Saturday, August 3, 2013

What if There Is No Economic Recovery ?


         I keep a Sony clock radio plugged in at the barn so that the horses and the alpacas across the hall can hear human voices and occasionally some calm music. It helps during storms and seems to help the horses in particular.  Some sound helps me too while mucking the pens early each morning.  The station that comes in most easily and seems the most calming at least to the horses, is the local NPR affiliate, which I am noting to be very biased in a somewhat liberal bent, but that would be another post entirely.  They keep talking about an economic recovery which is taking place within the United States.  This week NPR announced that there was a decrease in unemployment figures because the economy created 170,000 jobs somewhere.  Could it be that there were NO JOBS created, but that people simply stopped looking and therefore stopped being counted as unemployed ?   I am not sure I trust any of the statistics coming from this confused regime.  They seem to formulate an idea they like and then stack the statistics to support their views which in turn they supply to mainstream media, some of whom could easily be sold oceanfront land in Arizona..
            I am not an economist. In fact, when I took economics in college, I told the professor in an essay that I consider the subject itself to be a false science, a lot like sociology.  Economics attempts to explain the travels of money and the effects that human behavior has on money, and anything beyond the simple law of supply and demand could well be hogwash.  The essay was long, and somehow I got an "A" despite trashing the life's work of my professor, a pleasant man,  whom I believe was from Ireland.  I am not sufficiently trained or educated to make quantitative judgements or sweeping analyses of the economy, but I can tell you what is happening, right here, right now, in my life and in my neck of the woods.
        We are told that we are in the throes of an economic recovery, yet Bank of America has just completely closed it's nearest branch to me, some forty miles from here.  I have one remaining recurring bill with them, I pay monthly before we sever ties for all eternity.  I can't really trust them if I mail it, because if I do, they might say it's late, and charge me a $35.00 fee.  They have played travelling due date games with my account a couple of years ago, and charged me three late fees that were completely incorrect, but now that their decision-making is done by computer, the bank branch president is no longer able to reverse even incorrect fees, and so our long association is over, as soon as this loan is complete. Some people call this fee farming    I notice when people rip me off to the tune of thirty-five dollars, but apparently some people do not.  Now, I must make a trip a great distance away to pay my bill and get the receipt. Sometimes they are kind enough to provide one with a legible date paid. I usually lump it with another trip to do something else.**   I have to plan carefully when I travel as I have a diesel car. Despite the price of fuels, a number of gas stations have closed, some of them recently.  Our nearest gas station is owned by a local family. They say that they make almost no money on fuel, and that the sandwiches,salads, food, beer,dog food, and drinks are the area in which there is profit for them. That gas station is twenty miles from us. They also have said that sales of everything are down forty percent in the past year. They have started selling cars and trucks from their parking lot to try to make up the difference.
         This used to be an upscale rural community.  One of the reasons now I always travel with a concealed weapon is that when I travel during the week, there is never anyone on the road but me. A number of restaurants in our county have closed in the past couple of years. Any repairmen who have to come out this way now have to being their own lunch.
         Our daughter bought a nice house about a year ago which had been a repossession.  Our realtor, and the realtor who represented the bank both said that this was the tail end of the real estate price descent, and that things would begin to climb from here.  I actually believed that.  Since then, I have made the acquaintance of a woman whose husband works by watching and minimally maintaining an absolutely huge portfolio of vacant and sometimes expensive homes which were repossessed by banks within the last few months.  The homes sit empty, and the man visits them.  The banks are reluctant to spend money to maintain anything, but they won't place them for sale "until the economy improves".  They add to the portfolio of nice homes they have which have been empty for two to three years.  This doesn't sound like a recovery.
           This next week I will need to attend the fact finding meeting where the post office tries to sell us on closing our nearest post office, which isn't actually close at all. They already don't actually deliver mail to my region.  We must travel to the area of the gas station to get our mail, and I now pay $60. a year to have a box there, when it used to be $12 annually. When I ask why, they say "the real estate has gone up".
  When ?     All I want is a place to get my mail.  I just need it open four hours a day.  I hope that isn't too much to ask.
           Our personal expenses, property tax, animal feed,  meat, vegetables,  contributions to health insurance, dental costs, medical costs,  electricity costs, homeowner's insurance, fees for vehicle registrations, personal property tax on vehicles have all skyrocketed.  We don't have the disposable income we did, even in 2008. The increases in college tuition and books are a post in themselves.
          My husband, our kids and I used to provide food to a food bank here on a regular basis.  We are not wealthy, but each time we went to the city on another errand, and we stopped with the truck at Sam's Club, we would buy extra packages of cans of chicken, tuna, chili, vegetables, and fruits, for donation to them.  It added a bit to our grocery bill but helped a lot of people in our county who had lost jobs.  Now there are three church based foodbanks, and another church has enlarged to provide a place where local families can buy food in exchange for coming once a month for a couple of hours to repackage the large shipments they have bought.  The church created a food co-op. 
          Virginia is one of the states which encourages a free clinic system for those who have no insurance.  This functions in the same building as our health department.   Although it's dental clinic has a years waiting list, it has a functioning clinic for general medical, pediatrics, diabetes, labwork, hypertension, and primary care.  It's an excellent clinic, and I know this because I have worked there.  A lot of people can't afford any type of medical care.  Of course, increasingly the patients we saw were illegal aliens. I don't mind helping an elderly woman from Venezuela who has hypothyroidism, but I am not thrilled with giving away the few jobs we have within fifty miles, to non-citizens.  I have teenagers who would love to have one of those undesirable jobs a white American wouldn't do. The clinic does frequent fundraisers with a theme because despite the fact that this is an important endeavor, donations even from our county's wealthy, are down. We did have a substantial wealthy population here. George W. Bush himself came to a fundraiser here on the river a few years ago.
         One of the unscientific ways I have of monitoring the economy is monitoring the upscale consignment shops and Craigslist. In a healthy economy, wealthy people readily part with very expensive goods, and they are, as a general rule, priced very reasonably.  My theory is that when the wealthy receive Christmas and birthday gifts, they make space by running other items to an upscale consignment shop.  The same is true when they vacation. Last year's luggage and the jewelry they bought in Bhutan two years ago may well be consigned in the present year.  This means that some upscale consignment shops have a steady stream of top flight, yet reasonably priced goods.  In the past, I have bought anything from genuine fractional gold coins to sterling silver collectible spoons. I have bought expensive muck boots which are in the box and new, which normally cost hundreds of dollars, for twenty.   But, when the wealthy people begin to feel pinched, overtaxed, or their investments don't yield profits, they appear to stop consigning.  I visit four different consignment shops within a very large area, and in the past year, the quality of goods has decreased, and the prices have increased.  The ability of people to buy things when they want or need them has decreased, and so examples of such an item, even if damaged or out of date, are being priced at higher amounts than before. This doesn't exactly jive with the government's assertion that inflation is being held at a low rate.   Does the government not buy food or fuel ?    I won't even do more than mention the costs of ammunition.
         Depending upon area, Craigslist can be an excellent source of nearly new kitchen appliances, farm implements, tools, fairly new furniture, and livestock.  Perusing the listings and quickly taking a friend or adult family member to look at the item for sale can be a great idea and be filled with economic good sense. However, there is a new sense of desperation on Craigslist.  For example, horses that would normally sell for several thousand dollars, are listed with no attempt to hide the desperation of the seller.

