Tag Archives: recession

All Gaga for Obama

In celebration of Obama’s first 100 days, and also given the popularity of Lady Gaga, I decided to try a bit of songwriting for the President.  The following should be sung along to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face (play the song in a new window – with lyrics | instrumental):

Barack (0:24):

I gotta clean up what they did back in ’08
Corrupted and got busted with a messed up SEC (Oh Dubya)
So now the country’s sufferin’ and the times are hard
With Ponzi schemes and broken dreams and guys without a job

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get it right, or we’ll pay the price
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh,
I’ll go at it hard, show them who’s in charge

obamaeconomy

With Larry
And Timmy
These are the
Obama days
(Gotta stop the Dow from dropping)
Plus Citi
Bernanke
The Fed completes the
Obama days
(Government is going shopping)

Chorus (1:12):

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

Barack (1:21):

I’m gonna roll with Joe a hard pair we will be
Republicans can teabag all they want with Dick Cheney
Afghanistan will see me coming on the front,
And baby when it’s war if it’s not rough it isn’t fun,

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get Iraq, show them what I’ve got
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh,
I’ll get a bomb, show them that it’s hot

karzaizardari1With Karzai
So close by
These are the
Obama days
(Karzai is grumpy, likes nobody)
Talking peace
Zardari
These are the
Obama days
(Waterboarding’s not his hobby)

Chorus (2:09):

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

Barack (2:24):

gm-ceoI’ve got my hand in GM’s pocket
Squeezing hard to keep ’em knockin’
‘Cause I’m trying
To go on and end this downspin we’ve been rockin’
With my bailouts and my guarantees
I’m fixing these securities
I promise this, I promise this
I’ll bring back life to AIG

aigsoccerWith swine flu
Coming through
These are the
Obama days
(Bacon’s not for everybody)
Arlen who
S’my new boo
These are the
Obama days
(Specter’s got a new buddy)

Chorus (2:59):

gagaobamaCan’t beat my
Can’t beat my
No one can beat my
Obama craze
(He’s got me like nobody)
Can’t beat my
Can’t beat my
No one can beat my
Obama craze
(Eight more years of peace and harmony)

— Repeat x2 —

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

1 Comment

Filed under Arts and Entertainment, News, Politics

Rising to #1 on the Billboard Charts: TARP Commentary from Flo Rida and Britney Spears

Throughout the history of music, we’ve always had a knack for uncovering subliminal messages hidden in our favorite songs. Sometimes the discovery was subtle and unexpected, like playing the Beatles’ record backwards to hear “Paul is dead.” Sometimes the messaging was not as subtle, like hearing Britney Spears beg for someone to “If You Seek Amy” in her new salacious (and radio-censored) song.

Most of the time, pop music is like Brit-Brit: it’s quite literal. Thus when the pop diva asks us to satisfy her penchant for four-letter words, we know what she means. When Beyonce implores the male species to “put a ring on it,” she’s giving our deadbeat boyfriends a pretty clear directive. And when Lady Gaga sings “Just Dance”, well, we…just dance. But for every straight shooter in the music business, there’s always someone out there who just wants to if-you-seek-ay-with our heads.

The following are some examples of masterful, even Shakespearean, trickery; behind the poppy lyrics and tempo beats, we have discovered their true intentions:

volcanoBurnin’ Up (Jonas Brothers): “I’m slipping into the lava / And I’m trying to keep from going under / Baby who turned the temperature hotter / ‘Cause I’m burning up, burning up”

  • Take it literally: The musically-gifted but awfully-coiffed trio is on the precipice of an exploding volcano. An exploding volcano of love.
  • Think about it: If the brothers were to actually slip into lava, they would immediately die. So this song isn’t about love at all; it’s about an extreme fear of love. After all, who wants to burn to death in a pool of flaming magma? Not anyone I know.

