Posts Tagged ‘economics’
New York, NY (AP) – The Jones family, long a symbol of the Western capitalist ethos of competitive conspicuous consumption, has announced that they can no longer serve as the field’s avatars, as their economic abilities have eroded over the course of the latest financial crisis.
Speaking to reporters at the entrance to the family home – now facing foreclosure – in the New Jersey township of Bergenfield, just over the road from the swank section of Teaneck, family patriarch Carl Jones offered a detailed account of the family’s fall from contention in neighborhood one-upmanship.
“The Nichols family across the street got a Lincoln Navigator back in ’07, and we knew we couldn’t sit idly by,” he recalled. “So we took out an additional mortgage and invested in a Lexus SUV and a Hummer H3 – but the day we took delivery the market dropped like a stone and I lost half my portfolio equity. It went downhill from there. I’ve only been working part-time, the kids’ college tuition is still sky-high – of course we sent them only to the most expensive schools – and we fell behind on the loan payments last year.”
Throughout the boom years of the 1990′s, the Jones were exemplars of visible social climbing, embarking on multiple home renovation projects and highly touted trips to exotic locales abroad. The boom years of the Clinton administration gave the Jones coffers enough of a cushion to survive the leaner times of the early part of last decade. But the ever-growing demands of showing off to the neighbors, and, more importantly, showing them up, created a large enough draw on the family assets that even the good economic times that preceded the current recession could not shield them from its effects.
The Joneses have since sold both luxury vehicles, scaled back their landscaping significantly, no longer take extensive or expensive vacations, and encourage the younger generation to find steady, if low-paying, work.
At press time, fifteen-year-old Jenna, the youngest, had accepted an offer to wash the Nichols car for $20.
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New York NY (AP) – Bruce Feiler, 28, scored a coup this morning when, on his way out of Grand Central Station on 42nd Street, he managed to maintain a buffer of other pedestrians between him and a panhandler. Feiler thus averted eye contact with the pathetic soul, and thus prevented the profound awkwardness of encountering a fellow human in such dire straits and not offering substantial assistance.
The incident marks the second time this week that the accountant has evaded the massive guilt he would otherwise feel had he walked directly past the panhandler and given the man nothing. Instead, minuscule pangs picked at Feiler’s conscience for approximately 2.8 seconds, the time elapsed between the non-encounter with the beggar and arrival at the nearest crosswalk, where Feiler’s focus shifted to the red-light-green-light dynamic that governs the remainder of his walk to work.
Feiler selected the route within the first few days of his employment at his current firm, as he had observed that crossing 42nd Street any farther east would bring him into potential contact with at least two other panhandlers. He works on the north side of 42nd at Third Avenue, which requires him to cross back over the east-west artery. On several occasions he rationalized the specifics of the route by electing to use the ATM at the Bank of New York branch at 42nd and Park, which would necessitate crossing the street almost immediately upon exiting the terminal.
Other times, he bought coffee from a streetcart vendor on the south side, and felt compelled to praise the superiority of that purveyor’s wares over those of a competing seller on the north side of the street, despite the utter lack of distinction in quality or flavor between the two. Twice, Feiler also manufactured an intention to visit a housewares store on the south side of the street in order to justify his roundabout itinerary.
In an average workweek, Feiler succeeds about half the time in avoiding the awkwardness of direct proximity with the panhandler at the Grand Central exit, which is an excellent achievement, says Hope Liss, an analyst with GOP Poverty Solutions, a for-profit research firm. “Most working pedestrians have to plan their beggar-avoidance path at least twenty feet in advance of the panhandler, but emerging from the station on a crowded weekday morning during rush hour doesn’t afford you that wiggle room,” she explained. “So managing with such consistency to create a convincing image of not noticing the beggar takes considerable skill.”
The beggar in question, Felix Henderson, 50, has a history of drug addiction and unemployment, though he is currently clean, and is considered by veteran Grand Central commuters to be relatively adept at forcing eye contact and engendering sufficient empathy to warrant a donation of at least a dime, sometimes a whole dollar. He pleasantly thanks each contributor, and praises Feiler’s skill at pretending the panhandler does not exist.
“That guy with the gray suit and always-polished shoes? Yeah, I seen him. He one of the guys who happen to remember to be on the phone as they approaches,” said the homeless man.
He shook his head. “Never seen a more pathetic sight.”
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Ann Arbor, MI (AP) – Fast-food giant Domino’s Pizza, confronted with anemic sales of its new pizza suppositories, has put further marketing efforts for the product on hold, according to a statement from the company’s corporate headquarters.