                                      Thorobred horse for sale. Registered grandson of Secretariat
                                       UTD on farrier, teeth, shots.  Coggins negative.
                                      Must go to good home. First $800. takes him.
                                      Must be gone by the 9th. Farm being foreclosed.
                                      Serious inquiries only.
       The desperate ads continue not only in our area, but in the neighboring three states.

          It doesn't look like an economic recovery is in the pipeline from here.  Three of my sons still need jobs and one has a Bachelor's degree.(The other two are in college or high school)  My husband has the job he's had for twenty plus years and hasn't had a raise in seven. He's been in the same profession for thirty years.  The employer says that if we are all lucky, he will be able to continue to offer health insurance in lieu of raises. He thinks they will be able to stay in business, but even that wasn't always certain.   My daughter has a fulltime job and two part time ones, which leads me to conclude that it might be easier for women to get jobs than for men.  I do three things part time, but I'm considering a fourth.    A friend of ours has a daughter who graduated with a BSN last year. She is a new RN and cannot find a job. She is working part-time in a fabric store and living at home because all her salary goes to her student loans.

         Go ahead, Mr. Obama, tell me that we have an economy in recovery.  It seems to me that the economy continues to deteriorate, and that the only jobs that are available anywhere seem to be part time jobs in fast food franchises. How exactly do people pay for even a rented room in a house with a 20 hour a week salary of $7.55 an hour ?

**I do not do anything financial over the internet.   Everyone I know who has been a victim of identity theft banks via the internet.    


Gorges Smythe said...

It can all make me angry or sad, depending my mood at the moment. At the moment, it mostly makes me glad I have a heavenly home to go to and that I'm getting closer to it. That won't help my granddaughters any, though.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, I too worry a lot for my kids, and under these circumstances, they are not planning to have children.

Ian H said...

Jane, I know that in Canada, once people stop looking for jobs, or run out of welfare, the government stops counting them. In the last recession, the unemployment rate officially was about 10%, but the actual rate was more like 17.

