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Books Ring Mah Bell So, how's the economy treating everyone? Things are getting a little scary here. My husband and I went out to dinner last week and noticed the restaurant was pretty damn quiet for a Friday night. His employer offered early retirement to about 60 people and is changing our health care (wah!) in an effort to stay "alive". We are sweating it a bit. (He works as an engineer in the auto industry)

My mom's company laid off 12 people yesterday.

My brother in law has been notified he will not have a job at the end of the year. (Also an engineer) They are cutting their lifestyle dramatically.

Our investment guy is getting out of the business... people are not coming to him to invest (duh) and are not moving funds around or are taking money completely out of the market.

A local GM plant is cutting about 3,000 jobs in the next year. A few furniture makers (historically GREAT companies to work for in our area) are cutting about 500 jobs.

Michigan is screwed.

How's everyone doing out there? Feeling the pinch?


shellyindallas Holy shit, Bells! That sucks.

I'm pretty poor, but that's always been the case. I'm not really seeing the impact around here so much, although I'm sure it's out there.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, Bells, we're seeing it here, too. It's hard to sleep at night sometimes thinking about all this. We've had 10 layoffs at my company and they are always looking at us, trying to figure out how to get rid of more of us (and give the work to everyone else of course).

My investment guy quit and my bank is merging with another one because they got involved in a land deal that went south.

I won't even go into Sun Country Airlines and what is happening to the people there.

But yes, Michigan is screwed--mostly because of what is happening to the auto industry.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Holy crap you have nothing positive there. We are in decent shape here thanks to the state continuing to spend money they don't have, so our company will be busy for awhile. We have a GM plant about 45 minutes away that is closing soon, and all of they feeder companies are either closing or laying off people right and left. Wouldn't want to be looking for a job right now, and really feel sorry for those who recently retired or will be forced to retire soon. That nest egg isn't there anymore.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 13, 2008 10:24AM) (new)

Yes, I have one friend who is planning to retire in a year or two, and half of her retirement is gone now. Then again, I always think--shouldn't her money have been in "safer" investments? But I think she started investing late and was trying to catch up.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Looking at the auto industry thing, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't fret for Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Part of me is so resentful towards the auto industry because of their short-sightedness with fuel-efficient cars, a short-sightedness that is partially responsible for their woes, and I get angry when I think about bailing them out, but really, we absolutely must bail them out because they affect so many decent, hardworking people.

I'm in New York, just north of the city, and our area is getting killed. A lot of those Wall Street folks live in our county. So many houses going up for sale. And of course it affects the rest of the economy, so I have so many friends losing their jobs, architects because no one's remodeling or building right now, carpenters because no one's building, cleaning ladies and babysitters. Last week I went into Target in the evening with my child, and I was aghast at how empty it was. I have a friend who works in publishing, and she told me that last week, Broadway Books, or maybe it was Bantam, simply let go of ten percent of its workforce. Ten percent! And I so greatly fear this is just the beginning for all of us.

My wife and I are certainly worried, too. My adjunct teaching pays little, and my freelance writing has gone dry dock: no one needs writers right now. My wife is in corporate sales for Dell, and the only client buying right now is Nasdaq, and that because the market is so volatile that they didn't have enough servers to handle the traffic. Hard times. And I'm way too old to join the army, although they're taking anyone these days.


message 7: by Cyndi (new)

Cyndi (chill77) Its scary everywhere. My Mom is in Georgia and works for a sample carpet company. They are going through major layoffs. The service industry here in the Bay Area is really being hit hard. I work for a commercial heating and air conditioning company and if its not a serious issue, people just aren't willing to call in for service.


message 8: by Sheila (new)

Sheila We live on the Michigan/Ohio line, and my husband works for a window manufacturer that's also beginning cutbacks in December. He appears to be safe right now in his position, but not so for some of his employees.