akonRight Now (Akon): “I wanna make up right now na na / I wanna make up right now na na / Wish we never broke up right now na na / We need to link up right now na na”

marketcrashRight Round (Flo Rida ft. Katy Perry): “You spin my head right round / Right round / When you go down / When you go down down”

  • Take it literally: So yeah, it sounds like he maaayy be talking about fellatio… Or stripping.  Either way, adult activities.
  • Think about it: It’s a recession, people. And Katy Perry clearly has a thing for girls. So what else is going down down, and making our heads spin right round? Of course… the stock market. The Dow just can’t keep it up, and with all the painful pullbacks, it’s been one wild ride on the Street. There’s nothing sexual about it. And if you seek proof, just ask for Amy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts and Entertainment

When Your Job is Like an Episode of The Office

dundermifflinOftentimes there are moments at work when I think that I’m living an episode of The Office. Although I’ve never run an employee over with a car, embarked on an interoffice romance, or staged a suicide to rally my co-workers, I’d argue that some of these moments are Dunder-Mifflin worthy: (And sadly, they are all true.)

  • Forced to dress up a life-size, cardboard cutout of my former boss for Easter. I’m not sure what’s worse: A) Spent $13 at Staples to pick up markers and poster board… B) Spent $120,000+ on my college education, only to regress to fourth-grade arts and crafts… C) That my boss has a life-size cardboard cutout of himself.
  • Asked by a man dressed as a vampire if I wanted candy. In the office… in the middle of June. Apparently the people who run our employee blood drive have a strange sense of humor.
  • romance-novelGot hit in the face by a Frisbee. A director in my old group enjoyed knocking out light bulbs with Frisbees. One time, my face got in the way.
  • Attended an employee retreat where an HR rep told us, “The company owns you.” This was in response to a question about switching functions. Apparently it is not encouraged.
  • Found some interesting material left in the shared printer. It seems like one of my co-workers wrote romance novels while at work… with herself as the main character.

Given that art appears to imitate reality, perhaps there’s something to Michael Scott quitting his job on The Office in favor of a startup. Some worthy startup ideas in a recession?

  • unionratManufacture giant inflatable rats: With businesses cutting back on unionized (ie. more costly) labor, expect to see more inflatable rats appearing across the country. In fact, they might need a whole family of giant hideous rats to cover all of Detroit.
  • Invest in dive bars: We might be cutting back on clothes, entertainment, vacations, and even food, but people have to get their alcohol somewhere…
  • Sell your soul… literally: There used to be a kid in high school who would go around and buy people’s souls for $5. One time he even offered up $20. Although I never sold him my soul (I was holding out for $40), I’m sure plenty of people could use $20 in this economy. So if this kid isn’t living on the streets yet, I’d track him down…

Leave a comment

Filed under Careers

Bailouts By The Numbers

Got Money?  / You Know It / Take it out your pocket and show it then throw it / This a way / That a way/ This a way / That a way…

citigroup$700 billion: TARP (also known as “stocking stuffer” on Wall Street)

$787 billion: Obama’s new stimulus package

$18-$50+ billion (and rising): Auto industry

$75 billion: Mortgage bailout for 4 million homeowners… ($18,750 per homeowner)

aig$80 billion+ (and more than $150 billion more in guaranteeing its loans): Citigroup

$150 billion+ (and rising): AIG

$400 billion: Fannie and Freddie

Total of just these bailouts: $2.2 trillion

In Comparison:

oprah-rich1$14.3 trillion: GDP of United States ($4.8 trillion: GDP of #2 Japan, $4.2 trillion: GDP of #3 China)

$65 billion: Market cap of Enron in its heyday

megamillions$58 billion: Net worth of Bill Gates

$1.5 billion: Net worth of Oprah

$750 million: The record amount that Obama raised during his run to the White House

 

Madoff’s $50 Billion Disappearing Act

madoff115: Countries with less than $50 billion in GDP (including the Dominican Republic, Kenya, and North Korea)

