All the talk this holiday season was about how the big retailers were going to do in their attempts to cajole, bribe, hustle, tempt, seduce and bamboozle consumers into racking up more credit card debt for the divine holidays. Turned out, not so well. The latest bad news came from Tiffany’s showing how the ‘low-end luxury shopper’ (would that be Audrey Hepburn?) pulled back from that second diamond ring.
The results are rippling through the business pages, and more teetering bank and investment house presidents are wondering whether they will bounce back or fade into retirement clutching their gold ingots. It’s kind of amazing that our future depends upon whether people buy up enough crap to keep the credit-addicted economic machinery from freezing up.
Since rich people are in trouble now along with the rest of us, there is crushing pressure on the Fed chief Bernanke to pull down interest rates and save their behinds. He announced last week that he will duly cooperate, demonstrating that he hasn’t got Greenspan’s political nostrils—the latter would have given the financiers what they wanted before they had asked for it and then been hailed as a genius and monetary statesman.
But the stock market euphoria that always accompanies promise of an interest rate reduction lasted only a single day before more signs of trouble emerged. The average consumer can’t bail anyone out this time because everyone’s pretty much spent out, and even borrowing another half-trillion from the Chinese to keep the pyramid afloat isn’t such an attractive option.
Something tells me that the pocketbook pain is going to be pretty severe around election time. Wouldn’t it be grand if the sensation of one’s own nuts being squeezed, albeit metaphorically, stimulated a little more outrage around the practice of state torture? I can dream.