Monday, September 6, 2010

On Labor Day, MSM News Ranges From Bad To Stupid

By Manifesto Joe

Labor Day was made an official federal holiday in 1894, during the second Grover Cleveland administration. I understand that it was an effort to placate the American labor movement after certain of that number were murdered by goons/police during the Pullman strike.

Since then, it has become a sort of beer-guzzling and barbecue holiday, in which most working folks get a day off and are festive with friends and family. Well, from what the MSM is telling us, get ready for cheaper beer and lower-rent barbecue. The Third-World style of economics is upon us, and it's being reinforced with the clear subtext that there are supposed to be no alternatives.

Story No. 1: Economists are forecasting that when a recovery does finally come, the jobs will be mostly of two kinds: professional gigs that pay very good, upper-middle-class salaries, and then all the rest of the schmucks working for wages in the service sector.

Here's a link that explains the prognostication.

Kiss the Middle Class Goodbye

If the economic prognosticators are correct, the jobs of tomorrow will mostly pay either $80,000 a year (today's dollars) or $20,000 a year, with not much in between. People like me, in-between baby boomers who started careers in the '70s and '80s, will be tomorrow's dinosaurs, from back in the day when there was a viable lower-middle class in the U.S. The jobs of tomorrow will generally be for people who are either upper-middle-class professionals, or working-class slobs just subsisting on what the service sector deigns to pay. Those erstwhile lower-middle-class jobs are all in places like Mexico and Indonesia now, and that's been going on since the Reagan years.

Our politicians not only didn't do anything to stop it -- they seemed to encourage it, with tax breaks, and bad trade deals like NAFTA and such. (Yeah, even Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore had a very big hand in that one.)

Unfortunately, this is a megatrend that's going to be very hard to stop. Many of the decent jobs are gone, probably for good, and many service-sector employers live precariously off cheap labor.

The first and perhaps biggest step is for the American people to, at long last, understand who their real friends are, and perhaps more importantly who their real enemies are. Yes, many Democrats have had a hand in all this. But you won't find one Republican politician still viable today who stood up and fought against having this sort of thing happen. Go back and look at how Congress voted on NAFTA.

The immigrant-baiting found among Republicans rings hollow -- for one thing, illegal workers usually compete only for low-wage jobs, not the kind that Americans can start a kid in college on. For another, you haven't seen them ever try to ramp up penalties against the employers who hire illegal labor. An awful lot of those people are -- you guessed it, Republicans who make campaign donations.

For 30 years, the American people have had every chance to see who has stood up for them, and who hasn't. Yet, obviously many still don't get it. If they did, the Republicans would be polling something like 25% of eligible voters by now.

That's the bad news. Now for the stupid news -- story No. 2:

If You're So Smart, Why Ain't You Rich?

In the current economic climate, it seems pretty moronic to compare the lifestyles of stingy zillionaires to the hardships that many Americans have to face every grim day of their lives. But, leave it to a few big outlets of the MSM to do exactly that.

Yahoo! Finance picked up an item from Investopedia called "7 Spending Tips From Frugal Billionaires." Now this stuff (link) will really come in handy for all you working-class slobs out there. One of the examples was Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, now believed to be the world's richest man, with $60.6 billion in holdings, according to Forbes magazine. He's lived in the same house for 40 years! Wow, like, I wonder how much money you would need to get a tour of those digs?

Warren Buffet, another of the world's richest men, was given as another example. He's lived in the same house in Omaha all these years, a little five-bedroom shack he purchased back in 1957.

Well, enough with the teases. Onward to the 7 spending tips. (My comments will be in parentheses and italics.)

Keep your home simple

Billionaires can afford to live in the most exclusive mansions imaginable - and many do, including Bill Gates' sprawling 66,000-square-foot, $147.5 million mansion in Medina, Wash. - yet frugal billionaires like Warren Buffet choose to keep it simple. Buffet still lives in the five-bedroom house in Omaha that he purchased in 1957 for $31,500. Likewise, Carlos Slim has lived in the same house for more than 40 years.

(I couldn't afford to buy a home until I was nearly 42. For 12 years plus, I've lived in the same four-bedroom house, built in 1955. By now I should surely be a millionaire, but my net worth is, alas, a good deal less than that.)

Use self-powered or public transportation

Thrifty billionaires including John Caudwell, David Cheriton and Chuck Feeney prefer to walk, bike or use public transportation when getting around town. Certainly these wealthy individuals could afford to take a helicopter to their lunch meetings, or ride in chauffeur-driven Bentleys, but they choose to get a little exercise and take advantage of public transportation instead. Good for the bank account and great for the environment.

("Self-powered transportation"! Who woulda thunk it? I've been doing that for years, forgoing the helicopter and taking my 1984 pickup truck back and forth to my night-shift job.)

