Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My new economy

When I get together with a group of friends, I'm amazed at the tiny number of people who have actual full time jobs. One explanation is that it's a measure of the type of people I hang around with these days. That's not the total explanation. There really are fewer people working regular full time jobs.

There are a fair number who are "between jobs." They've got skills, degrees, and years in their respective fields. They just can seem to find a new job to replace the old job. People in this category are holding out for something like their old job. Some of them are unwilling to move across the country. Not all of these people will find work in their old fiends. Many will end up taking big cuts in pay, hours, or benefits. Most have yet to accept this sad fact.

Some of my friends are self employed: musicians, artists, masons, carpenters, mechanics and painters. They've had to scramble to make ends meet. Some have been unable to.

Others are living on tiny pension and disability payments that lose ground against inflation every year. They've had to tighten their belts.

Some work seasonal jobs. The hope to make enough money to live on during a few hectic months.

Many are only working part time. For some it's because it's all they can find. Other's have decided they only need to work enough hours to do things like pay their property taxes.

My friends and I are moving into a new economic place. We are bartering like crazy. All of us are pooling what resources they have to make a go of it. Life seems to be like one big pot luck dinner. People are reducing living expenses. Gardens are going in or getting bigger. Seems like everyone we know are raising chickens, rabbits, or keeping bees. People swap skills and goods. Some of us are going off-grid.

That's what normal looks like to me.

Today I went into the tourist town 50 miles away. It's main claim to fame is its shopping outlets. The place is a monument to consumerism. It freaked me out. The whole place felt unreal.

My wife really wanted to check out a store that had left the area but was now back. She had a good time. Really enjoyed the atmosphere. Didn't actually buy anything. There was an item of clothing she seemed interested in -until I told her to get it if she wanted it. Taking a second look, it wasn't really exactly what she was looking for.

As for myself, I checked out a discount bookstore. Went down every aisle and checked out the books. Didn't find a single one I wanted to pay even discount prices for. That's amazing, as I'm a serious book nut who doesn't get into physical bookstores all the often. I'll pay top dollar for the right book.

All we ended up buying was a late lunch. The food was pretty good, but overpriced and the service only so so. That's all I got for my trip into consumer land.

Glad to be back in the country.


1 comment:

  1. They were talking about the remodeled mall at work the other day. I haven't been there since 1998 myself, and have no plans to go now. I rarely go to town, and only if I need something I can't get locally. If we had a lumber store, I'd never leave my little peninsula! But the CONNEDsumer is alive and well here, apparently still jobs for most folks. Texas has fared "better" than most states as far as the crash is concerned, but King Obammy is looking at our piggy bank with a jealous eye. Some "redistribution" is in our future.

    We lived through a prolonged economic slump in the mid '80s to mid '90s when the oil market crashed. Folks have really short memories I guess, because they're not doing anything to prepare themselves. Still shopping, restaraunts are packed, shiny new cars everywhere... It will catch up to them eventually.