I would add psychology to the list of non sciences. For every theory, there appears to be 2 or 3 that prove the opposite.

By the way, it is significantly cheaper to live in the US regarding fuel, clothing and food compared to Canada.

Canada Post is hinting that all local services will be transferred off shore in the near future. I consider them to be a dinosaur. They are so far in debt, they can't pay it off, yet they keep increasing the postal rate driving more and more people to the internet via email and financial means. I actually mailed a letter last year, the first one in many.

I agree that our countries are in bad shape. Both are still trying to spend their way to a solution. Look at Detroit! how long will it take before a government itself goes bankrupt.

It would be better for all counties to just say "We're broke, all debts are cancelled and start over with tighter safeguards and controls"

PioneerPreppy said...

There is no recovery. Period. End of story. There are really only two trustful indicators you can follow these days. Ok Three.

1. Petroleum use overall. They cannot really fudge that number and all economic activity requires it's use. We have been averaging an 8 to 11% decrease per year since 2009. We are now below 1999 levels.

2. Labor participation rate. They have not found a way to fudge this one yet. This number includes everyone who is currently employed by percentage of the population. It is now below 62% I believe and shrinking. It doesn't differentiate between full and part time so the number is actually worse than it appears. We are below 1950's levels.

3. Another good indicator that the US government cannot fudge is Baltic Dry index or world shipping. It is also below 1989's levels and falling fast. Ships are being scrapped left and right that have years of service left.

Things are not good at all. If we were in a recovery we would not be having so many bankrupt cities and states and so many municipal deficits.

Get prepared NOW. This charade is almost over. Do not worry about your children finding jobs get them home and get them learning to live sustainably.

It's going to be a long slow collapse and those of us closer tot he bottom are going to feel it a while before the top notices. We are going to have to persevere for a while before things get better.

Tewshooz said...

Your description of what is happening in the rural community sounded exactly like what is happening here. And....for a few sentences I actually thought you lived nearby. You are in Virginia...I am in Oregon. Same stuff going on everywhere. We are one again doing without, making do and buying and selling on Craigslist. Even though our place is paid for...We are old and eventually mortgages do get paid after 30 years...the taxes keep going up. So, how long can we keep that up? Ask Mr. Obama. Being on a fixed income and disabled is not easy. We will go down fighting.

JaneofVirginia said...

This also makes me very sad. In addition to having many friends in Canada, we have a home in Nova Scotia we bought in 2008. Our retirement account was falling in value so quickly, we wanted to stabilize it and diversify, and so we bought a house we thought could do that. The house there has held its value and gradually increased despite the costs of caretakers, maintenance, taxes, and travel there. However, Nova Scotians are worried. Even those who sent their children away to college can't find work when they're finished. Their children are leaving for Western Canada dividing families from adult children who would rather stay in closer proximity, especially in tough times. I pray for a recovery there also. In Canada we noticed that items are more expensive than in the US, however labor is cheaper, and this was helpful to us in maintaining the house, especially when there is episodic salt sea damage.
Of course retiring there will never be possible. Canada fiercely defends its health care and jobs for its citizens. I wish the United States did.
Thanks for your post, Ian.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, of course. In addition our nation is almost 17 trillion in debt now. This is something we might never be able to pay as a nation.

We are prepared and our children know how to live sustainably. I just just hoped for better for them.

Part of me is happy that my parents aren't here to see this. Thanks for your comments.

JaneofVirginia said...

Our mortgage is also paid, but taxes and insurance are substantial, and there are fewer people paying to keep the county and the schools afloat.
For years we have played a game in terms of being prepared and doing things as inexpensively as possible. This has allowed us money for other things, and for preps. However, it was much more fun as an intellectual exercise. Now, it's actually necessary. I worry about the people who don't know how to live frugally. I worry about their children, and I worry about our nation being ripe for communist takeover. Nowhere is far enough out not.
Thanks for all your comments. I'm sorry rural Oregon is not faring better than we are.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

It could be that an economic disaster will require drastic measures like suspending the constitution to save the country from the evils of capitalism. We already have a state run press, banking system, schools, farmers, energy, etc. What isn't the federal government in control of? Only conservatives view this as a problem, it is seen as an opportunity for others.

JaneofVirginia said...

And of course, I see the Constitution as more important than all of that. If they had allowed capitalism to work, and for bad banks to fail, then by now, the people who were employed by Bank of America would have started their own smaller banks, and I would have a decent bank. If the failures had occurred in 2008, then we would be on our way to recovery now, rather than on the verge of a nationalized health program which will kill some by virtue of conscious decision for some, incompetence by others, and bankruptcy for the nation. Obamunists are an abomination.