Buy your clothes off the rack

While some people, regardless of their net value, place a huge emphasis on wearing designer clothes and shoes, some frugal billionaires decide it's simply not worth the effort, or expense. You can find David Cheriton, the Stanford professor who matched Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to the venture capitalists at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (resulting in a large reward of Google stock), wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of the furniture company Ikea, avoids wearing suits, and John Caudwell, mobile phone mogul, buys his clothes off the rack instead of spending his wealth on designer clothes.

("Off the rack" ... Does Wal-Mart count?)

Keep your scissors sharp

The average haircut costs about $45, but people can and do spend up to $800 per cut and style. Multiply that by 8.6 (to account for a cut every six weeks) and it adds up to $7,200 per year, not including tips. These billionaires can certainly afford the most stylish haircuts, buy many cannot be bothered by the time it takes or the high price tag for the posh salons. Billionaires like John Caudwell and David Cheriton opt for cutting their own hair at home.

($45 for an "average" haircut? Where do these people get their hair cut? My wife has been cutting her own hair for many years, and when I get mine cut, about once every three months, I pay $12 and get every penny's worth. Then I wait until I'm a semi-hippie to get it cut again. Hey, what happened to that first million?
Of course, I can hear someone out there saying, "Maybe he isn't that successful exactly because he doesn't get enough haircuts." Hey, all that extra money has been going straight into my 401(k), so there.)

Drive a regular car

While billionaires like Larry Ellison (co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation) enjoy spending millions on cars, boats and planes, others remain low key with their vehicles of choice. Jim Walton (of the Wal-Mart clan) drives a 15-year-old pickup truck. Azim Premji, an Indian business tycoon, reportedly drives a Toyota Corolla. And Ingvar Kamprad of Ikea drives a 10-year-old Volvo. The idea is to buy a dependable car, and drive it into the ground. No need for a different car each day of the week for these frugal billionaires.

(We have my 1984 pickup, and my wife drives our 2004 Honda Civic hybrid. Look out, Jim Walton, I'm comin'!)

Skip luxury items

It may surprise some of us, but the world's wealthiest person, Carlos Slim (the one who could spend more than a thousand dollars a minute and not run out of money for one hundred years) does not own a yacht or a plane.
Many other billionaires have chosen to skip these luxury items. Warren Buffet also avoids these lavish material items, stating "Most toys are just a pain in the neck."

(Does this mean that our pit bull terrier, who guards the back yard, was a mistake? He damn sure eats a lot.)

What we can learn

Some of the world's billionaires have frugal tendencies. Perhaps this thrifty nature even helped them make some of their money. Regardless, they have chosen to avoid some unnecessary spending (at least on their scale) and the 6,864,605,142 non-billionaires out there can follow suit, eliminating excessive, keep-up-with-the-Jones style spending. No matter what a person's income bracket is, most can usually find a way to cut back on frivolous spending, just like a few frugal billionaires.

(I'm just trying to keep up with my Jones, not anybody else's.)

Well, there you have it, working slobs -- how to get rich. Funny, though, how often it doesn't work. Most of us have to follow those rules, quite involuntarily.

The American mentality betrays a tragic lack of respect for the dignity of labor. Recently, while I was watching a young comedian on The Comedy Channel, he observed that when one is Employee of the Month, one is a winner, and a loser, at the same time.

The joke is that, while the Employee of the Month has won an award, he's still an employee, which by the American definition is supposed to make him or her a loser. By that definition, certainly a majority of us will be losers for most, if not all, of our lives. Relatively few people can qualify as winners.

And what, then, does that make all those Americans out there who are trying to find work and can't? I presume that they are supposed to be even worse than losers.

So, happy Labor Day, all you losers out there who actually have jobs. The news ranges from bad to stupid.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Marc McDonald said...

The days are long gone when many newspapers had a labor columnist.
These days, when it comes to financial matters, I wonder what planet most newspapers exist on.
Take financial columnists. Every time I see one of these "manage your money" columns, it appears to be aimed at the very wealthy.
A typical question they answer from a reader: "I just inherited $1 million---do you recommend I put it into stocks or bonds?"
Another typical question: "I am 60 years old and have saved $800,000 for retirement. Will this be enough?"
One columnist I read told a reader that the $400,000 he'd saved for retirement wouldn't be enough.
Maybe it won't---but most Americans don't have ANY savings for retirement. Most Americans expect to live off Social Security in retirement---and yet you wouldn't know that after reading ANY financial help columnist.

Jack Jodell said...

The shift ipublic and media attitudes against workers and labor unions is criminal. Union workers are viewed as greedy, undeserving slobs with an unjustified sense of entitlement, while corporate CEOs, who steal from and cheat both the public and their employees, are revered as they export jobs and hold down wages while continually raising their own compensations and perks.

Regarding the "MSM (mainstream media)", it's time we realists stopped referring to it as such. We should start referring to it as the "CM" or corporate media, for that's what it has become. We get a nonstop stream of anti-worker, pro-business conservative bias in nearly all of today's media, which is neither mainstream nor has anything much in common with the reasl-life situations of the overwhelming majority of the population.

Shawn said...

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