Monday, January 07, 2008

Times is tight like that


photo: Nick Hardy

The American Dialect Society chose "subprime" as 2007's Word of the Year at its annual convention. In light of the effect that the credit industry’s reckless practices has had (or has yet to have) on our economy, I’d have to agree with their choice. A few of the other nominations that the society of word watchers considered were real estate or credit related as well, such as “Exploding ARM”, "liar's loan", and "NINJA" -- No Income, No Job or Assets.

As I turned the pages of the newspaper, the next article that caught my eye was about the decline in charitable giving by the middle class. Charities, such as the Salvation Army and the Food Bank, that rely on gifts from everyday working folks are seeing a sharp decline in giving. The article went on to say that overall charitable donations were up slightly over this time last year. The difference this year is those whom are making the donations and the beneficiaries of their graciousness. While giving to food banks and homeless shelters has dropped off, charitable gifts to the arts is on the rise. Regional symphonies, ballet companies, and art museums are enjoying a bountiful year of donations.

These seemingly unrelated articles made me pause to wonder if there was a common thread in these stories. It seems to me that the working and middle class are starting to tighten their belts to cope with rising housing prices, increasing food costs, and more pain at the pump. On the other hand, the wealthier class is donating more of their disposable income to charities and causes that are largely a benefit to themselves.

From one coast to the other, Food Banks across North America are facing severe shortages. The Yarmouth County Vanguard (Nova Scotia) and The Daily Californian (Berkeley, California) both include articles of major shortages at local Food Banks and an increase in people requiring their services. America's Second Harvest, the national organization of local and regional Food Banks, anticipates “an immediate food shortage of 15 million pounds -- the equivalent of more than 400 truckloads or 11.7 million meals -- by the end of January.”

Cactus Pryor - Cry Of The Dying Duck In A Thunder Storm.mp3
Thanks, once again, to Walt’s cousin Wes for this1950 78 classic.

R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders - Get a Load of This.mp3
currently out-of-print.

Steve Goodman - Chicken Cordon Bleus.mp3
Buy it here.

No one should have to wish for food.
Learn more about how to end hunger.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Paul said...

Never heard the dying duck song before. Very entertaining! Thanks.

January 08, 2008 12:14 AM  
Anonymous kjk said...

my word of the year would have been "surge." being a news and c-span junkie, i heard it daily for the better part of 2007. "subprime" didn't start hitting its stride until the year was about finished.

that said, i can't agree with you more about the demographics of charity-giving.

i made a modest donation to America's Second Harvest in December, when you made them known to me. They countered by asking for more twice since then!

January 08, 2008 10:30 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Paul,
Catus Pryor is has been an institution on Austin, TX radio since the late '40s. He still does a morning commentary.

January 08, 2008 1:10 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken,
Like you, I am a news hound, although I have an additional interest in the financial markets as well. The subprime troubles may not have made mainstream news until later in the year, but the word of impending trouble started last January.

Second Harvest, like all charities, tend to hound those few who make donations. For years I have had a monthly donation set up to be withdrawn from my bank account automatically. That way I don't have to remember to make a donation, and they don't have to beg.

January 08, 2008 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Very nice selections as usual, Ed ... about the decline in giving, I'm afraid the country and organizations dependent on donations WILL see a fall-off because people ARE being squeezed ... One example: WHY are we putting FOOD (e.g., corn, a/k/a 'ethanol') into our GAS TANK? Ethanol is a poor fuel, and generates more CO2 than does gasoline ... additionally, it deteriorates rubber components in the engine ... And this is only ONE example of stupidity on the part of those who would pose as our 'best and brightest' ... The fearmongers who run off at the mouth spouting falsehoods about manmade 'global warming' can't follow the simple discrepancy when the local weatherman can't do a correct three-day forecast, yet they'll willingly swallow some Barnum-esque song and dance about what climate will be in 50 or 100 years? Please. Gimme a break ... mankind does not have the ability to create change on that massive a scale - to believe it does is to exercise hubris on a global scale ... And lest we forget, all those things that the 'man is evil / save holy mother the earth' would have us do WILL HAVE an economic downside - and that will also be translated into additional belt-tightening ... People seem to have problems remembering that 'something for nothing' is a fiction ... We're witnessing a zero-sum game being played by pros who depend on people not knowing enough basic science to disagree with them, and the winners sure won't be the everyday guy ...

January 08, 2008 7:25 PM  
Anonymous kjk said...

hmmm ... i've found something to agree with in every comment of this thread. ;)

how's that for politickin'?!

January 08, 2008 8:34 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken & Richard,
Can't argue with common sense. Perhaps the population isn't as clueless as "they" believe we are after all.

January 09, 2008 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I loved R. Crumb. Great track! More politically, I guess what you're saying is that the middle class is being squeezed to extinction. Haven't demographers been telling us this for the last thirty years? And, yes, the rich will look after themselves very well, thank-you. And after all they deserve it! They've all " worked so hard for what they've got", while (I guess) the rest of us haven't worked very hard at all. That earns us what we deserve - crumbs from above. And Richard may be correct with his environmental viewpoint, but I hope we err on the side of caution. Common sense tells me that we can't keep pumping crap into the air and the water. It also tells me that there has to be a better way to power locomotion than pumping goo from below ground level. I don't propose a doomsday scenario. I think Industry (the rich) needs to rethink how profit is derived and defined. Fat chance, though. Like many others, I'm frustrated.

January 10, 2008 5:36 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

You are not alone, Dan.

You've correctly described the plight of the middle and working classes. As for the environment, I'm with you. As you know, I spend a good amount of my free time on the water. When I paddle I am often saddened by the state of our creeks, rivers, and lakes. We MUST err on the side of caution, but unless massive profits or gov't subsidies are there for the grabing, real change will remain a 'fringe' pursuit.

In the early 1970s I bought a Honda Civic that got close to 50 mpg. It did not have power steering, power windows, power seats, or even air condintioning, but I got along just fine.

Although that old Honda is long gone, I have been driving the same 40 year old, 4 cyl car for the past twenty years. It also is lacking power steering, windows or seats, and is climate-controlled by rolling the windows up or down as needed. If there will be any change for the good, it will come from individuals (consumers) and not from the corporate boardroom.

January 10, 2008 8:28 PM  

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