And this year shopping marathon seemed off to a good start. The crowds grew and initial reports said that sales were up. But, as the press reported. that the big day was driven by aggressive discounts and earlier than ever shopping hours.
The Washington Post later reported that "Black Friday is a bunch of meaningless hype because strong sales results around Black Friday actually predict slightly weaker holiday sales overall."
The National Research Federation's estimates for Black Friday spending are widely disseminated but not believable either because they are based on a consumer survey, not real data, with their accuracy open to question .
"Even a legitimate boost in sales can indicate variously that consumers are feeling flush, or that they're desperately chasing door busters because money is tight. While the U.S. Commerce Department doesn't break out Black Friday sales, its figures suggest that the final tally for holiday spending isn't likely to be as stratospheric as the trade group's weekend numbers suggest."
The Wall Street Journal now admits consumer spending is "wobbly."
In fact, every year, the initial reports show a shopping boom, but later filings by credit card companies reveal a fall-off. In January next year, stores are likely to be flooded with returns by shoppers who realize they can't afford all their goodies. This proves Christmas shopping it is not the economic miracle it is always cracked up to be.
Meanwhile there are other economic indicators that show there may be more pain than gain, as these headlines attest:
" Home Seizures are way up as the flow of foreclosures pick up
" A delay of Bank of America'a return to selling mortgage securities shows the bust is limiting the housing market's revival.
" More and more bank scandals offer evidence of massive fraud and manipulation. Cash fines substitute for prosecutions assuring the frauds will continue. A new report by the center for Responsible Lending confirms that predatory lending has not been checked.
"The Federal Reserve Bank is twisting up its "Operation Twist" and pumping more money--money they print--into, reports ML-implode.com, "buying $45 billion of longer-term Treasury bonds per month in addition to the $40 billion per month of agency mortgage backed securities announced in September. By dropping the sales component of operation twist, it means that the entire $85 billion of asset purchases will add to the Fed's balance sheet as none of it will be sterilized.''
None of these issues are discussed in any comprehensible detail in our media. The focus since the election has been on a contrived distortion--the so-called "Fiscal cliff."
Writes Paul Street, "The fiscal fixation is childish and irresponsible in a country plagued by mass unemployment, endemic job insecurity, and related widespread poverty
But that's not all that gets lost in the current mass-mediated deficit mania. Let's assume that "the deficit" is a genuine problem with grave long-term implications for the U.S. economy (i.e., crippling interest payments, loss of national sovereignty, and more). Two obvious solutions are to (1) cut U.S. "defense" ...expenditures and (2) initiate serious health care reforms on the model of the health insurance systems that prevail in other industrial powers."
None of that is likely to happen as tax policy gets all the attention, It looks like Republicans now will compromise on their opposition to increasing taxes on the ultra rich in exchange for more cuts in social programs--the so-called "entitlements."
The rich can afford to pay a bit more although they will probably find more loopholes to keep actual payments down, but people dependent on federal assistance will be hit hard.