His particular facility is decreased to almost a quarter of the orders they fill in good/"normal" years.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

My school district is facing budget cuts for the current school year. Our health providers have changed, and teachers are facing a 9-day pay cut or to go back to last year's pay. The union is up in arms, which has never happened in my relatively peaceful 9 years in the district. We'll see. I think I'll be getting a Summer job (if there are any).


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Right after I posted that I received an email from the district.

--9 days cut from the school year.

--tuition reimbursement is frozen.

Oh well, at least staff wasn't cut. If my library assistant was cut (which was in the idea mill), I'd be SOL.


Jackie "the Librarian" | 8993 comments My library system's book buying budget is cut 12% for next year across the board. As one of the selectors for the system, I'm not happy.

Empty positions have been frozen, for now. The library isn't going to lay anyone off, but if someone retires or quits, that job isn't going to get filled for awhile.

There is no longer a budget for substitutes. This is especially hard on part-time staff (and there are a lot of them) who sub for additional hours.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Our libraries didn't get our book or tech budget this year--at all. Some school principals (such as mine) used some building funds to help. Bookfair is next week. I'm hoping we make bank (not likely).


message 13: by Kelly (last edited Nov 13, 2008 12:00PM) (new)

Kelly No library budgets?? Aren't the sissy art and music programs at least the first things to go?? (Kidding... I hope...?)

I work at a law firm. You know things are /really/ bad when lawyers are getting laid off. Nobody's gotten laid off here yet, but there has been an odd spike in retirement parties as of late. There's a big article on the NYT website about the fact that lots of big law firms /are/ laying people off, though.

I'm young and just starting out. Trying to break into the field I want to be in. Mostly how the economy effects me is that I was planning to leave my job to get where I want to go (and also because it is boring, it isn't going anywhere, and I hate it). The plan was to get an internship to get back on the professional and educational track I want to be on and also get a part time job. I could live off what I've saved plus the part time job for awhile. It was going to be nervewracking enough going without health insurance... now I don't know if I'd be able to get a job again if I quit this one, of any kind, much less in the field I want to go into, which is international affairs. Most of the places I want to work are non-profits, or part of the government (and those are incredibly hard to come by), and everybody's probably going to be seeing budget cuts due to forecasts of people not giving as much. That cuts out entry level positions like the ones I'd be going for pretty quickly. And the ones that are left? This has been a growing phenomenon for a long time, but people are now asking you to have a /graduate degree/ to be an Administrative Coordinator at a lot of think tank, government, and non profit int'l affairs orgs. They can be picky, and they know it, making it that much harder to get in on the ground floor.

I might be looking at putting my plan on hold for even longer that I already have, which sucks. Yes, I know, at least I still will probably have a job, even if I hate it. At least for now, until my law firm starts making cuts too...


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

This is truly a depressing thread. Just had to interject that. I'm not sure if all this makes me feel better or worse. In many ways we're all in the same boat. And so many of us are afraid to go out and spend, which is not helping the economy, either. I wonder if the media told us things were turning around, if we would then have more confidence and start buying/investing again? Then again, it can't be that cut and dried. The bottom line is there are three million more unemployed people in the U.S. this year than there was last year. No job. No money. No spending.


message 15: by RandomAnthony (last edited Nov 13, 2008 12:20PM) (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments I work at a private university, and we haven't had any job cuts lately, but everyone watches budgets very closely. Our tuition is quite expensive but our student numbers are the highest ever, much to my surprise, and a theory is going around that students/parents are sending their kids here in order to avoid struggling for a job later. I don't know.

I live in Wisconsin where, similar to Michigan (but not as bad, thankfully), our traditional manufacturing economy has crashed and crashed badly. In most areas of the state the crash has taken a gradual slope...job cuts every day but not all at once. I feel most badly for the 45-55 year olds who have worked in manufacturing their whole lives then, suddenly, there are no manufacturing jobs around. I mean, I'm 39, and if someone said to me, "no more teaching jobs! Go learn how to weld" my first reaction would be "holy fuck! I don't know anything about that. What am I going to do?" I've seen stats on junior colleges...tons of people are going into job training programs for anything that is still viable.

