If money is the root of all evil I guess evil wins. In our travels as well as our own hometown there has never been more evidence of sheer wealth. We were Australia and New Zealand early on this year and saw upfront the boat shows. Place after place displayed this yacht or that. Arabian oil ministers. Dot com stars. Wall Street types. They know how to strut their stuff
I live in Colorado and am a frequent visitor and former resident of Vail.That’s the place that is neighbor to Aspen and Telluride. I have family in the Hamptons and Palm Beach. We have invaded the harbors of San Diego and San Francisco. Scottsdale. Palm Springs. This wealth is not spotty . It is everywhere. It is with neither a avaricious or resentful mind that I view all this. I am simply flabbergasted.
Open the Friday edition of the WSJ. There is page after page of can you top this. We no longer review the VW bug but have in depth analysis of the latest Beemer, Mercedes or Lambourghini. We are a star crazed society. We love to hear that so and so got this much for making a movie and who designed their gown. Did you see that ball player that is being paid $25 million per year?
Like so many things we don’t realize how this impacts us. Just like we view Medicare as free we can’t quite fathom that it is us that are footing the bill. Why do you think we pay $150 per month for cable. We are funding their cavorting through the pages of People or their latest stint in rehab. This isn’t moralistic. I just really wonder if we get it?
Stocks go up. Stocks go down. It’s okay we pay that CEO mightily because there are so few amongst us that handle the job. Tell that to the stockholders of JC Penney this morning. As I have said before if you are risking your own money make as much as you want. If it’s mine we should have a talk.
I saw a friend yesterday afternoon and he suggested today’s topic. I was going to write something fun about Lilly Pulitzer. I watched the news and saw the death of Margaret Thatcher and got deep in thought about how it hit me and you. Then of course the worst news of all to any male teen in the fifties. Mouseketeer Annette and heartthrob of millions had died.
But yesterday we drove through what can only be described a poorer part of town. I don’t consider myself one of the landed gentry but the residents of this burgh were hurting. There the class divide was like gleaming headlights. Unemployed and just wandering around. Street corners were the meeting spots and I am sure the drug trade was vibrant.
But there really is a more subtle separation of rich and poor and it is getting wider. The middle class as we know it is really in trouble. As the top grows so does the bottom. We have a jobless rate that is stuck but I really fear it is becoming institutionalized. Those jobs just aren’t there any more.
A colleague sent me a note of analysis that recreated his journey somewhere. He went to the airport with his boarding pass in hand. Going to a kiosk he put that into a machine. Go to the counter and it cost you extra. Food came in vending machines which ironically reminded one of Horn and Hardart automates. No people there. The food on the plane was non existent. A lot less catering.
Now you pump your own gas. You change your oil and get service a lot less. Good for you. Bad for mechanics and gas stations. Need a rental car go right to the aisle without even checking in. Call the 800 number and go through robo menus. Go to the bank. What bank? You get what I mean.
We have basically consolidated business of every sort. Walmart and Costco have put Main Street out of business. The butcher. The baker. The candlestick maker. Liquor stores. Garages. Clothiers. It is becoming more apparent that shopping malls themselves are no longer a good use of your time. Use the internet.
Some of you say great. We cheer the earnings every quarter. We just cut costs and improved return. Some say we don’t need all that human interaction. But underlying the increase in your IRA is a creeping disease. We are making the middle class irrelevant. Screw them you say? Be careful.
These are the folks that buy things. They pay cable bills. They go to the movies. They pay college tuitions. They buy cars. You say let the market forces take hold and you are right. What if some day we put the last touch on this great temple of consumerism and no one comes to pay homage?
We have become insular and just worried about our own butts. We look at our gated communities and high end neighborhoods and no further. We really aren’t the United States but a lot of little kingdoms. One has guns. One has Ferraris. One is white. One is black. I got to worry about me. Why the hell would Appalachia and barrios have anything to do with me? Wait. Make that suburbia too.
Houston we do have a problem. It’s hard to see and even harder to fathom. People are starting to speak out. We want to break apart that cable bill and pay only for what we want. Joe Six Pack won’t pay $600-700 to go to a Yankee game with his family of four. 80% of the country wants some sort of gun control.
Let’s for a moment assume most of us are in the haves rather than the have nots. We figure we have this figured out and our money will last. I also guess that many of those with what they thought were secure pensions thought the same. Maybe just maybe we are not as smart as we think.
Ted The Great
The largest yacht in the world is(Eclipse) 533′ long.At press time hear there is one 590′, Size matters. Go to CSO Yachts for fun. There is a 70 meter yacht for sale called the Reverie that goes for a cool 38.5 euros. If that doesn’t work how about the Sycare V. Same size but 75,000,000 euros.
Median Housing prices: Nationally $173,ooo .NYC,$349,000. LA $455.000. Honolulu $479,000. Palatka Florida $79,000
Pensions in the US are underfunded by some 22% .That’s $1.56 trillion. Boeing is short $19.7 billion.
In the fourth grade Sister Rose of Lima told me “Woe betide you”. I should have listened.