Boomtown

Boomtown
by ron provine


     Today a friend of mine, a young Republican type with
tortoise shell glasses and 17 pairs of khakis, was
talking animatedly about the stock market and how it
just kept going up.  "Inflation is nowhere in sight! 
The economy is growing!  Things are great!"  I hadn't
seen anybody that happy since, one time a couple of
weeks back as I was on my way to sell blood to get
money to buy vodka I discovered a long-forgotten 20
dollar bill in my jacket pocket.  Naturally, his
earnest enthusiasm was contagious and I hurried home,
anxious to find my "Wall Street is Happy" prize in the
mail.  Perhaps some cash, or a watch, or even a
baseball hat.  Even a letter saying "Dear Ron - we would
just like to say thank YOU for the small part you have
played in the Dow Jones Average's unprecedented
growth.  Sincerely, The Syndicate of Rich White Old
Yale Men".  But, to my disappointment, for the 8,963rd
consecutive day of my life, I received absolutely no
benefit from Wall Street's astounding good fortune.

It's interesting, actually, the way Americans tend to follow the stock market as though it mattered much to them. Of late, the Dow Jones has become almost like a sports team. "The Dow is up again, Islanders won last night". And while it makes me feel all hot and bothered that, as an American, I live in the country with the best goddamned stock market in the world, one has to wonder, "If the stock market is so good, and I'm not benefiting from it at all, then who is? Is it that girl I hate so badly in my Moral Philosophy class?" And, ultimately "Since I am not benefiting from the stock market, while others are, how can I piss on their parade and make certain that nobody wins?"
The first question is easier to answer than the second. I will give you three guesses who benefits. Done guessing? Not real clever, are you? Didn't even come close - but that is because the answer is so glaringly obvious it blinded you - the same people benefit from this who benefit from every other feature of the American faux-capitalism. Rich guys. Specifically, rich guys who own or control corporations. Don't think of this as more anti-rich propaganda - well, okay, you may as well think of it as that. I just don't like those people very much. But for once, this is more than vitriol.
The economic reports released today reveal that the economy is 'growing' in terms of corporate profits and the Dow Jones average at startling rates. And that's just lovely. I am sure the corporations deserve every penny as they are out there in the trenches everyday making this country better by giving us 17 kinds of fat-free peanut butter from which to choose and putting out a new SUV every other week.
However, what economists don't mention when they tout the unprecedented economic growth is that, while the Gross Domestic Product grew 4.8% since the year's beginning, when you factor in the loss of benefits and cutbacks in hours many American workers have faced, the average American salary has barely grown 4% IN 10 YEARS.
More disturbingly, 1989 was a recession period. This means that the average American makes barely 4% more money now than she did during our last serious economic crisis. While the upper crust of society is doing very very well indeed, reaping the benefits of corporate growth and stock market euphoria, the average American is doing about as well as they were during a recession. The gap widens between haves and have nots.
A logical conclusion would be that the average American is thus consuming about the same amount. Of course, when dealing with American consuming habits, logic usually needs to be tossed right out the window before we get anywhere at all. The average American is Spending like they have seen an income increase of 9-11% by maxing out their credit cards. After all - it's an economic boom! Why not live it up? Bankruptcies are through the roof as people find it impossible to pay for their conspicuous consuming.
Of course, in the end, the credit card companies get back every dime they lent out and interest rates Shylock wouldn't have charged even from those people who manage to get through bankruptcy proceedings. So, it seems another winner of our current economic boom is the credit card companies.
The only remaining question then, is how do we piss on the parade of these corporate fat cats? How do we claim our share of this 'economic boom'? Damned if I know - if I did I likely wouldn't tell you, unless of course I needed your help. For now, it's enough to realize that no matter what the television tells you the economic situation is like, the average American is, at best, a little better off than during our last recession, and most likely living beyond his means. The unlucky, poor American - broken, disheartened, barely able to make ends meet. Economic growth is a great thing.
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