I'm also fascinated by the consumer economy and its implications. I'm not an economist, but I'm always confused by the dueling messages of 1) save more, because Americans are spending too much and have too much on credit cards, and 2) Americans need to spend more to fuel the economy. I'm much more of a saver. Now, I know people like to think if they make the "right" economic decisions they're somehow smarter than the average person and won't face economic problems. I think you can prepare wisely but I don't think you're ever safe. We're in an interesting position, my wife and I, in that we've been broke FOREVER because we were either just entering our fields or working on reduced incomes because of our desire to spend more time with our kids. Now that all three of our kids are in school we actually have a bit more money but we're trying to be careful with it. I've had to buy some new clothes, and there were some things we bought that we wanted for a long time but couldn't afford (e.g. a new showerhead, as stupid as that sounds). Both of our cars have over 110,000 miles on them, and we'll need at least one new one within a couple of years. We cut out the YMCA (about 80 bucks a month, believe it or not) and bought an elliptical instead. Again, we're trying to be smart with money, but I'm not of the mind that one is ever completely safe.

Anyway, excuse my ramblings...back to the consumer economy...check out this article:

http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2008/11...

This paragraph in particular caught my eyes:

"This is the end of the consumer-based economy," said Peter Schiff, who runs the investment firm Euro Pacific Capital Inc. in Darien, Conn. "Americans have been buying too much stuff, and now the epic shopping spree is over. It is a permanent change."

Notice, as well, that the author asks, "If consumer spending can't lead the economy out of its deepening funk, what can?"

The article never answers that question.


message 16: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments Oh, one more thing...my library had their budget cut, too. The library is no longer going to be open on Sundays. I hate that, but I understand why. Every city service has to do its reasonable part in a budget shortfall year, in my eyes, and I wouldn't feel right if areas I consider important were cut at the expense of others. Our city budget seems to be cut in reasonable ways across the board, so I can't complain, as much as I may like to do so.


message 17: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments Wanna be even more depressed? The number of homeless families with children has almost doubled in the last year here in Mobile, AL. I imagine the numbers are even greater in larger metro and industrial areas. Children are homeless, sleeping in cars, in parks, in abandoned houses. And we just found out yesterday that our local housing authority has no more funds to issue Section 8 vouchers, which were our best hopes for getting families into housing eventually. *sigh*


message 18: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments Great.

Time to see if the puppies are up.


Books Ring Mah Bell Jim, speaking of nest eggs... we've lost about 30% of our retirement fund. In theory, we are young and have time to regain that, but... my stepdad retired a few years ago, and his nest egg is down nearly 40%!!! OUCH.

Erik, I hear you on the resentment. I'm a bit ticked about the bailout and AIG's spa retreat!! AARRRG!

Shell Bell, The bottom line is there are three million more unemployed people in the U.S. this year than there was last year. No job. No money. No spending. Vicious circle we are all connected in, eh?

It is a bummer of a thread, but I was very curious how things are going around the country (and world) for everyone. Looks like everyone is feeling the pain somehow.

Positive note: we have no debt and I can find work (Hooray medical field) should my husband's company close the doors.

Gas is $1.92. HOLY BALLS!


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Bells--the price of gas is the only thing that makes me smile about the economy these days, but the fact that oil is down that low is a bad sign, too. Good for our pocketbooks, though.

I think the only thing that can turn the economy around is creating more jobs. Yeah, I cribbed that from Paul Krugman.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Mindy,

They just completed a survey here in Madison that shows that homeless were spending more time in shelters in 2007 than they ever had. I can't even imagine what the statistics will look like for this year. There already wasn't enough room for everyone. May have to take a trip through the grocery store just for the food pantry this year.

