On Tuesday the Conference Board said that in November consumer confidence experienced its biggest gain in more than eight years. The leap was the biggest since April 2003 and exceeded the most optimistic forecast.
Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street seems to have moved on, as their encampments in various cities have been reoccupied by the local police and sanitation departments. Since unemployment, the sovereign debt crisis and creeping inflation for everything from gas to cheese is unchanged, perhaps the newfound consumer confidence was everyone listening to the OWS chants, examining their lives, and coming to the conclusion that, "Geez, we have it pretty good.”
This conclusion was supported by astronomical sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the start of the stupid season -- when we all spend too much money giving unwanted or unappreciated gifts to people who, even if they wanted them, certainly didn't need them.
There is no worse time to have pangs of guilt about rampant consumerism than while you are holiday (formerly known as Christmas) shopping. Does she really need cashmere? Can he really tell the difference between a 200-thread count and 400? Surely a 350 GB hard drive is sufficient? Just give me the non-organic -- they'll never know the difference. Who can really tell the difference between 10 and 14 pixels? Android is nice, but is it cool enough for her? What do you mean, I have to pay another $350 for the giant bow to put on top; I just wrote you a check for $54,750! Why in hell should I care how many gallons of water it took to produce them, just put them in a box! I am only buying this because the President said it would help the economy.
That, I suppose, is one way to rationalize the stupid season -- that we are helping the economy recover. And wasn't it heartwarming to see your fellow Americans beating the shit out of one another at Black Friday sales over $1 waffle irons and flat-screen TVs? Gotta love the women who used mace to carve out a little elbow room.
Next year they are going to move Black Friday back to Halloween, since moving it back to Thanksgiving didn't piss anyone off. You can stand in line with a bag of candy wearing your Guy Fawkes mask -- so when you trample someone at Walmart, they won't be able to tell you from the other 548 Guy Fawkes. Make sure the apples dropped in your bag by Best Buy staffers don't have razor blades in them since, given their general temperament, everyone hates working there.
Once again I have completed my stupid-season shopping without having set foot in a brick-and-mortar store. But I think it is getting to the delivery services, who have taken to just tossing my packages out the door of their moving trucks. At least they slow down momentarily when they run over the dog.
In the spirit of the season I think we should declare Dec. 25 International Debt Forgiveness Day. With the possible exception of Somalia, where the only income is from bribes to release pirated ships, the entire world is so economically interdependent that nobody really has any idea who owes what to whom. Especially since money now sits on servers instead of in vaults.
So what the hell. Cancel all the world's debt. Everybody have a beer and listen to free iTunes all day. Dec. 26 will dawn with clean books all around and everyone can start running up debt again. By the time it hits the next crisis point, we'll all be dead. Sound like a plan?