Like everybody else, I’m cutting back. Like David Weyrich, I’m getting rid of my family-friendly, totally not gay jet planes and not paying my suppliers and wondering what happened to the $300 million I married into. Like Atascadero Chamber Citizen of the Year Kelly Gearhart, I’m hiding out in an empty factory in Ohio. Like Karen Guth and Joshua Yaguda, I’m sitting in jail and wondering what I’d appraise my metal toilet for. Like “Stevie Mac,” I’m buying baseball teams and paying teenage employees with rubber checks.
It’s a hell of a time to be living. I feel like we’re on that Grand Canyon overlook, the one built by the Indian tribe with the glass floor that allows you to look all the way down. Only we can’t tell if there’s glass in the next step or not.
The weirdest thing about all the scams and nasty financial shit that have gone on in the last year or so, as the bad economy finally seemed to expose the bad actors, is that many of the people who got “ripped off” seem to be poised to do roughly as badly as all the little ants who diligently stored away their pennies and seeds in the stock market. Suckers!
Hey, I didn’t quite make it through the M.B.A. program at Wharton, so could somebody help me out: When the stock market goes from 14,000 to 6,800, where does that money go? I honestly don’t know, and my Google is broken. Does it vanish, or does it go into some fortress that we can storm with our pitchforks? Can you tell me where that fortress is? Is it on Google Earth?
Maybe it’s this lack of economic understanding that left me joining the dozens of people who gasped in utter bewilderment at the lack of empathy on display from cops the other night at the SLO City Council meeting over binding arbitration for police and firefighters. At one point, one of the officers—I actually think it was a dispatch guy—shocked us all by seeming to ask for sympathy about the fact that the pump in his pool broke down and it cost him a bundle to fix it. His pool! People’s jaws dropped and he responded by telling everyone how nice that pool was. Sensitivity training, anyone?
Back story: The cops got huge raises last year, just as the economy was headed into the abyss, because the city long ago passed a deal that allows an arbitrator to decide how much to pay the cops and firefighters. With that deal, SLO cops now make more than $100K and rookies start out with salaries more than $20K above what they’d make on the far-meaner streets of L.A. And it’s all to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, since there’s no shortage of applicants for police spots here.
Now firefighters are in their own negotiations. After what the police did, they know they can probably push the city to the breaking point and gather their own trove of money. In my mind, they probably deserve it more than police. Just remember how, when Montecito was burning, we had a fire of our own in the hills of SLO. The difference? Ours was stomped out immediately. And at least the firefighters seem to actually live in town. Still, I hope they don’t push it so far they destroy the goodwill they have. And, returning again to the idea of the necessity: There are so many applicants for new job openings on the local force that the paper applications have become fire hazards in HQ.
Thus, while they may deserve more money in the cosmic scheme of things—we all do, don’t we?—there’s no need to give massive raises since the city continues to attract top recruits.
Anyway, all this is to say I really am cutting back and, as I hunt for and find savings, I’m beginning to suspect that one of the problems with this economy has been how easy it is to cut costs thanks to the Internet.
Phone lines? Get the Internet and go with Voice Over Internet Protocol. It’s not quite as good, but it’s damn near free.
Music? So easily stolen, it’s free. Newspapers and magazines? Free and free. Cable? You can get a lot of TV online for free. Pot? Get a card and grow it, for free. Insurance? You can at least comparison shop, easily.
Oh, right. So pot isn’t an invention of the Internet, but it used to be that a person would have to subscribe to High Times to figure out how to cultivate plants. These days it’s all online.
Then there’s all the stuff you don’t need. You don’t need a massive entertainment console when you watch TV on a flat screen. You don’t need shelves when all your albums have been replaced by a dinky hard drive.
This has long been the hope of the digital revolution, and now that it’s coming true it is laying waste to the economy.
That leaves the simple stuff: Food, transportation, and shelter. The grubby street kids in our cover story had those answers down: Dumpsters, trains, and abandoned buildings. See how easy that was?
If the worst times come for me, I’m headed to that cop dispatcher’s house. I hear the pool is real nice.
Shredder’s got some nice limericks already. Keep them coming at email@example.com. Rhyme the word purple, and surprise me. I need them by next week.