Following a lengthy promotional campaign, the Italian food chain finally released its line of “Up Yours” pizza suppositories, hoping to tap into the growing need for ever-more-efficient food delivery in a busy era. With Up Yours, Domino’s hoped to appeal to rushed parents and hurried workers who lack the time to properly ingest and digest even typical fast food. Its “Taste is waste” slogan leveraged the company’s reputation for providing a less-than-stellar culinary experience; a 2009 survey of consumer taste preferences among national chains by Brand Keys, Domino’s tied with Chuck E. Cheese’s for last place.
The advertising push followed an intensive program to get buy-in from the chain’s more than 5,000 franchise holders, but that stage of the program took several months longer than expected because headquarters found it difficult to convince the franchisees to get behind the initiative, according to Seymour Butz, an analyst at Sphincter Industries who studies the fast food industry.
“The franchisees were worried about bottlenecks in supply and production,” said Butz, who also noted that trial runs of that production exposed lax adherence to quality standards. Although the company addressed those concerns, problems continued to emerge even as the release date approached.
Domino’s was forced to push back the start of the promotional campaign to fix those emerging issues, and the executives were apparently satisfied that they had managed to wipe away the sticky problems by softening its position on franchisee contribution. Advertising began in January, and the first Up Yours suppositories were offered in Kansas, Texas and Arkansas. Hopeful initial data from the “In Testin’” phase prompted the further roll-out of the products up and down the eastern seaboard and Illinois.
But sales logs, initially positive, proved disappointing, and continued to contract through the spring and summer, skidding almost entirely to a halt by August. The board pinned its hopes on the September “Backside to School” advertising blitz, aiming to appeal to more regular customers, but decided that if October sales showed no major improvement they would be forced to cancel production. Despite an $18 million investment in equipment, materials and marketing, the company’s bottom line has suffered, limiting Domino’s to a second-quarter profit only slightly higher than the same period last year.
Hopes had been high until then, as a program in the same spirit by a different fast food player had shown its potential. In 2009 White Castle announced that it was “eliminating the middle man” by liquefying its burgers and spraying them directly on the insides of toilet bowls. White Castle sales figures had not appreciably suffered as a result, and Domino’s executives apparently felt that their marketing acumen could make such an approach profitable.
This is not the first abortive Domino’s marketing program. In 1992 and 1993, high-profile lawsuits charged the company with recklessness in guaranteeing home delivery within 30 minutes of an order’s placement; two fatalities had resulted from Domino’s delivery men’s driving. Of particular interest to the plaintiff was a provision calling for the public beheading of drivers who failed to reach their destinations within the allotted time. The company settled both cases, but agreed to eliminate the punitive measures for late deliveries, which had garnered initial popularity and a contract to televise the beheadings.
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Scarsdale, NY (AP) – A report in the journal The Economist is sending ripples through the nation’s elite strata by noting that despite the worthlessness of the destitute, the law does not permit hunting them down and killing them just for fun. The study looked at the statutes in all fifty U.S. states, and did not find a single instance of homicide legality shifting with the income level of the victim.
Already, teams of lawyers have begun conferring on the best approach to shield their wealthy clients in case the latter have run afoul of the law in this regard. The situation is made more complex by the fact that many of the lawyers themselves might be in the same predicament.
At the same time, a nascent lobbying effort has taken shape that will press for amendments to existing state codes. The lobbyists are expected to focus initially on states with large concentrations of both poor and ultra-rich, such as New York, California, Texas, Florida, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with secondary efforts homing in on Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.
A search of the Lexis-Nexis database did not turn up any recent cases in which the poverty of the homicide victim was invoked in a defense, but legal scholar Ivory Towers cautions against inferring too much from that datum. “The fact is the vast majority of the wealthy’s indiscretions or brushes with the law never make it into official records,” she said, “so the formal legal databases are not going to be helpful.”
Towers did note that even within the official legal framework the poor tend to be seen as worth less, despite not officially being fair game. In practice, she explained, courts tend to sentence the poor disproportionately to the death sentence when it is an option, all the more so if the perpetrator is black. If there does exist a distinction among victims, it is that murderers of whites are sentenced to death at a much higher rate than murderers of blacks and other minorities. But that is a far cry from the assumption that it is lawful to simply treat the lower classes as cannon fodder, as entertaining as the prospect may seem, Towers added.
What’s more, the Economist study points out that beyond the legal question, hunting the poor for sport is no longer the safe pursuit it once was. As the ranks of the poor swell, the temptation to cull the herd can lead to disastrous consequences: the sheer number of poor people threatens to overwhelm even the superior culture and firepower of the ruling classes, and provoking the rage of the proletariat and welfare demographic runs the risk of fomenting unwelcome instability.
The danger that the ever-richer will misstep in that regard has increased, says Cal Igula, who teaches economics and sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles. “The obscenely wealthy get more and more out-of-touch as their wealth increases, and they become ever blinder to the risks inherent in exploiting the poor beyond a certain point,” he said.
The study authors did offer the consolation that it is still perfectly legal to pretend not to be a bigot.
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