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Posts Tagged ‘economic crisis’

Jon Stewart’s response to Rick Santelli’s rant at the CBOE, CNBC and Kramer (from Mad Money).

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gwyneth-paltrow2I am a subscriber to Gwyneth Paltrow’s oddly monikered newsletter GOOP.

When GOOP made its inaugural appearance, Paltrow gave teasing tidbits about the newsletter’s forthcoming niche with six plain verbs: MAKE, GO, GET, SEE, BE and DO.

While Paltrow effortlessly floats an easy sense of quiet cool and has been christened as one of many style icons – her trendsetting sophistication online comes across as over inflated and a tad vapid.

The same persona that stretches across on the movie screen recoils into an unattainable (Paltrow deems it “inspirational”) chic via the GOOP’s pages.

One can guess that GOOP’s intended audience should consist of madcap, independently wealthy sophisticates, the Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsens of the world who have the time (and, obviously the money) to embark on Paltrow’s suggestions of purchasing $800 Giuseppi Zanotti boots or jetting off to London to try out the Hempel Hotel.

Given the current economic crisis, dropping demand for luxury and the squelching of available airline flights – Paltrow’s newsletter seems (dare I say it?) ill timed.

That get-away to Paris to see the Alexander Calder exhibit doesn’t have the same ring as it used to in maybe…2005?

GOOP is not all empty fashionista musings, the section BE concentrates on personal development in which several advisors from different helms of psychology, religion and personal growth add their perspectives on how to deal with pessimism.

But she’s Gwyneth Paltrow – she can do that, right? The famously wealthy have those options – it’s the privilege that comes with swirling in such lusciously lavish territory.

Yet, what puzzles me about Ms. Paltrow’s newsletter is the aloofness that comes within its own context.

In other words, why does nourishing the inner aspect (GOOP’s tagline) have to be so obviously and unabashedly rich?

Perhaps, I’m answering my own question.

The abundant, snazzy, swanky good life spills from GOOP and you can’t help but feel ridiculous. The idea of inspirational chic wanders into a distant memory compared to current nightmare of  mass job layoffs and dwindling consumerism.

Even Ms. Paltrow’s gift ideas are laced with a naïve politeness to remind that even as the holidays descend upon us, it’s quite appropriate to purchase a $75 cake knife or $45 cashmere socks – it’s all about the intention (even the luxurious ones).

Ms. Paltrow does not have to clip coupons, investigate clearance sales racks or maybe even suffer buyer’s remorse. Her advice about living life to the fullest requires knowing that eating the upper crust will taste as rich (and cost as much) as she makes it appear.

She provides recipes detailing her love for turkey ragu and buckwheat banana pancakes – she even suggests that we live holistically and get enough sleep (everyone needs more sleep!).

GOOP’s had quite a few critics, and yet I’m not sure how Ms. Paltrow would respond to such cynicism. After all, a life as fabulous as the one she lives has to be shared, no?

Ms. Paltrow only wants to inspire, whether or not the inspiration is more for her benefit than it is for others.

And no, I’m not calling Ms. Paltrow ridiculous – but her newsletter is quite so in every sense of the definition. While it’s fine to show us hoi polloi what a wonderful life is all about – I think GOOP is missing a bit of reality from its simple verbs.

I may not cancel my subscription to GOOP anytime soon, I just don’t take it nearly as seriously as my addiction to Life Hacker.

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mbaWith the economic downturn slashing away at jobs and businesses alike – some people have thought it best to hide out in graduate school.

And unfortunately, with college education becoming increasingly expensive, graduate school for many is becoming more of a distant dream than reality.

Despite popular opinion, I don’t understand getting an MBA, especially now.

Has anyone thought about learning business the old-fashioned way? Like through working, entrepreneurship and keeping their learning curve high?

So, B-schools put you in touch with lots of contacts,” official” classroom training and you even get a nifty degree with at least $50,000 worth of debt (if you aren’t so lucky to have your employer pay for it). But what’s stopping you from getting that in the real working world (without the debt)?

Experience is the best teacher. And sure, I may not be saying anything new, but the MBA is no longer an “it” degree. It’s becoming marginalized.

Just like no one really needs a degree in creative writing to become a writer (or blogger for that matter) – you don’t need a degree to justify or validate your talents and skills.

I hope more employers will see it that way in the future.

But in the meantime, I wish all the luck in the world to all the newly minted finance and banking MBAs entering the sour job market – they’ll need all the help they can get.

And this isn’t to say that I won’t (in the future, maybe) pursue a graduate degree – but for right now, I don’t know what that could possibly be since I don’t think there is a graduate school for bloggers who want to change the world.

With the exception of pursuing a career in which you must be licensed – what’s the point of getting a degree beyond your BA?

