November 2008

When Ross Perot talked about the Giant Sucking Sound, he was referring to NAFTA. Today we hear the GSS in stereo, coming from Wall Street and Washington. If you're reading this, you're probably an engineer with good credit history, feeling the twin transfer pipes inserted into your bank accounts. Why whine about it, take it like the chump that you are, your lousy million-dollar 401K will be burned like kindling to jump start the economy in the next couple of years. Where's that feisty Texan when we need a good laugh?

There are of plenty eras of greed, decadence and poseurship in history, from Bread and Circus in Roman times, to let them eat cake in the eighteenth century, to the roaring twenties which no longer seem so long ago. The modern greed we live in has some roots in the 1970's but began in earnest in the 1980's and 90's.

Not that long ago, the idle rich were an object of ridicule, and we identified with normal people, but that notion has long since passed away in popular culture. Witness snooty Waldo in Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies, Thurston and Lovey Howell on Gilligan's Island, Eva Gabor's Lisa Douglas on Green Acres and bank president Milton Drysdale in the Beverly Hillbillies. These are people that you are NOT supposed to identify with, they are all jerks. While we're on the subject, why can't television use clever names like Drysdale, the Howell's, Major Hale, and Andorra these days? OK, the Simpsons and the Bundies rank up there, but let's keep up the pace...

Thurston and Lovey Howell

Oliver and Lisa Douglas

Waldo Aloysius Johnston III

Margaret and Milton Drysdale


The 1950s

How do we know that the fifties were not a greedy decade? Buy a house built in the fifties, live in it without any add-ons or updates. Enjoy sharing one bathroom down the hall with your kids... seven-foot ceilings... luan and cardboard interior doors... linoleum (or asbestos) floors... 50 amp service panel... no central A/C...

The 1960s

In the sixties, the hippy movement was entirely anti-greed. Play the Canned Heat video below, while asking yourself, do the listeners of this music care about hedge funds? To be politically incorrect, here's some smoking hot blues, considering they're white guys! We really do have to get back to The Garden one of these days...

Some of you youngsters might think Big Yellow Taxi is a new song by the Counting Crows about paving paradise. It dates back to 1970, when Joni Mitchell wrote a song about a trip to Hawaii. Ms. Mitchell's version is as good as it gets.

The 1970s

Now let's move onto the seventies. Yes, the Disco movement brought about poseurs in designer jeans like Jordache and Sassoon...

Note to you kids... the high-rise jeans of the seventies were to allow more room for decorative stitching, but low rise jeans are nothing new, they were quite popular in the sixties.

Seventies punk rock groups like the Ramones never made it big, perhaps because they refused to sign up for merchandising. How is a greedy company going to make dough from a fashion craze that involves only the word "black"? It's hard to imagine that a modern icon would pose for his best portrait in the bathroom of CBGB, like Joey, who was a card-carrying liberal, did. Even though the club closed in 2006 while New York was selling its soul in many ways, you'll be pleased to know that you can still visit CBGB Fashions on-line if you want to be a punk poseur.  

One harbinger of modern greed that dates to 1973 is the modern lottery system. Although it started in New Hampshire, you can thank New Jersey and Massachusetts for successfully introducing this regressive form of greed to lower classes, but you have to admit it's a clever tax on being stupid. From the NJ lottery web site:

As the State’s fourth largest revenue producer, the Lottery raised over $2.4 billion in sales for fiscal year 2006, and was able to contribute more than $844 million to the State to help fund education and institutions, making everyone in the Garden State a winner.

In retrospect, the 1970s were a time of great national apathy, not national greed. The expression "this sucks" dates back to this decade.

The 1980s

Modern greed actually began in the 1980s. Here's a few bellwethers:

The TV show Family Ties. Here the parents are liberals and the son is a whitey-tighty conservative, but they love him anyway, how cute is that? We got to watch someone grow up and come to the conclusion that it is possible to major simply in making money when you go to college, and then live well off while the rest of society tries to make actual contributions and products. Now don't you feel dumb for earning an engineering degree?


Listen closely, that's Dana Hersey announcing the show. Dana is a local Boston moneyed man with not much to do but has a great voice which still keeps him employed. For a rich guy, he stands out as one of few that you might still want to have a beer with.

Financial innovator Michael Milken invents the junk bond trade, later goes to jail.

Reagananomics is founded on the principal of the trickle-down economy. If you give the rich a tax break, they will all buy bigger yachts, and maybe some of you could start a boat washing business or something "trickly"... rich guys are big tippers, right? Wrong.

Mike Oharo's Poverty Sucks poster remains one of the biggest sellers of all times.

The 1990s

Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell and Tammie Fay and Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller become big names in the billion-dollar blessing business. Intelligent design hits a low point as these televangelists set new records raising money on the PTL Club, the 700 Club, the Hour of Power, the list goes on and on. In the cult film Repo Man, Emilio Estavez's parents sit mesmerized by a TV preacher, and calmly announce that they pledged all of their money so they can't pay for him to go to college. Sell that car, send me the money...

The Excellence in Broadcasting network makes it debut in 1988. Rush Limbaugh makes a career out of telling middle-class white people what they want to hear, ridiculing Al Gore for winning a Nobel Prize for example, while abusing prescription drugs. El Rushbo's contract is presently worth $400M, which is a price the sponsors feel is fair for him to chant on and on about the "myth" of global warming to 15,000,000 receptive listeners. Although they don't advertise on the show, the biggest beneficiaries of this madness are OPEC countries, whose oil ministers might think that $400,000,000 is pocket change. You can look up how to say Mega Dittos in Farsi for homework.

