From the New York Times:
From the Great Depression, we remember the bread lines. From the oil shocks of the 1970s, we recall lines of cars snaking from gas stations. And from our current moment, we may come to remember scenes like the one at a Long Island Wal-Mart in the dawn after Thanksgiving, when 2,000 frantic shoppers trampled to death an employee who stood between them and the bargains within. It was a tragedy, yet it did not feel like an accident.
... Wages for most Americans have fallen in real terms over the last eight years. Pensions have been turned into 401(k) plans that have just relinquished half their value to an angry market. Health benefits have been downgraded or eliminated altogether. Working hours are being slashed, and full-time workers are having to settle for jobs through temp agencies.
Indeed, this was the situation for the unfortunate man who found himself working at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. Friday, a temp at a company emblematic of low wages and weak benefits, earning his dollars by trying to police an unruly crowd worried about missing out.
In a sense, the American economy has become a kind of piñata — lots of treats in there, but no guarantee that you will get any, making people prone to frenzy and sending some home bruised.
It seemed fitting then, in a tragic way, that the holiday season began with violence fueled by desperation; with a mob making a frantic reach for things they wanted badly, knowing they might go home empty-handed.
I suppose this is the sort of smarmy melodrama one should expect when papers like the Times employ liberal tool English majors from liberal arts colleges as business reporters.
Exactly eight years ago people started living beyond their means, buying more house than they can afford and getting mortgages when they don't even have sufficient credit for a cell phone plan. And, of course, Wal-Mart, which was responsible for the lion's share of the US productivity gains during the Clinton miracle, turned stone cold buggin' evil on day one of Bushco.
One would almost forget that global energy demand has skyrocketed thanks to the cheap labor 90's. Or that the idiotic drive to convert crops to biofuels has caused food prices to shoot up. Add these to an already existing housing bubble and one is left to ponder exacly how this economic slump was anything short of inevitable.
Thankfully, things will soon be run by the party who thinks we can solve our energy problems with unicorn farts and spent years playing naked Twister with the GSE's. And that means that mobs who crush the door guy at Wal-Mart can go back to being uncouth morons responsible for their own behavior instead of being unwitting victims of Bush.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Lay a little blame at the feet of the government, for exhorting Americans to spend more money and shake off that recession gripping the nation. Lay some blame on the media, for stoking the hype surrounding one day of retailing which is, in fact, nothing more than the first of 28 shopping days left until Christmas, with cable news hawking footage of ravenous shoppers storming the doors of stores opening at 4 am.
And in Palm Desert, California, where police say an argument preceded the shooting at a Toys "R" Us, lay some blame on a gun-happy culture which encourages the resolution of simple domestic disputes with the pulling of a trigger.
...... Retailers already were calling this the worst shopping season in six years. Now it's unquestionable. If this is shopping, we might be better off with a recession.
This one is a little less pointed but still rather moronic in its effort at social commentary. One wonders, if indeed the government and advertisers worked the entire country into a Black Friday frenzy, how it is exactly that only a few people died in a couple of incidents. After all, during the same time window it appears that standing next to Plaxico Burress at a night club was almost as dangerous.
George Stephanopoulis on This Week:
President-elect Obama also said this week in a series of press conferences that he held Monday through Wednesday on the economy and laying out his economic team. You got to give him credit for one thing at least: ever since the leak of Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary at 3:00 last Friday, the Dow has gone up 17%, the S&P has gone up 19%. So at least there's been a vote of confidence in the markets for president-elect Obama…And Black Friday, that’s exactly right, sales up three percent surprisingly on Black Friday. So, is this about the Obama economic team?
But wait. Sales were up? This wasn't desperation. It was optimism about Obama! The transition between a Republican administration and a Democrat one is a confusing and challenging time for the left. So many well-worn narratives to shed and so many new ones to cultivate.