Buy-and-Buy

These are some of this weekend’s (August 1st and 2nd, 2008) featured articles in the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

1. Headline — “U.S. jobless rate hits a 4-year high amid housing woes”
“WASHINGTON – Stores, factories and other businesses large and small showed workers the door last month, sending unemployment to its highest rate in four years and adding to the evidence an economic recovery remains far off.

“Employers clamped down on hiring and cut 51,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department said Friday. The economy has shed jobs in each month this year – 463,000 in all …

“The jobs report contributed to another day of grim news for the economy. General Motors reported a staggering quarterly loss of more than $ 15 billion and said its sales fell by more than a quarter from last year.”

2. Headline — “A tighter ship for L. B.”
“LONG BEACH — The Main Library, the Police Athletic League and 117 staff positions all may be cut to help offset a $ 16.9 million projected budget deficit in the next fiscal year, city officials announced Friday …

“Since 2004, the city has cut more than 500 jobs as it has faced previous budget crises, Foster said.

“The council has until Sept. 15 to make changes to the budget and approve it …

“That day, the council members may get an earful, because not everyone is happy about the cuts that are on the table.”

3. Headline — “Auto sales plunge again”
“General Motors, Ford, Toyota and other automakers said Friday that their U.S. sales fell by double-digits in July as they struggled to keep up with consumers’ demand for smaller, more efficient vehicles …

“Automakers were expecting sales to be at their lowest level in more than a decade as sales of trucks and SUVs continued to plummet and new troubles in the auto leasing market further wrecked consumers’ confidence. And they said things could get worse before they get better.

“‘We expect the second half of 2008 will be more challenging than the first half as economic and credit conditions weaken,’ Ford’s marketing chief Jim Farley said in a statement …

“Earlier Friday, GM reported a $ 15.5 billion second-quarter loss, the third-worst quarterly performance in the company’s history … largely due to North American sales losses.”

One needn’t have an extensive background in economics to know what those stories are all about. Only by being in a drunken stupor for the last year or so, could you have failed to hear about this country’s economic slide.

But there’s another kind of stupor that prevents a mind from absorbing, and evaluating, the many disturbing economic reports issued by the daily media. It’s a kind of stupor that often afflicts those we’ve elected to keep our nation on an even keel and its citizens from financial hardship, and the same issue of the Long Beach Press-Telegram provides us with a case in point:

4. Headline — “Congress to address L.B., L.A. port needs”
“LONG BEACH — Congresswoman Laura Richardson and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher are hosting a public hearing Monday in Long Beach to address the infrastructure, traffic congestion and air quality problems tied to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. It’s the first congressional hearing in Long Beach in more than three years and comes as elected leaders contemplate the distribution of federal funding for roads, bridges, seaports and rail corridors.

“Richardson, D-Long Beach, and Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, will join four fellow members of Congress to gather input on the growing need of federal funds for local infrastructure projects, including replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge … the Heim Draw Bridge, Long Beach (710) Freeway, Route 47 highway and Vincent Thomas Bridge.

“The hearing comes as Congress considers support for the On Time Act, a federal bill … written by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside, (which) would place a fee on imports and exports equal to 0.75 per cent of the cargo’s total value, or $ 500, whichever is less …”

“Federal funds”, of course, are taxpayer dollars, and that “fee”, as those members of Congress know, will be tacked on to those goods destined to be purchased by taxpayers. Those first three articles – among the thousands that are appearing every week in newspaper and TV reports – need no deciphering. This country, and its seaports, are in an economic death spiral and no one in Congress knows how to stop the plunge. Common sense should tell them, however, that the thousands losing their jobs every day are also losing their ability to buy. Buy. That’s the key word in this whole issue — Buy. Ask GM. Ask Ford. Ask Wal-Mart. Ask anyone in the merchandising field. Better still, ask the manufacturing centers in Asia and the shipping lines that were delivering ever-increasing volumes of containers to the ports of L.A. and Long Beach … until recently. Or maybe someone could hand these politicians a copy of last Sunday’s Los Angeles Daily Breeze.

“Traffic at ports decreases in June”, was a featured story. “Cargo container traffic,” it began, “took a deep nose dive in June at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, signaling a trend that could continue through the end of the year. The Port of Los Angeles logged a 11.7 % drop in cargo containers in June compared with the same period last year, while the neighboring Port of Long Beach reported a 12.5 % dip, representing the deepest declines at the twin ports so far this year.”

[If “jobless rates hit a 4-year high amid housing woes”; and if “economic recovery remains far off”; and if “things could get worse before they get better”; and if “container traffic took a deep nose dive”; …why waste billions on the unnecessary upgrading of the supply line “infrastructure”?]