Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Trying to do more with less.

As our expenses keep piling up - from double-digit spikes in healthcare costs to dayschool tuitions and loss of scholarship funds to gasoline to kosher food - our incomes, on average, are still heading downhill. Until this point, we have been statistically more or less flat (adjusted for inflation) since the 70s as we shoved wives and even elders into the workforce (wally-wort greeters, anyone?) and men took second jobs to keep up the standard of living. But at this point there are no second jobs to be had - and often not first ones, either. Globalization has finally ground our coping mechanisms to dust, leaving nothing but sub-living wage retail and "service" jobs, and precious few of those. And as a result, average incomes are falling, and fast.

American Incomes Head Down, Threatening Recovery in Spending
By Shobhana Chandra
Updated: New York, Aug 18 17:19

...Wages and salaries, which drive recoveries in spending, fell 4.7 percent in the 12 months through June, the biggest drop since records began in 1960, according to Commerce Department figures released yesterday. The Obama administration’s tax cuts, extended jobless benefits and a one-time Social Security bonus have helped mask the damage done by the worst employment slump since the Great Depression.

Personal incomes, which include interest income, dividends, rents and other payments as well as wages, tumbled 1.3 percent in June, more than forecast and the biggest drop in four years, yesterday’s Commerce report showed. Excluding the effects of the stimulus plan, June incomes would have dropped 0.1 percent after no change in May, according to the report. In May, one-time additional payments to Social Security recipients boosted incomes 1.3 percent.

One of every 10 American workers will be without a job by early 2010, economists project, shaking the confidence of those still on payrolls and discouraging spending. It may take as long as 15 years for consumers to fully repair finances battered by the decline in home values, stocks and employment, said Edmund Phelps, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2006...

Oy, veh. What to do? Change your priorities. We don't need "more," we just need "enough." We don't need "designer," we just need "servicable." We don't need to impress others or "keep up with the Goldsteins," we just need to have a happy time with our friends and family on special occasions, which can be done with great simplicity. If you have to buy your friends, you don't have any real friends.

And seriously, we need to stop feeding the mouth that bites us. Buy locally made products and locally grown/raised foodstuffs. Local businesses can't hire American workers (at living wages or otherwise) if you buy all your stuff from fat-cat transnational CEOs using defacto slaves in third world nations as their labour.

Those who hire household help or have businesses with employees, hire fellow Jews instead of illegals. That should be no-brainer.

Co-ops, barter societies, social service organizations - all the things our immigrant forbears put together to save money and keep things out of the paid economy - we can do these things, too, if we choose to.

What should our priorities be? How can we function in a world where cash is not available? It's time to seriously start answering these questions, class, because the world isn't waiting. Government services and charities are dwindling fast. And as we discussed previously, there are not 12 million living wage jobs out there anywhere for the people who are ALREADY unemployed or under-employed, nor will there be anytime soon - unless we make them ourselves.

So get on with it. It's sink or swim time, class. So far, we're sinking like a rock.

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