Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm Just Sayin...

When it comes to economics, there's already a shitload of so-called "pundits" shilling for their share of the sponsor buck (don't think those commercials on CNBC are just for your enjoyment). But when it comes to consumer behavior, man, these "pundits" are as bad and wrong as a 3rd-string weatherman doing a 7-day forecast. I believe that the term for TV pundits working for salaries funded by the markets for which they report is called: "whore". But that's semantic I suppose.

First off, the biggest factor of personal spending habits is debt. Period. Consumers don't adjust their spending on how the Dow-Jones' is doing. Sorry. And they don't go on a shopping spree when they hear pork belly futures or light sweet crude goes up or down. Sorry again. Consumers look at their ever-growing stacks of bills, then their checking account, savings account (if they even have one) and then the credit card statement. That's it. Then they prioritize any leftovers by medical, house repair, transportation, and then "discretionary" stuff like food, clothing, kids needs and maybe a pinch of entertainment (a six-pack of Bud and a carton of Marlboros). It's human nature.

But there's a hidden candle burning at both ends: gasoline.

Yep. Petrol. The stuff that not only feeds the lifeblood of our industrial AND consumer economies, it controls it. When gas prices go up, everything you buy costs more. Quantities per package are reduced to shore up bottom lines. You pay more to receive even less. And you base personal travel decisions on it too. When gas is near $4/gallon, you probably cancel that road trip across the states. You also defer air travel as fares increase to absorb the fuel costs.  It costs you more to drive to places which will charge you even more when you get there.

But even when gas is "reasonable" (whatever that is), you fall back to basing decisions on personal debt. Priorities get compressed or decompressed as debt rises or falls, since income is rarely as variable as debt.

The catch here is that the two industries which ultimately control these two economic forces (petroleum and personal credit) are relatively treated laisse faire by our government. Sure, they get called in front of a congressional hearing, rarely, but nothing ever happens from that. When was the last time a government hearing caused a reduction in gasoline prices or APR terms?

Here, let me answer that for you….: Never.

Here we have two major, no, wait… GINORMOUS forces directly and indirectly controlling our economy with little or no direct oversight. They work on a broken leash essentially. Which means they are really in control, not the Fed or Treasury. The Fed says that they "influence" (their words, not mine) the U.S. economy, even though the Fed is not a government agency. And the Treasury is now simply an extension of Goldman-Sachs. There was another government that long ago followed this very same path: Rome.

If Exxon-Mobil, RD Shell, Chevron and Texaco decided gas should be $5/gallon, it would be $5/gallon. We'd bitch a lot, maybe even carry cardboard signs around in front of news cameras, and the whores in Congress and the Senate would postulate and act as if bringing on the heat, but that’s about it.  It is a "free market" system, after all, and those companies are well within their legal right to pursue profits within the law, even if it causes consumers a little pain. Where else would you go? What could you really do?  To another gas station?  And why would they keep their prices low?  If Exxon posted $5.00/gallon, WaWa would just rise up to $4.95 and the lines would be around the block.  Oldest game in the book.

The same goes for credit card services and jacking up interest rates. Oh wait, they already are.

Sure, the credit services are facing a looming change in legal guidelines, but the new laws really don't eliminate the gouging, they simply require them to tell you before they gouge you. Read it yourself. But most (all but a few actually) have preemptively raised interest rates to hedge their coffers before the new law goes into effect.  Not one government shill has raised voice over this obvious gang rape of the American working class. Not one.  A few PR statements, that’s it.  Nothing official has been put into action to challenge this behavior, because they just don’t care.

So, these two industries control your spending behavior, whether you want to believe it or not, and directly (and indirectly) exert control over the U.S. and global economies yet almost nothing has been done to put a leash on them.  Nothing beyond lip service and PR stunts.  Think about this:  Our government directly regulates air traffic, drugs, food, transportation, banking (sort of), communications, product safety, marriages, defense and intelligence, even prices your utilities can charge.  But they don’t bother placing any such controls on gasoline or credit cards.

Still don't believe our government is not really in control? Hmmm.

Post a Comment