22 thoughts on “Bubbles, Blonds and Boobs.

  1. Mrs. Fay says:

    For (what seems like) ever, we as Americans, have been defined by our largeness. Maybe some day we’ll be better defined by our smartness or creativity, or something that actually matters. Unfortunately, until we stop living large, or trying to, we’ll be stuck in the same cycle of consumption and bubble popping. Would that we could remember the actual meaning of conservative in our real daily lives…not that weird bizarro political definition used by those on the right. Oh, and don’t forget to turn out the light when you leave the room, and close that door…we don’t live in a barn, you know.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      As usual Mrs. Fay, well said. We are however consumers in every respect, measured by our abilty to acquire–in our own eyes and in the eyes of others; material possessions the most obvious and the “power” their attainment represents. It’s drummed into us from day one and has been for decades. Heck it’s the American Dream isn’t it? Artists and philosophers in western culture don’t hold particular status; it is instead those capable of buiding financial empires and we strive for, in fact feel entitled to–a piece of that action.

    2. Mike Kennedy says:

      Lambert:

      Good post, for the most part. Eeeeeeeew. You are starting to make sense to me. Still, people have always loved big things in this society. SUVs were not unique. There have always been luxury cars, starting with GM, but then they went broke and…….well you know.

      I’ve been to Europe and several other countries. They like things big there, but they don’t have the room for them and it’s damn expensive to tear shit down that is 300 years old and designed for people who are 4 foot 6 inches.

      So it’s not just cars, homes, boobs and ………oh never mind. Bigness has always been huge here and prized in other places. We just keep having phony bubbles that give people the illusion they can “live large.”

      Me, I’m Irish; so I don’t think smaller is necessarily bad — for the most part.

      The bottom line is that we do need a certain amount of consumption to power the economy. If people feel like they are secure and well off, they will spend. If not, they won’t. And no amount of jawboning is going to help.

  2. PM says:

    Irony of ironies! The party of Reagan mocks Democrats for obsession with Hollywood!!!!

    Actually, reading your Fox news item, the Chair of the committee noted that the invitation to Colbert was done in order to gain attention to the hearings–which seems to have worked with Newt, at least.

    FYI, Colbert was not ordered to leave–one of the Democratic members suggested that he should leave, and the Chair said she wanted him to stay.

    I do agree that publicity stunts like this are fairly silly, but they do get attention. Shame on us for that.

  3. Randi says:

    Started to re-read Studs Terkel’s Hard Times this morning and was immediately struck by the Depression-era collectivism that doesn’t seem to exist today – you are absolutely right, Mr. Lambert, and unless people get together and work against the status quo, we won’t even be able to achieve even a 1991-era standard of living.

    1. Joad Red says:

      We’ve probably not dropped to 1991 consumption levels yet. Once we get there the challenge will be employment growth in an economy where utilitarian / empathic consumption replaces Veblenian consumption. It’s early, and we’re still in the deceleration phase, but I’d agree the Obama administration has demonstrated no foresight for the controls that will be required. What probably work work well is a variation of this British proposal: http://www.cnbc.com/id/39265847.

      1. Ellen Mrja says:

        Joad: Stunning to think HRM’s officers would even propose having her subjects’ paychecks sent directly to the government for tax collection. And WE’VE got the Tea Party?!

        Bollocks.

  4. PM says:

    Ran across an interesting paper on the distribution of wealth in the US. Very interesting graph that shows:

    1. What the real distribution of wealth is in the US currently;
    2. What people think the distribution of wealth in the US is currently; and:
    3. What people think the distribution of wealth in the US should be.

    (This is all done by quintiles–the richest quintile control X%, etc.)

    bottom line–most unequal is the real distribution of wealth, followed by what people think it is, followed by what they think would be ideal.

    Obvious question is if people realize that the distribution is far more unequal than they think it is, will they be more willing to do something about it (raise taxes in various forms).

  5. Mike Kennedy says:

    I don’t think people are going to bite much on the tax thing, primarily because many see themselves working into the higher brackets someday (just as many see themselves winning the lottery), and most people don’t understand the difference between marginal rates and average tax rates.

    Besides, I don’t think most people trust government to “balance the scales” of redistribution.

    Finally, the current system appears broke. I don’t mind paying taxes, but at 9 million words, the tax code is out of control.

    A flat tax with minimal to no deductions is sorely needed. Neither liberals nor conservatives will talk about fixing the system and simplifying it while still making it fair.

  6. PM says:

    Here is more on that survey about the distribution of wealth. The kicker…..
    “The United States may possess a shrinking middle class, but the number of its citizens who consider themselves middle class (because they can’t face that they’re rich) may actually be growing. Perhaps a similarly large number consider themselves middle class because they can’t face that they’re poor. What we can conclude with some certainty is that counting dollars belonging to oneself relative to others is a much more emotionally distorted activity than counting jelly beans.”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2268872/

  7. Mike Kennedy says:

    I’d agree with that last sentence. How shall middle class be defined and what is rich? Is it income? Assets? Both? Where is the point where someone crosses the line?

