the downturnaround

The Consumer Spirit Continues to Endure

The Downturnaround is no blithe optimist. We are not prepared to say that the semi-nationalization of Citigroup, if this indeed is what is in the offing, means that the worst is behind us. All we’re really looking for is reasons not to panic, and recently, we’ve read many things that recommend turning the anxiety level down a notch or two.

• One of the sharpest purveyors of pessimism porn takes a break from online “chatter about how it’s the end of the world as we know it,” and when he comes back to it, finds himself not so “perturbed.” See! Economic news and data = terrifying. Real world = a lot less bad. [Infectious Greed]

• The American consumer gets a very bad rap these days, but here’s something we love about ourselves: We want what we want, goddamn it, and you better give it to us. And this man wants his Jimmy Dean sausage. [YouTube]

• We here at the Downturnaround consider bad news for Cerberus, the buyout firm staffed with Bush-era flunkies including former Treasury Secretary John Snow and yes, Dan Quayle (amazing he’s employed, isn’t it?), to be good news for the U.S. economy and Americans generally. Actually, include the whole world in that. [FT]

• They like her. They really like her. Hillary charms the Chinese: After a face-to-face meeting in which our new secretary of State begged the Chinese to keep buying U.S. Treasuries, a Chinese official told Clinton that she looked “younger and more beautiful” than she appears on television.” We’re taking that as a yes. [Bloomberg]

• You know what happens after you declare personal bankruptcy? You get to keep living. [Bob is Bankrupt via Market Movers/Portfolio]

• Hey now. There are jobs for us in India. And they still think they need to pay us more! (Shh, no one tell them.) [WSJ]

• Okay, so newspapers are dead. But someone with a lot of money has a new idea of how to cover local news. [• Think the U.S. economy has devolved to a bunch of Ponzi-scheming bankers on the one hand and overworked baristas on the other? Well, no. We are also the world’s leading manufacturer, measured in output. “For every $1 of value produced in China factories, the United States generates $2.50.” [Big Picture]

• Occasionally, the financial blogosphere spits out an idea of how to improve the world, rather than just predict the various spectacular forms of its demise. Imagine if the government, rather than subsidize hedge funds to take the toxic assets off the banks’ books, chopped the assets up into small enough pieces that small investors could play ball on an even playing field with the big boys. Wouldn’t be something? [Interfluidity] Hint: Skip to the end.

• Like many of you, no doubt, the Downturnaround was curious to discover, in yesterday’s front-page Times story about Japan, what the travails of the world’s second-largest economy might portend for ours, and we will admit this much: We do not look forward to a steady diet of cabbage stew or of drinking our own bathwater. However, we would like to call B.S. on some of what the Times apparently considered extreme deprivation:

1. Let’s start with the fact that “some 48 percent of workers age 24 or younger are temps” and “tend to shun conspicuous consumption.” Well, what should we expect? That kids in their early twenties lock themselves into soul-crushing office jobs and start driving Ferraris?
2. Relatedly, the report that Louis Vuitton sales were down 10 percent in Japan in 2008 — was that supposed to seem shocking? Ten fekkin’ percent? We know more than a few firms that would be thrilled if business had slowed that little, and we expect Louis Vuitton will be okay.

That said, we were a little moved by the plight of the middle-class family that hadn’t been on vacation in two years and survives without a flat-panel television. Sometimes you just have to sit back and marvel at how the human spirit endures. [NYT]

The Consumer Spirit Continues to Endure