EVERY TWO WEEKS
   Please leave this field empty
Institute for Policy Studies
RSS Feeds RSS Feeds

A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

Trending

Archives

Blog Roll

AFL-CIO Blog
Altercation
AlterNet
AMERICAblog
Baltimore Nonviolence Center
Barbara's Blog, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Blog This Rock
Busboys and Poets Blog
CBPP
CEPR
CODEPINK's Pink Tank
CommonDreams
Counterpunch
Democracy Now!
Demos blog: Ideas|Action
Dollars and Sense blog
Economic Policy Institute
Editor's Cut: The Nation Blog
Energy Bulletin
Firedoglake
FOE International blog
Kevin Drum (Mother Jones)
The New America Media blogs
OpenLeft
OSI Blog
Political Animal/Washington Monthly
Southern Poverty Law Center
Think Progress
Truthout
YES! Magazine
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

IPS Blog

Entries tagged "holiday season"

An IPS-Style Holiday Carol

December 18, 2012 ·

By the twelfth month of 2012,
The Institute’s brought to you:
Twelve months of justice,
Eleven revenue raisers
Ten great op-eds
Nine detailed studies,
Eight economic hardship investigations,
Seven street heat protests,
Six Africa actions,
Five Mideast primers,
Four Drug War critiques,
Three green jobs plans,
Two carbon taxes,
And a transition to a Main Street economy

Here is to many more years of progress. From all of us at IPS, thank you for your support!

This Week in OtherWords: 12-12-12

December 12, 2012 ·

This week in OtherWords, columnist Jim Hightower and cartoonist Khalil Bendib lampoon the latest in airline abuse. If you're planning to board a plane to celebrate this holiday season with family or friends, I hope that your voyage is as stress-free as possible.

And speaking of this holiday season, please consider making a year-end tax-deductible contribution to OtherWords. Our service is free for newspapers, new media outlets, and engaged citizens. But professional editing, proofreading, and concerted efforts to get new outlets to run these bold opinions requires at least a modest budget. Any amount you can give will be used wisely and effectively to help us expand our nationwide reach. You can make a one-time or a recurring donation on our website or mail a check payable to OtherWords to this address: Institute for Policy Studies; 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600; Washington, DC 20036.

For contributions of $100 or more, we'll send you or someone you designate a copy of columnist Sam Pizzigati's latest book: The Rich Don't Always Win. For contributions of $150 or more, we'll also include our cartoonist Khalil Bendib's latest collection: Too Big to Fail. Both make great gifts.

Scroll down to see this week's lineup and please subscribe to our weekly newsletter if you haven't signed up yet.

  1. Ripe for Reduction / Miriam Pemberton
    The pending budget deal must include long-overdue military spending cuts.
  2. Our National Failure to Commit / Don Kraus
    The Senate hasn't approved any major multilateral treaties since 1997.
  3. Jobs or the Environment? / Lee Ballinger
    Soon it will be too late and we'll have neither.
  4. Billionaires with No Skin in the Game / Jason Salzman
    If the top two percent is up in arms about losing their Bush tax cuts, why aren't they generating any street heat?
  5. In Fact, Fairly Taxing the Rich Won't Scare Them Away / Sam Pizzigati
    Recent research debunks some of the most common arguments against raising taxes on the richest Americans.
  6. The Airline Industry's Fee-for-All / Jim Hightower
    Nearly every airline these days is addicted to fees.
  7. Our Health Care System is Still Sick / William A. Collins
    The health industry is about making money, not healing.
  8. Fly the Stingy Skies / Khalil Bendib cartoon

Fly the Stingy Skies, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

'Tis the Season to Shop at Tiffany's

December 24, 2011 ·

The economy is expanding, the unemployment rate is down, and consumers are spending again. The National Retail Federation expects holiday season sales to be up 3.8 percent over 2010, and other organizations predict increases of 3.5 percent to 4 percent. It all sounds like it's shaping up to be a happy holiday season for America's retailers.

Luxury retailers are enjoying the prosperity of the One Percent. Photo by Steve Minor

But which retailers? Black Friday sales at JC Penney were down 2 percent compared with 2010 and 5 percent at the Gap, Bloomberg News reported. Sales at Kohl's were down 6.2, while Gap's discount line Old Navy reported a fall of 7 percent.

On the other hand, sales at upscale stores are up — and up more the more upscale the store. Black Friday sales at Macy's were up 4.8 percent, Nordstrom's rose 5.6 percent, and Saks Fifth Avenue's spiked by 9.3 percent, according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile luxury leader Neiman Marcus sold out of the Ferraris in its Christmas catalog in less than one hour. Neiman's $125,000 bookshelves are also selling well, New York magazine reports. (Not to worry, they come pre-stocked with books). "The most affluent luxury customer is spending with confidence," Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz told Reuters.

Whew! We were all worried about the most affluent luxury customers. After all, sales growth at Tiffany's has recently slowed to the low double-digits. Its stock has taken a beating.

The premiumization of holiday shopping is nothing new. It's all part of the premiumization of life that has been creeping up on us for forty years. Retail trends began to favor the wealthy long before the beginning of the current downturn.

In 2005 three Citigroup stock analysts announced the arrival of a new kind of economic system, which they dubbed the "plutonomy." They pointed out that aggregate statistics like national retail sales had become so skewed by the spending of a few wealthy people as to be almost meaningless. In their own words:

The World is dividing into two blocs — the plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key plutonomies — economies powered by the wealthy. In plutonomies, the rich absorb a disproportionate chunk of the economy and have a massive impact on reported aggregate numbers like savings rates, current account deficits, consumption levels, etc. There is no "average consumer" in a plutonomy. Consensus analyses focusing on the "average" consumer are flawed from the start.

Six years later, this analysis is more accurate than ever. Yes, total retail sales are up this year. And the economy is growing. But is the recession over?

The Stagnant Realonomy

If it doesn't feel like the recession is over, that's because nearly all of the country's national income growth is going to the top 1 percent of the population. It's that same top 1 percent of the population that's driving the rise in retail sales. The plutonomy is growing, but the "realonomy" — the real economy in which the rest of us live — has been stagnant for three years now. In fact, it's hardly grown at all since 1999. And it wasn't going all that strong even then.

It's been widely reported that median incomes have been stagnant since the 1970s. What's been much less reported is that even college-educated professionals' incomes have been falling for a dozen years. Adjusting for inflation, no group below the top 5 percent has seen its income rise since 1999.

Among Americans with high school degrees only, median incomes have fallen 10.4 percent since 1999. Among Americans with college degrees, median incomes have declined by 7.6 percent. As a result, even families at the 95th percentile of the U.S. income ladder have seen no raises since 1999. Their incomes are down on average 1.2 percent in real terms, from $202,850 to $200,354.

When the data show that no one in the bottom 95 percent of the national income distribution has seen a raise in over 12 years, it's no wonder that holiday sales are driven by luxury goods.

All that talk about "the 1 percent versus the other 99 percent" really is true. Before 1973, America's economic prosperity was widely shared. In the 1980s and 1990s most of the country's economic growth went to the top 20 percent. In the 2000s, rising prosperity benefited only the top 5 percent.

Since 2008, only the top 1 percent have seen their incomes grow. They're Neiman's "affluent luxury customers." Pity them. At Christmas of all times it is wise to remember that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

There's no word on what books are included with that Neiman Marcus $125,000 bookshelf, but I know one I might recommend.

Salvatore Babones is an American sociologist at the University of Sydney and an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. His book on the American economy, Benchmarking America, is due out in 2013. www.ips-dc.org