  8. PM says:

    Yes. problem is that people’s definitions are all over the place, and often not even consistent internally (“well, i might make more than $250,000/year, but I’m definitely middle class”)

  9. Dennis Lang says:

    And a subtext I’m trying to get a grip on. From a paper I wrote for the “Columbia Journal”:
    Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist at UCLA’s Semel Institute for
    Neuroscience and Human Behavior:
    “The underlying problem is that society measures success by
    how much money someone has, as demonstrated by how many
    status symbols they have accumulated. When stripped of these
    status symbols he feels naked, as though the world can now see
    that he’s a failure after all.”
    Dr. Lieberman was suggesting that our priorities are all wrong.
    As children, we pursue better grades; as adults, better jobs that
    come with more money, or social status, or both. Money in turn
    lets us purchase better homes and cars, more-luxurious vacations
    or more-expensive clothes. But our endless acquiring has assumed
    an emotional and ethical dimension. We’ve come to conflate
    achievement with identity. Not only do we have greater selfesteem
    when we have these assets, but the world seems to regard
    us with greater respect—and we feel even more virtuous as a
    result.
    Sociologists first noticed this tendency in American life generations
    ago, but in the last fifty years, it has developed into a
    national obsession. The cultural historian Scott Sandage examines
    this phenomenon in Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. He
    explores how business and material losses have evolved from
    being seen as career setbacks to signs of personal failure. “Ours
    is an ideology of achieved identity,” Sandage writes. “Obligatory
    striving is its method, and failure and success are its outcomes.”

  10. Mike Kennedy says:

    That sounds interesting. I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it helps to have resources, money included, but this whole fascination of big houses, new cars, expensive “stuff” has always turned me off.

    Even if you have considerable money, why flaunt it? I loved Tom Stanley’s book “The Millionaire Next Door.” His research showed that, on average, these people lived in modest homes, drove used cars, didn’t have a lot of toys, expensive jewelry etc.

    They reinvested money in other businesses, gave to charity and kept their wealth from defining who they are. In fact, in most cases, their neighbors and their own children didn’t know. They tended to come from modest backgrounds and attended state universities.

    The book is a bit dated now — probably about 15 years old. A lot has changed in our society, but it’s still a fun read and I have given countless copies out to clients.

  11. Ellen Mrja says:

    Have “The Millionaire Next Door” and from my limited personal observations agree. People who want to appear to be rich are in hock up to their eyeballs. People with real money don’t even have to try.
    Also, have you read “Affluenza”? Sort of interesting and along the same lines of “When is Enough Enough?” In fact, I think I own that book, as well.

    Dennis: Great stuff; thanks. Have you heard that America is now 10th in the world for upward mobility? We are behind Germany and France. (This is according to Arianna Huffington. I haven’t been able to verify her facts yet; sorry.)

    And Lambert, your title is the most pathetic attempt at a search-engine-optimized title I’ve seen since this blog went with “MILF Porn Tube Is Following Me” or the infamous “The Black Hole.” Next time, try to be a bit more subtle, OK? OK.

    Geez. We do have standards around here.

    1. My alternate title for this blog post was: “Whores, Hos, Mink Handcuffs and Austin’s Smokin’ Hot Teenage Sex Fantasies”

      100,000 hits the first day — I guarantee it.

  12. Newt says:

    Let’s totally revamp society, destroy economies and impoverish millions to fix a problem that doesn’t exist …

    —————————————————————–
    Solar surprises raise questions for climate models
    Oct 6 03:06 PM US/Eastern

    Scientists found that a decline in the Sun’s activity did not lead as expected to a cooling of the Earth, a surprise finding that could have repercussions for computer models on climate change.

    The Sun’s activity is known to wax and wane over 11-year cycles, which means that in theory the amount of radiation reaching Earth declines during the “waning” phase.

    The new study was carried out between 2004 and 2007 during a solar waning phase.

    The amount of energy in the ultraviolet part of the energy spectrum fell, the researchers found.

    But, contrary to expectation, radiation in the visible part of the energy spectrum increased, rather than declined, which caused a warming effect.

    The investigation, based mainly on satellite data, is important because of a debate over how far global warming is attributable to Man or to natural causes.

    Climatologists say that warming is overwhelmingly due to man-made greenhouse gases — invisible carbon emissions from coal, gas and coal that linger in the atmosphere and trap solar heat.

    But a vocal lobby of sceptics say that this is flawed or alarmist, and point out that Earth has known periods of cooling and warming that are due to variations in the Sun’s output.

    “These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the Sun’s effect on our climate,” said lead author Joanna Haigh, a professor at Imperial College London where she is also a member of the Grantham Institute for Climate change.

    “However, they only show us a snapshot of the Sun’s activity and its behaviour over the three years of our study could be an anomaly.”

    Insisting on caution, Haigh said that if the Sun turned out to have a warming effect during the “waning” part of the cycle, it might also turn out to have a cooling effect during the “waxing” part of the cycle.

    In that case, greenhouse gases would be more to blame than thought for the perceptible rise in global temperatures over the past century.

    “We cannot jump to any conclusions based on what we have found during this comparatively short period,” Haigh said. “We need to carry out further studies to explore the Sun’s activity, and the patterns that we have uncovered, on longer timescales.”

    The study is published in Nature, the weekly British science journal.

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