Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Upside of Financial Calamity...
At least we're not seeing advertisements for investment planners anymore. You know the ones (by now, the formula for the typical 'invest with US, we'll make you rich!" meme has become trite) in which the aging Baby-Boomers (who, thanks to plastic surgery, Pilates and the miracle of pharmacology!) are ridiculously young-looking and realizing their dream of retiring to that vineyard, preferably in the south of France. Somehow, one gets the impression watching this that a) there are literally millions who have this dream, and b) you're being sold a bill of goods which seems to indicate that this is both possible for all, and desirable.

I wonder what the French would have said had the expected Invasion of Supra-wealthy-exceedingly-tanned-and-toned-Retiree/Vineyard owners ever materialized? I can guess...

At least we don't see Dennis Hopper extolling the supposed virtues of the 60's Potato-salad generation as if they were an Army of World-Bestriding Gullivers amongst an ocean of Lilliputians. If I ever achieve any sort of power, Dennis Hopper is getting shot first. But, I digress.

It seems the first casualty of economic collapse is advertising. Which, to me, seems backwards. While the media-blitz expounding on wealth and playing upon the (mostly unrealistic) dreams of millions will not be missed by me, it shouldn't be the first casualty in this war. The people who ran American business into the ground should be. And they should run the executions on Pay-per-View.

While millions of Americans have had their futures destroyed or compromised by the bestest and brightest (so bestest and brightest that they forgot that the primary rule of business is: make money, stupid, not piss it away!), we hear that the Chairman of Lehman brothers walked away with $500 million compensation during his tenure. I'll repeat that; a half-a-billion-fucking-dollars.

The Chairman of Merrill-Lynch, another casualty, walked away with over $100 million. Former Chairmen of Freddie and Fannie, the agencies at the bottom of this collapse, made between $90 and $100 mil, apiece. AIG, fresh off it's taxpayer rescue, was still planning lavish 'Executive Weekends' for it's Overpriced Stuffed Shirts, until bad publicity put an end to that nonsense.

Since we're All-About-Socialism these days, what with the government owning the controlling stakes in some of America's biggest corporations, and Barack Obama promising to recreate Christ's miracle of the Loaves and Fishes on a reduced tax base, how about we take a page from a REAL Socialist? George Orwell (amazing how I keep coming back to him, isn't it?) once postulated that one of the ways to make Socialism more attractive was to recognize that some endeavors naturally require higher pay (medicine, science, management and such) than what your typical factory worker might require, and that therefore, the Capitalist ideal of higher pay for higher-degree-of-difficulty was still a valid one. He proposed that instead of tossing the 'Capitalist pay-scale' that it merely be restrained at it's uppermost levels. There should be, Orwell thought, no reason not reward a Doctor or Engineer with a great big paycheck, but that the difference between that Doc's pay and the pay of the Coal Miner should not exceed a 10:1 ratio.

What do you think would happen if your $100 million CEO suddenly had to make do with only ten times, max, what his $30,000 a year secretary would make? I mean, after his head exploded? Sorry, I have wandered a bit. back to my point (did I ever have one?).

While the lack of bombastic and repetitive advertising is a good thing (it has also extended into pharmaceuticals: I haven't seem Sally Field in a week complaining about having to take 15 seconds a day out of her hectic schedule to take a pill that's necessary to keep her healthy, and perhaps, alive), at the end of the day it's punishing someone. Some place, a copy writer, a photographer, a director, an editor, is being laid off. John Fuld may be dragged before Congress he may be out of work for the moment, but he still has $500 million in the bank...at least until the angry villagers, pitchforks and torches in hand, come to take it from him with lawyers barking and straining at the leash.

So, in effect, the withdrawal of advertising is hurting people further in terms of employment, even if it is an awesome thing to be able to watch television without having CitiGroup tell you how they Never Sleep, or that Charles Schwab is America's-Number-One-Discount-Broker (as proclaimed by the All-Powerful J.D. Power and Associates, who curiously never have to advertise themselves), or watching a complete dweeb like Roger Riney show off his helicopter-piloting skills for....well, no reason that I can think of. Why, it doesn't even make sense.

But then again, that's symptomatic of the whole mentality of this type of Celebrity CEO: I'm so stupid-rich that I'll fly a helicopter in my company's commercials, despite the fact that it's extremely out-of-context and unnecessary. And so expensive as t be the first casualty of economic decline.

In the meantime, I feel for the people, even the people who produce these stupid commercials for helicopter-flying-nonentities, as they suffer. I'm happy there's less advertising, just saddened when I realize there's people who make a living that way.

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