The low price of gasoline is nice, but it would have been even nicer if it would have come a little sooner so that the farmers could have harvested their crops at a lower cost to help bring down the price of produce.

ShellBell is right this truly is a depressing thread.




message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

And let's not forget the price of food has skyrocketed. My dad is a dairy farmer and he sees none of those profits. He can hardly keep the farm going with the price of fuel. He didn't sell his soybeans this year because he would have taken a loss to do so. It is sad to watch a man who has worked so hard his entire life fall on such hard times.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Good Lord Madison is a cold place to be homeless.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

It's not always cold in Madison, we do get one warm day in July ;-).




message 25: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments Oddly enough, Mobile has always been a sort of mecca for "traditional" homeless people (chronic street homeless single males, mostly) b/c it rarely gets to freezing here, and there are places (churches and soup kitchens and shelters) around the central downtown area where a person can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But in addition to the families of Mobile who are losing their housing, we are getting many more families who are just up and leaving from other states and coming here b/c "We heard there were jobs here." Well, we've been hearing there are supposed to be all these new jobs in Mobile for some time now and STILL nothing much has happened. So these families pull up stakes, come to a place where they know no one, with NO money and NO plan for what to do if they can't find a job, can't find a place (we're still experiencing high rents from the influx of people after Katrina), have no funds for motels or gas or food. It's a nightmare. There are so many of them now, we've almost become numb at my agency, "Oh, you're homeless, too? Imagine that." Sometimes people will call from out of state to tell us beforehand that they are coming to Mobile and want to reserve a bad at our shelter. Well, we have 14 beds all together, and we don't take reservations. We always try to STRONGLY urge them just to stay wherever they are b/c there's nothing for them in Mobile, but they usually end up coming anyway. It's like the freaking Dust Bowl days!


shellyindallas PEOPLE ARE MOVING TO MOBILE?!

Man, times are tough!


message 27: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments No shit!!! I can't wait to get out of here! (Although it's grown on me over the years, especially the older area where I live now. The oak trees are just amazing.)

Yeah, it's articles like this:

http://www.forbes.com/2008/01/30/econ...

Not that any of my potential clients are reading Forbes, but you know those totally unsubstantiated projections get filtered down through the general media and BAM! Mobile's the place to be, let's load the kids up and head South!


message 28: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (ingenting) My mom was going to retire this year, but now she's going to put it off.
: (


message 29: by Kirk (new)

Kirk | 154 comments This thread is why when I go to happy hour and my bartender says "What are you up to?" as he slides my gin and tonic in front of me, I say, "Just doing my part to keep the economy going...."



message 30: by Sarah (last edited Nov 14, 2008 02:59PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) My mom lost her job when the company she'd worked for for 14 years went under. Fortunately she was able to get on with the company that took over her accounts (she's a bookkeeper for a commercial development and property management company). It's the same salary, but now she has to pay more out of pocket for her medical and dental, and has to drive quite a but further. But she's glad to have a job.

My dad works for Nortel, and his job has been in jeopardy for over 10 years. They're always announcing new layoffs.

Fortunately the poor economy hasn't affected my husband's job too much. He's a customer account manager for AT&T, and while sales have slowed down a bit, they haven't dropped off too much. He's also fortunate not to have any salary cuts, nor does he seem to be in any danger of being laid off.

When I quit working a year and a half ago, I figured if things got tough I'd go back to my old company. But my old company was a bank, and they are laying people off now, and the next step will be to close branches. Fortunately that bank was always ultra conservative with their lending, so they aren't any trouble from that end, but I don't think a whole lot of jobs are opening up there.

There are several homes in my neighborhood that are foreclosures, including the house right next door to me. Thank God I worked in the lending industry and knew what to look for when we got our mortgage. As long as we still have jobs, we're in no danger of losing our house. We have a 30 year fixed loan at 5.875%.