The SUV becomes the car of choice, even among people that remember the gas lines of the 1970s. Car companies in the US upsize their vehicles each year in a sales ploy that follows the philosophy I might as well enjoy a large and fast car while I can afford the gas, some smart engineers will figure out alternative energy for my kids but that's not my problem, my pleasure is more important than my kids. Perhaps like this excellent steam-power plane designed in Germany in the 1930s could make a big difference...

The rise of Walmart and Costco during the 1990s are another greed barometer. In one case, you directly contribute to Third World poverty, and force local store employees to apply for food stamps, a Giant Corporate Sucking Sound if there ever was one. But you always get low prices and that's the most important thing if you are greedy. Why else would you go there? For the excellent service? Or to experience parking lot crime? In the case of Costco, you pay an annual membership fee in order to load up the SUV on a two hour shopping stop, heck, you and your fat kids can even eat a nasty lunch there and fill the gas tank for cheap. These two outfits have no-doubt helped the two industries we'll discuss in the next paragraph... while were on the subject, here's some Costo Trivia... what's the one and only item which they outsell even WalMart? Toilet paper. Go team!

Storage facility and the storage shed industries flourished in the 1990s and continue to today. You gotta have more room for your massive pile o' stuff, rent a shed or put one in your yard!

Who Wants to be a Millionaire becomes a huge game show hit, starting in 1998. Who doesn't, unless it means saving some money each year for 25 years? These people all lost one the final question. What brings people to watch this dopey show is the three or four idiotic questions that start each round. Hey, I knew what "pull my finger"means!" Just once I'd like to watch the show, hear a question on the Smith chart worth $500K, then hear the phone ring with Regis on the other end so I could ask him to pull my finger.

The 2000s

Who could have predicted that a decade that started off with such tragedy could turn into such travesty?

The Countrywide Dude - Homeowners.. what to get cash and simplify your bills? Ask about a combo loan from countrywide... yes, he really could be more evil than Damian in Omen 666.

Ty Coughlin - multi-level marketing scammer - is greed's new poster boy. MLM has been around for decades, and so far almost four people have benefited from it. The latest incarnation is Ty Coughlin and the "reverse funnel system" where he advertises in a "live commercial" that he is soon to train a select group of people to go get rich. You've heard the ad, Ha ha ha... I know, I know, yeah, all right, we gotta get this thing started, OK. Everybody hello, my name is Ty Coughlin, most of you know me by now, but if not, I'm the beach bum from Hawaii that made a pile of cash on the internet... part of the reverse funnel is reverse psychology. He instructs his students to create hundreds (and maybe thousands) of web sites that pretend that they are exposing the scam, but guess what... it's really just stupid people trying to hawk time-share vacations. Click on their Google ads a few hundred times to show your respect! Wait a year or two and we can all send Ty "Ponzi" Coughlin a funnel to play with in his jail cell.

Credit counseling is now a huge industry. It's not your fault that you charged up all that debt, we'll work with you to hose your creditors while we hose you ourselves! An entirely new banking industry is born, without the distraction of government regulations in many states. Why would we want to regulate anything to do with money?

The payday loan industry is one of the greediest parasites to come along. What's wrong with charging 500% annual interest when you are doing your clients a gigante favor? If Prop 200 fails, Arizona will soon have 700 empty storefronts as fast as you can say muchas gracias, and these loan sharks will have to find another way to make money without working.

Cash for gold industry is doing great. Why keep heirlooms when you can have them melted down to pay for a trip to Vegas! Sell now before the recession gets into full swing...

The return to popularity of the British accent accompanies the spiral of greed. Don't you want to be associated with old money, old liquor and old ladies? Car commercials such as Lexus and Audi think you do. OK, at least the British accent is better than the "folksie" accents of Bush and Palin, but can we do without either please?

The mansion industry has been good. Check out Dick Fuld's house, he was head of Lehman Brothers when it went belly up, making him a major contender for the title of Optimus Subprime. For all his noble efforts, this nobleman earned $484,000,000 dollars since 2000. Click the image to zoom in. Many of his employees will have a new boss when they report to Barclays Capital, the Brit company that bought them at the fire sale price of less than $2B. His name is Rich Ricci. As in "poor little rich boy" Richie Rich. You can't make this &%*@ up. Enjoying your cake?

Paul Newman's house is quite a bit smaller (the images are on the same scale, we wouldn't cheat to make a point) and has a nice barn. You might need a barn when you raise a quarter-billion dollars for charity selling salad dressing, inspired by your son's early death. Paul Newman was one of a kind, a rare example that the world has not completely gone to hell. Mr., we could use a man like Henry Gondorff again!

House of Fuld

Newman's Own

Speaking of homes, in the 1930s, tent cities were called Hoovervilles, after Republican President Hoover. These days, the landscape is dotted with abandoned houses which are easy to spot due to lack of maintenance. Why not call them Greenspanvilles? Alan Greenspan (or was that "Greedspan?" is the fool that lowered interest rates to nearly zero, while talking "Fedspeak" to Congress. Thanks for looking out for the economy, you tool!

Recently Senator Biden said it was "patriotic" to pay your taxes, and was mocked by Republicans. There's a couple of messages here, one of which is that the moneyed elite laugh at the rest of us that pay their fair share. Don't you love your country enough to help it pay its enormous bills, or is that too much of a sacrifice to your greedy Costco lifestyle? But it's OK to spend spend thousands of dollars on petroleum from middle-eastern countries to fill your SUV tank so they can show us some love?

What about trickle-down economics? The top 1 percent of "earners" have increased their share of country's wealth in the past 30 years. Between 1980 and 2004, real wages in manufacturing fell 1%, while real income of the richest one percent rose 135% and is now 34% of total earnings. What's in your wallet?


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