235: Times you’d have to win the Mega Millions $212 million jackpot

820: Number of Empire State Buildings you could buy, according to a recent appraisal ($61 million)

bentley1,786: Years you could (over)pay A-Rod ($28 million/year)

146,630: Number of new Bentleys you could buy 

Hitting the Fan

$300 billion: Market cap of GE in 2008

$71 billion: Market cap of GE today (around $7 a share)

Leave a comment

Filed under Economy, News

Corporate Retreats to Move Forward

Last Monday, I arrived in upstate New York to attend a week-long corporate retreat. Similar to 30 Rock’sRetreat to Move Forward“, the event featured an overabundance of acronyms, workcest, and drunk people talking about synergy. There were two distinct employee types at the retreat: those who had drank the Kool-Aid, and those who had kicked the Kool-Aid man in the legs. The former spent most of their time fawning to the speakers and chanting “Cash is king”, while the latter gorged themselves on free food and made hand puppets out of the course materials.

kool-aidKool-Aid drinkers or not, all of us had been invited to the retreat as “future leaders” of the company. So throughout the five days, we went through the leadership curriculum specifically designed for twenty-something professionals: we built balloon furniture, ran paper fish races, and wrote poems about our values. We spent three hours discussing five simple principles of time management. We drew stick figures, reviewed the most potent action verbs, and learned that conversations are shaped like triangles… naturally.

While we constructed haikus and had serious discussions about the Snuggie, by Friday, our company’s stock had fallen 10%. Perhaps Wall Street was concerned that the company’s future leaders were bad poets with non-triangular conversing techniques. Or perhaps, it had known that “corporate retreat” really meant “costly company-sponsored drinking in a mostly futile attempt to indoctrinate employees with propaganda.”

balloonchairBut in defense of corporate retreats, by the end of the week, the Kool-Aid drinking employees and the tequila-drinking employees could both agree that we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The company suckups were excited by newly-learned elevator speeches, synergistic terms, and reinforced business pillars. The corporate degenerates were content to count the layers of fat that they had accumulated over the five days of sitting, eating, and boozing. In both cases, one could argue that the retreat boosted employee morale, and in some cases, even productivity.

So, if that increased productivity is enough to justify the $56 billion in corporate training spent in 2008, then I’m down for more Retreats to Move Forward in 2009. If not, well, at least I can build some balloon armchairs to fill up my living room. It’s a recession after all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Careers

With $700B, I’d Like to Buy Belgium, Greece, and Ireland, Please

UPDATED (2/5/09): First, the government decided that “bailout” wasn’t all that PR-savvy, so instead, $700 billion became part of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). TARP then went to Wall Street, where it funded employee bonuses and baseball stadiums. Instead of creating liquidity in the markets, the Wall Street banks hoarded their TARP money, perhaps to save up for corporate jets, Vegas getaways, or 19th-century credenzas. Now, with a new year, a new president, and a new bailout package, we’re hoping for a different result. With BusinessWeek already deeming the original bailout a “bust“, I’m looking back on what I wrote when the TRAP (sic) was first proposed. After all, with $825 billion or more at stake, a call for prudence may find a receptive audience today.

ORIGINALLY POSTED (9/25/08): By now, most of us know that our economy is struggling. Credit is scarce, banks are teetering, and President Bush finally came out of his batcave on Wednesday to make a sobering speech. Giving a concise summary of how our economy began its precipitous freefall, the President conceded that this doomsday had been building “over a long period of time”… meaning, before his eight years in office.

However, as much as I found myself agreeing with some of the President’s assessments, I could not help but feel disturbed by the hastily-constructed $700 billion rescue plan, and the President’s intentions of pushing it through as soon as possible. Haven’t we heard the same act-now-or-forever-lose-your-peace spiel before (cough, cough: Iraq)? Except this time, instead of peace, we’re losing our houses, our money, and our material possessions. I could not help but be amazed at the President’s staunch conviction: warning of imminent recession and homelessness, he appealed to the same sense of urgency with which he implored Congress to start the war five years ago. “Without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold. More banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet….Millions of Americans could lose their jobs….And, ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession.”

