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Anecdotal Socioeconomics

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Money is the key to end all your woes
Your ups and your downs, your highs and your lows
Won't you tell me last time that love bought you clothes?
It's like that, and that's the way it is


(Run-DMC)


It was unseasonably warm in the big city last night as Minyan Sean Mueller and I enjoyed a leisurely downtown dinner. The food was fantastic and the conversation lively as we kicked back to chew and chat. After the frustrating week that was, I welcomed the respite and the opportunity to see some old friends (it's good for the soul). As I turned to shake a hand, I returned my gaze to our table to find that someone had swiped my phone. Yes, just like that, light fingers Louie had violated my space and taken my T-Mobile.

Why do I share this tale (other than to vent)? It's symptomatic of an emerging undercurrent in the societal class wars. While crime is nothing new in Manhattan, there seems to be a latent and unspoken desperation as the dichotomy between the "haves" and "have nots" evolves. Indeed, as Succo and I trekked to our Wednesday 'fest, we couldn't help but notice the homeless folks as they're seemingly spawning by the day.

While in Ojai, I touched on the steady erosion of the middle class as we balance the lifestyles of the rich with a struggle to exist. Almost 40% of all US wealth is in the hands of the top 1% of the population, compared to 13% 25 years ago. That condition seems more acute these days, particularly in the context of the recent natural disasters. We all see the images from the Gulf Coast, portraits of families displaced and material possessions forever lost. And as Halliburton and Bechtel win billion dollar rebuilding contracts, a growing number of Americans are looking for their next meal.

Perhaps this is an inevitable progression, the revenge of a business cycle that wasn't allowed to follow its natural course. I was talking about this evolution with the incomparable Steve Shobin at our recent group hug. I opined that the deep-rooted imbalances must eventually come home to roost but, as a function of eminent domain, the new bankruptcy laws and the social security and pension program mess, we could very well see a wish-bone depression. The upper crust will likely keep a stiff upper lip while the other side of the trade will be dark and desperate.

I know this discussion is Debbie Downer but I pride myself on being honest and this is what I'm seeing. There will be opportunities to prosper on this prolonged path and that, my friends, is why we built the 'Ville. My goal, so you know, is to help all of us find our way to the right side of the wishbone so we can be in a position to help those who don't make the cut. It's not gonna be easy-it already isn't-but surrounding yourself with a trusted network of human capital is a strong step on what promises to be a long journey.

Good luck today.


R.P.
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