Things can't be too bad in this area, though. Our local mall just opened 48 new upscale stores, including Louis Vuitton. Tiffany and Burberry are coming soon.
http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/13967...

And right across the street from that another upscale shopping center just opened: http://www.thefountainsatroseville.com/


message 31: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17346 comments Mod
Here in my town/region the housing bubble has burst shit all over the place. There are giant, gaping, empty neighborhoods, half constructed and mostly empty. It is as though they built houses a few hundred before they were sold, and were probably "selling" them to negligibly credible and heavily mortgaged buyers. Its been a domino effect, the construction jobs dry up, the mortgage business, the furniture and home design people, everybody is out of work, and thus not purchasing or building the new homes in the giant, sprawling developments.

There are huge lots of land that were cleared for development, commercial or residential, that are now just sitting empty. I don't have any frame of reference for this, but it appears that the era of easy credit - which means easily mortgaged new homes - is over.


message 32: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17346 comments Mod
And, there are NO teaching jobs available right now. Its a hard, scary time to be graduating. I'm glad I have two more years in school.


message 33: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 19 comments I mostly get paid by medicaid dollars, so my job's pretty secure. I just ran my productivity numbers for the last month, and I'm billing for about 76% of my time, so even if we were cutting back, I'm safe as houses. I have no savings, and I don't own a house, so I'm not losing any money. Interest rates are dropping on the ridiculous amount of money I owe for various reasons.

A recession is about the only time that being poor is a positive!


message 34: by Lori (new)

Lori Sally, I'm getting images of The Wasteland.


message 35: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Yesterday I filled the tank of my SUV for $18.


Jackie "the Librarian" | 8993 comments There was a story in the paper yesterday that one station was selling gas for $1.99.
I guess that's good, but it was nice seeing people THINK about how much milage their cars get, and consider, actually consider, using alternate forms of transportation.


message 37: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17346 comments Mod
I'm concerned as to why the gas prices have dropped so much so quickly - after doing just the opposite only 6 months ago, when we thought they were going to stay high forever.


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Bus ridership went up quite a bit as the gas prices went sky high, but has since come down some, but not all the way. Some have found a new way to traverse the city and I applaud them, as I commute every day. I do car pool though.


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

After the Olympics and China not needing near as much oil after they got done, combined with a near world wide recession that is really cutting back on consumption world wide not only in the US. The price of oil has dropped from a high of nearly $147 in July a barrel to under sixty dollars a barrel. Also the gas prices were driven up by speculators thinking that the hurricane season would cause more damage to the platforms in the Gulf than what really took place.


message 40: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments Yep, pulled under 2 bucks here...$1.99 this morning on the way to work.


shellyindallas So, what do you guys think about the auto-industry bail out? The thing that pisses me off is how Paulson says they need taxpayer help, but doesn't want one dime of the 700 billion going to help them out. Says it should come under separate deal. What the hell?
Is this guy as big of a prick as I think he is, or am I missing something? First he insists the bailout is urgent, then he insists on no oversight, then the money doesn't go to where he says it will, and now he doesn't wanna share any of it w/ anyone else.

I also heard that the auto makers can't simply file for chapter 11 as so many people suggest b/c there's no credit out there and they won't be able to get any loans so the only option would be to file for chapter 7 and that would mean liquidation. I dunno. I tend to feel bad for all the folks working for the "big three" making $35k/yr who had nothing to do with the putting them in the spot they're in now.


?????


message 42: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17346 comments Mod
There was an interesting story about this Sunday on NPR, the interviewer was drawing a parallel between the airlines and the auto industry, saying that chapter 11 can help them reorganize and shed wasteful practices - and he'd still buy a ticket from a bankrupt airline. The interviewee was saying that there can be no comparison because if the US auto industry were to be in chapter 11 even less people would purchase "their product" and they would be in chapter 7 in no time.

However I'm having a hard time feeling bad for the US auto industry. IMO they've made an inferior product for a long, long time and any kind of bailout would only delay the inevitable - that they are in desperate need of something new.

