Six Short Stories Worth Talking About

It turns out that all that economic happy-talk is mostly that – talk. The U.S. Federal Reserve just released the minutes from their last meeting, and don’t really see much light – just more tunnel. They now expect the economy to shrink by over 2% this year and don’t see much improvement in consumer spending. That’s something I said for two months. About 95% of people get a tax refund this time of the year. Of course consumer spending looks good in March and April. But that’s not a trend.

Newsweek actually ran a story a few weeks ago with the headline: Stop Saving Now! Here we go again, politicians and now the media telling us to spend money to help the economy. Sorry, you gotta look after yourself first, and spending money we don’t have is exactly why we’re here in the first place.

We talked a few weeks ago that for us, just like businesses, debt is a house of cards that won’t last forever. By now, we’ve all heard the stories of the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy. The NHL team had over $80 million in debt, and was losing $30 million a year. That’s on top of the City of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, who borrowed $180 million to help build the arena! It’s another example of a business model based on debt that doesn’t work.

If you thought you’d heard of everything in the world of internet dating, think again. There is now a website, creditscoredating.com, where you’ll find dates based on your credit rating. Yes, this site does believe that romance and a good credit score equal success. I’m not sure how or why, but NOW maybe you’ve heard it all – for a while at least. I’m single but someone’s credit rating isn’t going to attract me to someone – sorry.

In this recession, our definition of what we think of as necessities versus luxury items is rapidly changing from three years ago. A Pew Research poll from April shows that our finances definitely influence what’s a must have, instead of a want-to-have:
We think of necessities as a home computer, high speed internet and our cell phone.
But what’s now considered luxury items include microwaves, televisions, dishwashers, and air conditioning.

No More Lineups?
IBM, and the grocery chain, Giant Foods, in the Mid Atlantic area, have rolled out a new way to get in and out of the grocery store in one-third of their stores.
What do we do now? We load items into a basket. Line up at the cash register and unload everything so it can be scanned. Then everything gets re-loaded into bags.
Well, a few years from now that will be about as antiquated as a typewriter. Instead, you’ll get a small portable scanner as you enter the store. Just pick what you’re buying off the shelf and scan it. The scanner will show the price of the item and keep a running total of what you’re purchasing. Put everything you’re buying into a bag, and walk out of the store. That’s it! The total will be debited right out of your bank account, or off your credit card – whatever you have already set up with the store.

Just imagine – no more lineups, no more cashiers, no more unloading and re-packing everything. It’s literally as simple as pulling your purchases off the shelf, scanning them and getting out of there.

Producer Michael Moore, who has done documentaries on President Bush, the U.S. healthcare system and GM, is now making one about Wall Street and the meltdown. It is still unnamed, but scheduled for release in October, and you have to know it’ll be controversial.

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