Thursday, October 20, 2011


From Reuters via the Huffington Post news wire:

U.S. 'Misery Index' Rises To Highest Level In Almost Three Decades

An unofficial gauge of human misery in the United States rose last month to a 28-year high as Americans struggled with rising inflation and high unemployment.

The misery index -- which is simply the sum of the country's inflation and unemployment rates -- rose to 13.0, pushed up by higher price data the government reported on Wednesday.

The data underscores the extent that Americans continue to suffer even two years after a deep recession ended, with a weak economic recovery imperiling President Barack Obama's hopes of winning reelection next year.

More here.

And from the Stylelist courtesy of the Huffington Post:

The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book's Most Extravagant Gifts

The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book is the mecca for over-the-top, luxurious gifts, and this year's issue has just arrived. Among the latest from designers like Ferragamo and Fendi, you'll also find some items in the catalogue that may seem more fitting for a king or queen than an average department store shopper. Fancy yourself a custom speed boat, Ferrari or dream vacation? How about a fountain reminiscent of the one in front of The Bellagio in Las Vegas? All of these fantasy items, as Neimans has dubbed them, are available to order through the Christmas Book. The prices are naturally super steep, but even if you're not in the market for a tricked out tent for your backyard, it's fun to look through the alluring photos and dare to dream.

Click here for pics of how the other half, or one percent, if you prefer, live.

President Carter's people came up with the "Misery Index" back in the 70s, a time of spiraling inflation mixed with recession known as stagflation. Things were, indeed, miserable back then, but the index back in the day was pushed up more from inflation than from unemployment. Today, it's the reverse. Inflation is currently not very high by historical standards, and, as the article observes, is only at around four percent right now because of spiking fuel prices, and economists fully expect prices to drop in the coming months. But it's a good point to make: people are hurting out there.

Even me. When I started waiting tables four years ago at the restaurant where I work, the average tip was around twenty percent of the tab's total. In recent months, it's dropped to around fifteen percent. I mean, people still think they can afford sixteen dollar entrees, but are too nervous to hand over a couple more bucks to the guy who makes their dining experience happen. So my bottom line is affected, pretty heavily, and it's pretty clear that the bourgeois types on whom I wait are worried about their financial fates, too.

But not the rich. No, they're doing really well. So well, in fact, that the luxury market is positively booming, even while all other consumer markets are tanking. Irony? Sure, but somehow the longstanding conservative meme that what we all need to do is work harder, and maybe go to college, and soon enough we'll be enjoying the American dream doesn't seem too terribly relevant at the moment.

Something's really fucked up here: Chris Hedges keeps calling it "neo-feudalism," and I think that's just about as good a term as any. The aristocracy laughs and plays while everybody else toils in order to support their fabulous leisure. Eat the rich, I say.