Friday, November 14, 2008

The Bush Regime's Serial Abuse Of Consumers Is Undermining The Entire Economy


I won a little victory yesterday. Alarm companies, I found out from the California Attorney General's office, have a little scam. Ever read your alarm company contract? No, me neither; and that's a mistake. If you cancel on them you owe them for the rest of the year. I canceled; they came and took the equipment and then continued to bill me. It took 6 months-- and zero help from any consumer affairs departments-- but yesterday they finally told me to shred the bills. A blow against the Empire? One small step for mankind...

A couple days ago the L.A. Times ran a piece about how the Empire is sticking it to all of us... and in so many ways. You think your jar of Skippy Extra Chunky Peanut butter looks the same as it always did? OK, it does look the same. But if you turn it-- or almost anything that comes in a plastic container-- over you'll notice something new and improved: a big ole indentation. And that indentation accounts for 1.7 ounces less extra crunchy peanut butter. Across a wide array of products consumers are getting less for our money.
Across the supermarket, manufacturers are trimming packages, nipping a half-ounce off that bar of soap, narrowing the width of toilet paper and shrinking the size of ice cream containers.

Often the changes are so subtle that they create "the illusion that you are buying the same amount," explained Frank Luby, a pricing consultant with Simon-Kucher & Partners of Cambridge, Mass.

To shoppers it may seem like getting less, but companies say cutting quantity is a common way to avoid raising prices.

It's an age-old dilemma for manufacturers juggling prices, container sizes and profits -- at the same time coping with rising prices for ingredients and greater competition on supermarket shelves.

At international food giant Unilever, "we have chosen to reduce package sizes as one of our responses" to rising commodity and business expenses, said spokesman Dean Mastrojohn. He said the new smaller sizes are clearly marked on labels.

...Asked whether the new packaging is deceptive, Mastrojohn said only that the lower weight is clearly listed on the package.

Unilever also changed the shape of its Breyers ice cream containers, reducing the contents to 1.5 quarts from 1.75 quarts. Competitor Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream did the same, shortening its carton.

Reducing the size of the Dreyer's and Edy's Grand Ice Cream cartons was not an easy decision, spokeswoman Kim Goeller-Johnson said.

"We understand that consumers don't like to pay the same price for a smaller container," she said.

You don't say! But people are sticking to the brands they know, feeling a tiny bit of relief as the price of gasoline comes down, almost in half since July. "But even as worry about gas prices fades, it is being replaced by fear about the broader economy. Each 10-cent drop in gasoline prices puts $12 billion a year back in consumers’ pockets. Instead of spending that cash, people are trying to save it or cut their debt... [and] the fall in gasoline prices is not translating into improved fortunes for automakers, at least not yet. Consumers said they remained wary of gas-guzzling cars on the theory that prices would rise again."

And that brings us to the next rescue plan, the one for the Big Three (or Big 2.5) automakers-- and the hundreds of thousands of workers-- millions if you include subsidiary industries-- who could be thrown out of work if the Republicans sabotage a $25 billion emergency loan package.
Senior Democrats are drafting legislation that would carve out part of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout for loans to the three major U.S. auto companies in exchange for a government ownership stake in the companies.

They hope to push the measure through during a postelection session of Congress that begins Monday. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC are lobbying feverishly for Congress to approve the aid, citing an economic downturn that has choked off sales and frozen credit.

But the idea is running into resistance from Republicans and President George W. Bush, who are reluctant to back any additional money for the struggling industry. House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio issued a statement Thursday promising to oppose any new auto industry loans.

Chris Dodd, who supports the loan, says he doesn't think the votes are there to pass it. They need every single Democrat-- even conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party like Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor, plus a dozen from across the aisle. A few Republicans in states with auto plants and auto suppliers-- especially the ones who will be facing the voters in 2010 (like Ohio's George Voinovich and Missouri's Kit Bond)-- are likely to vote with the Democrats.
Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the banking committee, said he would not support legislation to aid the auto companies and seemed prepared to let one or all of them collapse.

“The financial straits that the Big Three find themselves in is not the product of our current economic downturn, but instead is the legacy of the uncompetitive structure of its manufacturing and labor force,” Mr. Shelby said in a statement. “The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem.”

On Thursday, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, also came out strongly against the idea.

“Spending billions of additional federal tax dollars with no promises to reform the root causes crippling automakers’ competitiveness around the world is neither fair to taxpayers nor sound fiscal policy,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement.

Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, in an appearance on Fox News, said: “You wonder where bailout-mania will end.”

Mr. Hensarling said American automakers should bear responsibility for their failed operations. “They are producing high-cost products that consumers don’t want to buy. And so now we have Washington on the verge of giving them a bailout simply because we have all heard of them and they have high-priced lobbyists.”

Right-wing Republicans are salivating at the thought of destroying their arch-enemies, the labor unions and don't seem to be thinking about the effect the collapse of the auto sector would have on the economy. No one would be talking about a recession-- except maybe as something to aspire to. How ironic if Bush's final two acts in the office he stole and then disgraced is to veto a rescue plan for the auto industry, sending the country into Depression, followed by a blanket pardon for all the criminals who have looted our country in the past 8 years.

Post-Bush, Obama has some excellent ideas for how to rescue the auto industry-- from itself, as well as from the dire economic conditions we all find ourselves in after the 8 years of excess under the GOP.

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At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Were you on auto pay for your alarm?
I finally had to contact the BBB of New Jersey and the Attorney General to get Vonage to not only disconnect my dead husbands line, but to stop billing me after I switched to Comcast for my phone . I tried for one year before I did this. When I cancelled the newspaper and they continued to bill me, I went right to the BBB office again.

Why should we bail out the auto makers when they build shitty car no one wants to buy???

At 7:52 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Lee, the stake the government will take in the auto companies will allow them to insist on CAFE standards at the very least.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger risingphoenix37 said...

What makes you think that it hasn't all been orchestrated from the very beginning in 1896 with the successful passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Ultimately whenever any political act is carried out it is because of its proponents' desire for more power or money . All you have to do to figure out why something has occurred is to reduce the actions of politicians to there base philosophical foundations. At it's core the actions and laws , most if not all , Passed over the last century have but one ultimate goal. The absolute destruction of the intent and laws of the U.S. Constitution. And therefore the trade of freedom for security . The process has accelerated now to the point of no return . As long as the american people remain asleep and complacent the process has only one obvious conclusion.Some form of facist dictatorship or theocracy .

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