl is not a believer in the efficiency of a free market system. She has only to reflect on the women's clothing industry to see a business that does NOT respond to the demands of consumers. They would much rather spend billions to make women feel bad to create demand for their product. Is that efficient?

And, God forfend, if women DON'T FIT THE CLOTHES, there is something wrong with the WOMAN? As if some sadist really ought to be telling women what body type is 'in' this year? To those who would chatter about how all this is changing in recent years, Econo-Girl points out that it has been going on for a century at least.

Of course, most economists are men. They only think of women's clothing in terms of tightness. If Econo-Girl dressed as her husband wished, she would be arrested. But he is such a wonderful man. He hates the clothing industry too, for creating norms where Econo-Girl won't go out of the house without a bra on. "Baby, you look great! Don't listen to those designers! They don't even like women!" Yet Econo-Girl cannot rid herself of her conditioning.

Now Econo-Girl must confess. I am going on the South Beach diet. I feel fat. I have a tummy roll. But I am worried about my health and my blood sugar irregularities. And Leisure Lad is diabetic. So time to make a radical switch.
Goodbye, sugar.

Good Article From Reuters

Econo-Girl likes the analysis on this one. It basically acknowleges that the US, and consequently the world, is heading towards a recession when the housing prices level off.

The lone dissenter mentions that people are not spending more because their house is worth more. Hmmm. Econo-Girl has doubts. It's that "ME RICH NOW. ME SPEND. ME CAN AFFORD. UGH." Not the "ME NEED TO SAVE FIRST."

When will it become macho to save first?

Right now, the Depression era children are dying off. It seems the lessons they learned are dying with them.


The Siren's Song

Econo-Girl is being open with her consumerist struggles because she knows she is not alone. It is interesting to analyze what lies underneath these impulses to buy, buy, buy. Specifically, what is she trying to solve with the purchase of goods?

I feel fat. So I think my whole wardrobe needs replacing.

I feel stodgy and married. Not cool. So I want a new car.

The cycle begins with not feeling good enough, which is certainly fed through the media and women's magazines. The feeling is fed through commercials that make Econo-Girl worry that she secretly stinks. Through commercials that make her worry that visitors will sneer because her walls are smudged.

Even sex is attacked by women's magazines as not being good enough. Whatever you are doing, the mythical man they interview wants something else. "Find out what he really wants" as if you don't know. If you're deaf he'll write it down for you. He'll create a cheerleader routine to get the point across. At least mine will.

All these problems can be solved, in advertising land, by buying something. By buying the magazine, the car, the underwear, the clothes.

Let Econo-Girl tell you of her young, single days visiting NYC. I would go to the garment district to buy clothes and have to post as a buyer for a store to get in. But damn, those clothes were cheap! And so much more variety than we see in the DC market. Back then I was a size six and could buy samples pretty cheap.

So I go into a store and it is clear that the skinny man surrounded by suit types is the designer of the clothes. They are all telling him how brilliant he is and how successful the clothes will be. Tender, young Econo-Girl looks at the shirts. They are quite skimpy little things. So skimpy that a bra would be embarrassingly obvious. And Econo-Girl nevers leaves the house without a bra due to lewd remarks that often follow her. Some women must wear bras, and some women must wear bras with steel. Econo-Girl is in the latter category.

So I approach the designer, grab my breasts and waive them at him. "These are tits," I say. "Tits." He and the suits were aghast. By this time in her life, Econo-Girl was immune to looks of horror. "Women have tits. Your clothes are made for women without tits. Most women have them."

He tried to explain how I could wear the shirt on the rack. I replied that I would arrested for indecency, not to mention the harassment. And that I couldn't even fit one of those things over my head. I could, but it was damn tight. Keep in mind I am a size six.

Then the moment came. He suggested that I lose weight and then I would fit in one. What I was waiting for.

"You are selling to me. I don't want your money. You want my money. There is nothing wrong with me. There's something wrong with your clothes." He was rather taken aback. I told him that most women in the US cannot wear this top. He said that he is designing for the ones that can.

Econo-girl flatters herself that she will be remembered.

Help! Help! I'm Drowning in Consumerism!

Econo-Girl waits patiently for the commercials. There! A new car! I could lease one! Wouldn't that be cheaper?

Of course she got a car last September at CarMax and it's a damn fine one. But the siren song of Newer, Better is wafting towards her. Is it really that stupid to lease? My sister is always talking about how she made the three stupidest decisions in her life in the space of a week: to marry her first husband, buy a house in the white ghetto of Fishtown, and to lease a car.

But - but - but - wouldn't Econo-Girl be sexy in a neat new car? And just a little superior? Wouldn't that car give her unlimited ability to push buttons and watch appendages to it move around and blink? Some of them have shipboard computers - I mean, car navigational systems. Wouldn't Louis XIV give his left pinky toe to have some of these gadgets?

I've got to talk to my sister. She'll set me straight.

Econo-Girl still wants to throw out all of her clothes and get new ones. She feels stodgy. She will not yield to impulse. As Mother always said, it's really what's in the clothes that counts. Be healthy. So Leisure Lad and Econo-Girl are going on the South Beach diet starting Monday. Will let you know if I still 'need' a new car after that.