As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Only 365 Shopping Days Until Christmas

It seems to me that holiday shopping statistics are starting to become as ubiquitous as weekend movie grosses (am I supposed to root for my favorite department store?), but they're still not getting the bare facts right.

I'm twiddling my thumbs for a bit until it's time to hop in the car and head over to my father-in-law's place, and a few minutes ago I came across a piece by Michael Barbaro in the New York Times about "bleak" retail holiday spending this year:

Spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas rose just 3.6 percent over last year, the weakest performance in at least four years, according to MasterCard Advisors, a division of the credit card company. By comparison, sales grew 6.6 percent in 2006, and 8 percent in 2005.

But this isn't right. As near as I can tell (though, naturally, Barbaro doesn't bother to mention it), these numbers aren't adjusted for inflation. In other words, they're useless. Here's what that paragraph should have said:

Adjusted for inflation, spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas declined 0.7 percent over last year, the weakest performance in at least four years, according to MasterCard Advisors, a division of the credit card company. By comparison, sales grew 4.0 percent in 2006, and 4.4 percent in 2005.

I can't imagine that conglomerate-owned media reports would leave out key details to keep up a fiction that the economy is just humming along. That doesn't even seem possible!

Meanwhile, I didn't even think it was possible to default on your credit cards given the easy availability of consumer credit, but now that's starting to happen.

Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments at an alarming rate, sending delinquencies and defaults surging by double-digit percentages in the last year and prompting warnings of worse to come.

An Associated Press analysis of financial data from the country's largest card issuers also found that the greatest rise was among accounts more than 90 days in arrears.

Experts say these signs of the deterioration of finances of many households are partly a byproduct of the subprime mortgage crisis and could spell more trouble ahead for an already sputtering economy.

Let me give you another example of a byproduct of the mortgage crisis; immigrants aren't finding construction jobs because housing starts are in the toilet, and they're going back to their home countries. Now, you'll hear a lot of other explanations for this, like various punitive laws in Arizona, but if there were jobs, they'd stay. This is going to be a real problem for lunkhead Republicans who want to blame everything on the brown people, including them causing the mortgage crisis by misunderstanding the forms, because as we all know it's been illegal immigrants buying those million-dollar homes. But the underground economy usually feels the crunch earlier than the economy in general, and if there aren't any jobs, there's no reason to live under fear of deportation. And then we'll see exactly how much these immigrants actually contribute to the economy once they're not around to do the menial labor anymore. Somehow the resultant economic downturn will ALSO be blamed on the brown people, too.

We're in a season of giving, but that will soon give way to a long winter and a lot of people with nothing left to give. The coming recession will be the final ignominy for an executive branch that has given up on competent stewardship.

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