What’s the best way to distinguish yourself amongst the sea of indistinguishable degrees?

Experience and a high learning curve differentiates you from the rest of the pack for starters. It’s fine if you have an MBA – but if you nothing in to which to give it context (or experience in which to layer it with) – it just looks like an extra set of letters on your resume.

People miss the point of understanding why business school is only 2 years and working is for the rest of your life.

No matter how much you sit in the classroom and learn, you still have to get out there and work.

The working world is lot more interesting, flexible and teeming with boundless opportunities because you are in the fray. Plus, there’s not as much homework.

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This American Life produced an excellent segment detailing the American economic meltdown (is meltdown even an accurate description?). The three part series includes a medley of interviews with players within various points of our current financial conundrum. The series would be more aptly called, “The Wall Street Trail of Blunders, Lies and Greed” – I think my title is a little more transparent, if I do say so myself.

Essentially, NPR gives a condensed review of the systematic breakdown of (what should have been) a sound financial infrastructure fueled by a combination of capitalistic greed, short-sighted fiscal responsibility and plain ol’ stupidity.

But, am I telling you anything new? Of course not. Yet, for anyone still wondering how we got into this mess, (or, you are a glutton for punishment) I suggest you listen to it – it’s definitely an eye opener.

Unfortunately, no one likes to ask questions when money is flowing freely beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Personally, wild dreams and greedy imaginations are what got us where we are now. The bailout totally tanked  and Washington is scrambling to pick up the pieces. The Dow plummeted over 700 points and Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other on who is to blame for the House failing to pass the bill.

All this bi-partisan bickering doesn’t change anything. Americans are still losing jobs, having difficulty paying for basic necessities and economic growth remains in question. If anything, we should learn how greed (Swedish style) was solved abroad – we aren’t the first country to screw ourselves. Also, I’m not so sure a bailout would even work, especially since Congress seemed especially queasy about even passing it.

Well, Republicans seemed more queasy about it than Democrats, but, I digress.

It also doesn’t help that the resounding cry from Wall Street is, “Well, everyone else was doing it – and we wanted those profits!” It’s the economical equivalent of the twinkie defense in regard to the financial system.

No wonder why American’s aren’t sympathetic.

Oh, did I also mention that the $700 billion bailout roughly calculates to $10,000 per American family.
(Cha-ching! Why doesn’t someone give me a bailout?!)

The ridiculously bad decision making of banking institutions won’t be solved by a swift punch of money from the government. It may be years before America recovers from its mistakes. Government reform seems to have such a nasty habit of being reactionary rather than preemptive (at least, where it matters). Without implementing better oversight, regulation and performance measures of financial industries to keep greed at bay – we will only find ourselves in the same (if not worse) situation again.

And frankly, I don’t think America will have another $700 billion to spare.

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spiralMy weekend’s may look a little less fun nowadays.

As I type this, I’ve been doing some personal research on the state of the American economy (actually, who hasn’t?). More specifically, how the economy is affecting my ability to have good time (and best of all –FREE!).

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a native Chicagoan and a brand new homeowner. I have to be more than conscientious about my spending habits. A girl wants more for her dollar nowadays, (if she can get it.). Gone are the carefree Tazo tea moments –  hello home-brewed Celestial Seasons. That’s why it’s all the more important to invest my time in any social outreach or arts programming that my city provides.

Places like the Chicago Cultural Center, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Humanities Festival are guaranteed to feed my brain – I could go on. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I attend discussions about human rights and genocide or hear FREE music from klesmer bands, check out shows from progressive dance artists – alright, it’s obvious that Chicago is a mecca for culture lovers. But, don’t be too hard on me for bragging.

But, Lehman Brothers is ruining my weekend.

You wouldn’t really think that a soon-to-be defunct bankrupt investment bank is screwing with my opportunity to have fun (ok, I’m not really that into klesmer, but that’s not the point).

Failing investment banks, credit crunches, foreclosures – these financial debacles spider into everyday life a lot deeper (and harder) than most people would think. Shrinking endowments (which are linked to bonds, stocks , etc. from the failing I-Banks) interfere with NPO operating costs.

This means more staff cuts. The dollar is weaker than ever (although, some experts claim the dollar is now gaining strength), so paying travel costs for bands abroad or foreign speakers is a lot more expensive than it used to be.  

Charitable donations are the first things to get cut in a market’s financial downturn. Even more specifically, the shrinking dividends in Daddy Warbucks’ financial portfolio directly affect if the programs and fundraising events that your (favorite) local NPOs create will have a budget for the coming year.

Americans as a whole are losing trust in big institutions – can you blame them? If they haven’t already, Americans are raiding what’s left of their 401(k)s and spending it or hiding it to under a mattress.

The current economic crisis affects everything: good and bad. Unfortunately, the only real question is: where does it stop?

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