Which reminds me, this NPR story was alluding to the fact that post bailout the government would in essence own the auto industry, and could then mandate what kind of research development the company would focus on - making sure that GM is really working towards hybrid and alternative fuel source engines.

Why would it take government "ownership" of the auto industry to motivate this development? Is it getting rid of the lobbyists? Do I kind of sound like Sarah Palin now, tossing in big words I only vaguely understand?


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Government "ownership" of the banking industry & auto industry make me think we are closer to communism/socialism than to democracy.

I do like the idea of getting rid of lobbyists.




Books Ring Mah Bell Government "ownership" is one of the reasons the "bailout" pissed me off so much!

I have a hard time feeling bad for the industry too, Sally. At this point, i want to say, let the mother fu@kers burn, but the sad thing is that the greedy corporate asshats will be okay, while the laid off workers struggle. (yes, I know they make really good loot to work on the assembly line! But if they close up, my husband's job goes the way of the dinosaur)

Damn.

Paulson pisses me off. "No oversight! No, don't take a piece of my 700 billion!"
Shit, Citigroup is going to need that cash for an AIG style "retreat"... BARF!

How in the hell are those assholes not in jail for theft of our money?!!?

blood pressure up!!!


message 45: by Gåry! (last edited Nov 18, 2008 07:54AM) (new)

Gåry! (garyneill) Palin would be happy for Alaska to own it so she could share the profits with the people... like they do with the energy profits. I still don't understand how she could decry of "spreading the wealth" (at least, the conservative interpretation) while running a state where the citizens are paid (through the government) $1500 to $3000 a year out of energy profits.

I don't necessarily have a problem with the setup in its purest form, but I do have a problem with her being of 2 faces about it. And government ownership inevitably leads to corruption.



message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

I was opposed to the $700 billion bailout simply because I trusted nothing, NOTHING, this administration was saying. And I still dont, especially now that it appears that Paulson is doing with that money what he wanted to do all along. These guys cried wolf one too many times for me to swallow another cry of it. I sure wish Barack could take the reins immediately. I'm not saying things would get better right away, but at least I'd trust what he was telling me. My blood pressure is up, too, Bells.


message 47: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments FYI, democracy and socialism are not mutually exclusive.

It probably would be better in the long run for the Ford, GM, and Chrysler as companies if they go into bankruptcy and reorganize. However, I think what's worrying everyone if that if we let that happen right now when so many other economic things are going wrong, the ripple effect will be devastating. So I think though no one wants to say so, helping them right now would just be staving off the inevitable, but at least it would give us a little more time to try to fix other sectors of the economy before we let them go down. Also, I didn't really pay attention, but I heard someone saying on NPR the other day that the automakers were necessary for national defense.


message 48: by Meen (new)

Meen (meendee) | 1733 comments government ownership inevitably leads to corruption

Yeah, and private ownership is doing an excellent job... Let's just say humans have a tendency to be greedy about power and wealth. There has to be some mechanism for oversight to check that tendency no matter who's running the ship.



message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Good point Mindy, kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario. If this was stand alone, I would definitely be against, but the effect that this could have on an already shaky economy could be devastating.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Again, I revert to my point a few messages back: who knows what kind of effect it would have? I hate to be so cynical, but the powers that be, buttressed by corporate America, have cried wolf the past few years every time they stand to lose some money. I'm not sure what the numbers are, but I bet if we gave two years full pay severence to every Big 3 employee and let the plants shut down, it would still cost less than $25 billion (which, I would add, is on top of the $25 billion we gave them last year to develop more fuel-efficient cars). We should also provide enough money to pay pensions for all retirees and allow all employees to cash in their 401Ks. Seriously, I wonder if it would cost less? I have absolutely no way of knowing. What I do know is that we keep giving these guys money to fix problems that they seem incapable of fixing.


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