But, isn’t this the administration that gave us the Patriot Act, a trillion dollar oil quest, and an economic stimulus check that was supposed to prevent things like this from happening? Needless to say, the President has not had a favorable track record in times of crisis (or, for that matter, in times of peace). And the impact of this decision has consequences not only for our country now, but globally for years to come. So instead of a call for action, this should be a call for prudence. Instead of asking for our money, the President should be asking for our patience. Economists demand it. Congress needs it. Everyone knows that we can’t prolong the decision on this bailout, but we can’t just pound it out in less time than it takes to buy a ficus from Amazon.com.

In the end, the Bush administration’s proposed $700 billion plan may be the best way to get us out of this turdburger. But if that’s the case, I hope that our lawmakers will have come to their conclusion after setting emotions aside and considering all other options. After all, $700 billion is a lot of money: that’s 778 Big Macs per person, 4 brand new Mac laptops per household, or 833 million Maxim yearly subscriptions for life. And so if this bailout goes through, and Americans are forced to give up either food, computers, or our trashy magazines, whoever wins the upcoming election will have to deal with some pretty angry (and hungry) constituents.

1 Comment

Filed under Economy, News

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like… a Recession

So it’s official: we’re in a recession. On Monday, the mere confirmation that we’re in a recession caused the Dow to drop 680 points. Did we need more proof? The auto industry has been on the verge of collapse for the past few months. Banks are still on life support, trying to raise capital. And yesterday, Harvard announced that its endowment lost 22% of its value in the past four months, or, oh just $8 billion.

And how are our harbingers of corporate America doing?

  • Google (GOOG), which was approaching $700 at the beginning of this year, is now trading at $280
  • General Electric (GE) is currently trading at $18, a ten-year low, and down from $37 since March
  • Goldman Sachs (GS) closed at $199 in May, a mere six months ago; since then, its stock has fallen 65%, now trading at $68

It is not a good time to be checking your 401(k).

It seems like the complete desecration of the stock market has come painfully fast. So, out of curiosity, I looked up some of the other recessions in this century to see if we saw similar declines in the market. According to the gospel of Wikipedia, these are the official recessions since 1929 that have lasted over two years:

  • 2001-03: Bursting of dot-com bubble, September 11, Enron and Worldcom scandals
  • 1980-81: Result of 1979 energy crisis and tight monetary policy to control inflation
  • 1973-75: High oil prices and Vietnam War leading to stagflation

From Google Finance, I looked at a four year period before and after the recession – I’ve also included the largest % declines in the Dow during this time.

recession2000

recession1980s

recession1970s

recessioncurrent1

Some things that jump out:

  • With our current recession, it’s only been a year, and the Dow has already lost 36%, or over 4,800 points. The last time it was this bad, during the 1970s, this pain was spread over two whole years.
  • Bottoming out seems to occur about 1.5 to 2 years after the high point… which means we might still have some time to fall.
  • The good thing is, in all cases, we see the Dow bouncing back a few years after we hit rock bottom… so, if we’re patient, our 401(k)s may recover their losses in a couple years.

Guess I’m waiting until 2011 to buy that flat-screen TV…

Updated (3/11/09): Four months have gone by, and Google and Goldman seem to have recovered nicely… while GE is now trading around $9. Hmm. But not to worry, the General certainly has company: the Dow is now 51% removed from December 2007, versus a mere 36% in December 2008. Again, just by looking at these graphs of the previous recessions, it seems like we’ve got at least two years to go from the peak… By my calculation, it’s looking like December 2009 may be the inflection point where the market will finally bottom out and perhaps start turning up again. With the way things are going now, I’d hope so.

1 Comment

Filed under Economy, News