April 30, 2008

AP Descends into Gloom over Growth of Second-Hand Goods Market

You have to wonder if the Associated Press felt the need to find an exceptionally gloomy story to write when it learned that the economy would probably show positive growth in the government’s first-quarter GDP report. That report was released earlier today — and came in at +0.6%.

If so, this article by the AP’s Anne D’Innocenzio (HT to a NewsBusters e-mailer) does the job:

The for-sale listings on the online hub Craigslist come with plaintive notices, like the one from the teenager in Georgia who said her mother lost her job and pleaded, “Please buy anything you can to help out.”

Or the seller in Milwaukee who wrote in one post of needing to pay bills — and put a diamond engagement ring up for bids to do it.

Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates.

To meet higher gas, food and prescription drug bills, they are selling off grandmother’s dishes and their own belongings. Some of the household purging has been extremely painful — families forced to part with heirlooms.

Besides the engagement ring noted above, D’Innocenzio cited just one other heirloom: a $6 grandmother’s teakettle.

For that matter, the AP writer cited very few “prized possessions,” including:
- “pricey Dooney & Bourke handbags.”
- “Hermes leather jackets and Versace jeans and silk shirts.”

Far be it from me to debate the definition of “prized.”

I am not denying that people occasionally come onto hard times, nor am I denying that most who do deserve our sympathy and, where possible, charitable help. But one person cited in the article got into the difficulties she is in because her live-in boyfriend left her. Another couple is in a tough situation because the husband became disabled. Can these unfortunate events be traced, as D’innocenzio seems to claims, to horrible economic conditions in general?

D’Innocenzio also cites heavy sales of used “recreational vehicles like campers and trailers, cars and trucks, and boats” — items which she acknowledges are likely being unloaded because of how expensive it is to keep some of them fueled. But with gas prices where they are, this would likely be happening even if the economy were booming.

The question that D’Innocenzio does not answer is whether the explosive growth in the market for second-hand goods at sale and auction sites like Craigslist, AuctionPal.com, and others is a product of truly tougher-than-usual times, or instead a positive reflection of the benefits of Internet-driven economic efficiency. After all, about the only ways to sell “stuff” 20 years ago were to hold a yard sale and/or place expensive classified ads, meaning that a lot of “stuff” either never got sold, got sold at fire-sale prices, or was thrown away. People going through a difficult stretch are probably better able to get their hands on needed cash by selling “stuff” when they have to than at any other time in history. I would suggest that this is a good thing, and can, to an extent, soften the blows people take when their financial circumstances sour.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Hero Engineer Dives into Canal To Save 13-Month-Old Baby Girl Trapped in Overturned Car

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 9:04 am

From Barrow on Trent near Derby, UK:

Last updated at 01:52am on 26.04.08

A passer-by dived into an icy canal to rescue a baby trapped underwater in a car.

Pat Baker, 54, forced his way into the overturned vehicle which had been almost completely submerged for several minutes.

Although unable to see anything in the murky water he managed to free the 13-month-old girl from the straps on her child seat.
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1st Quarter 2008 GDP: +0.6%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:24 am

Well, here we are.

This is probably the most-anticipated GDP report that’s come along in the three-plus years I’ve been blogging.

Will it or won’t it be negative?

The consensus ahead of the report appears to be (of all things…) positive, though barely:

(A Reuters poll) said gross domestic product, the broadest measure of total economic activity within U.S. borders, likely crept ahead at a slim 0.2 percent annual rate in the first three months this year, down from 0.6 percent growth in the fourth quarter.

The 89 estimates ranged from shrinkage of 0.8 percent to growth of 1.5 percent.

This link at IB Times has an estimate of +0.4%.

The link to the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis report when published will be is here.

UPDATE, 8:32 A.M. — and the answer is …… is ….. 0.6%.

It looks like the media’s and the Democratic Party’s (excuse the redundancy) celebration of the recession’s beginning has been delayed for at least one quarter.

In yesterday’s post about record April federal tax collections, I theorized that those much higher than expected collections, coupled with reports that there have been inventory buildups, which are typically not picked up very well in the first of the three GDP reports, provide reasons to believe that the GDP revisions in May and June will be upward. We’ll see.

Don’t get me wrong; the report isn’t impressive, even if it ultimately gets revised upward a bit. But it appears that those salivating for a recession will just have a wait a quarter — and work even harder on breaking down consumer and business confidence in the meantime.

I will hopefully have more later — probably at another post.

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UPDATE: Never mind on that. Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters skewers the AP’s Jeannine Aversa (whom yours truly caught writing that “It’s no longer a question of recession or not. Now it’s how deep and how long” just four weeks ago), so I don’t have to.

Recap of Jeremiah Wright’s April 25-28 Appearances

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:10 am

NOTE: This post is a “peg” for those who need to catch up with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s speeches and interviews during this past weekend, and serves as background for this May 1 post (“Obama Bulletin Blowback: Wright’s Stated and Sanctioned Equations of US War Efforts with Terrorism Is Nothing New, and Has Been Frequent”).

The best way to evaluate what Obama said yesterday at his North Carolina press conference is to have a fairly thorough understanding of what preceded it, which is why this post is here.

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In his Sunday morning interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said this about the relevance of his 20-year pastor and “sounding board,” the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, to his campaign:

I think that people were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past. The fact he’s my former pastor I think makes it a legitimate political issue. So I understand that.

That statement conceded a point that Obama’s critics have been insisting remains the case almost seven weeks after ABC News’s March 13 airing of “Obama’s Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11.”

Obama’s concession that Wright and his church remain topical is all the more important because Obama has stated that he and his family will continue to attend TUCC, even though the church’s new pastor, Otis Moss III, has given no public indication that he intends to conduct church affairs differently.

The Controversy

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