The Concept "Consumer"
I have been watching CNBC recently because (a) our personal holdings have declined significantly as have most other people's and I want to know what's up with our declining economy, (b) they have beautiful women anchors and reporters and I am now, as always, a dirty old man, and (c) it is one place where you get intelligent discussion of the issues.
I was troubled yesterday -- why did it take so long, I wonder -- at the references to you and me as "consumers." Damn but if that is not a very demeaning term to use for us. I was struck by the resemblance of that concept to that of "johns," the people that prostitutes service. We are needy people and our role in the economy is to buy all manner of crap. We, however, have smartened up and are acting to bring down our personal debt rather than buying more crap. Wall Street is very unhappy about that. Since I am someone who has finally cut the cord on my fanatical desire to own the more toys by the time I die than anyone else in my economic weight class and am focusing relentlessly on cutting debt, I took offense.
One of the things that made it hard for American businesses to get products into Japan during the time the Japanese were dumping everything they made into the US besides the incredibly many obstructions businesses had to get past was that the Japanese consumer wasn't consuming as much as us. He and she were saving. That was once, in fact, a virtue we extolled -- "A penny saved is a penny earned," as Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said That needs to be revised to "A penny saved is 0.67% of a penny earned," if it was saved in the form of purchasing into the stock market."
The thing that pisses me off about this reference to us as consumers is that we are also workers or as in the case of my wife and me, former workers. That is of interest to market people only if busineses are increasing or decreasing the number of us they employ. In this case we are viewed as little more than pawns in the great economic chess game Wall Street is playing by way of selling stakes in, real and contrived (check out the concept of a "derivative") financial instruments.
Can it be any wonder that the Bush Administration, ever the tool of the rich and powerful, treat us with so little respect -- tax cuts for rich investors (the people that control the chess board) being more important than tax cuts for us (pawns). Anyone who votes for McCain is saying, "I love being a pawn." Right now, the Bush Administration is working on all manner of ways to deregulate industry by way of favoring the rich and powerful. We are, after all, nothing more than tools. Oddly, so are the rich folks but they are so mentally screwed up that they can't quite recognize that they actually drink out of the dirty lake we drink from.