Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:
It was undoubtedly impolitic for him to single out Las Vegas, rather than, say, Atlantic City, as a particularly wasteful destination. But as an objective matter, his broader point is correct: Americans need to tighten their belts — for quite a while, probably. During the boom, the ratio of household debt to household income reached 128 percent in 2008, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, far more than leading economic competitors such as Germany, Japan or China. This burden was concentrated most heavily on the middle class, McKinsey notes. And the proof that it was not sustainable is all around us, in the form of personal bankruptcy filings and foreclosures.
The more difficult question is whether this is a reality America should merely endure or actively embrace. For generations, we have built our economy on ever-increasing consumption, with the result (among others) that a metropolitan area of two million people has arisen over the last 40 years in the Nevada desert — based essentially on hedonism.
Far more important, perhaps, than his inconsistent observations about Vegas, is the fact that Obama seems to favor the latter option, embracing a less consumption-oriented economic future. In a speech marking the anniversary of his stimulus plan, he observed that “the jobs of the 21st century are in areas like clean energy and technology, advanced manufacturing, new infrastructure. That kind of economy requires us to consume less and produce more; to import less and export more.”
— “Obama’s hard truth: Americans must consume less,” the Washington Post, February 19, 2010.
Parker asked Zakaria if he had faith the American people could handle the fiscal discipline he advocated. Zakaria used the platform as an opportunity to attack Americans and refute the notion “the American people are wonderful.” His solution: Less consumption by the American people.
“No, I think the people are the big problem,” Zakaria said. “I mean, Americans — everybody wants to say the American people are so wonderful. You know, I think that when they come to recognize that they have to make sacrifices too that it’s not just wasteful — they need to have — they need to recognize that some of what’s going to happen here is fewer. They have to consume fewer things. They have to accept slightly higher taxes. And in the long run, you will have a much better economy.”
— “Fareed Zakaria to the American people: You are ‘the big problem,’” as quoted on December 15 2010 in the Daily Caller. Zakaria is a Time, CNN and Washington Post columnist.
The Washington Post Co. on Friday reported bad news for its newspaper division, with revenue totaling $127.3 million for the first quarter of this year — down four percent from 2012 — and an operating loss of $34.5 million.
Overall, the company posted a profit of just $4.7 million, an 85 percent drop in earnings from the net income of $31 million for the first quarter of last year.
In the newspaper division, daily and Sunday circulation at the Post dropped 7.2 and 7.7 percent, respectively, compared to 2012. Average daily circulation totaled 457,100 copies, with Sundays at 659,500. The report also noted that in January of this year, the Post increased the paper’s price for daily home delivery and daily and Sunday single copies. And print advertising revenue at the Post in the first quarter of 2013 dropped 8 percent to $48.6 million, down from $52.7 million in the first quarter of 2012.
— “Washington Post suffers 85% earnings drop,” the Politico today.
Sounds like Americans are taking the Post’s advice; they’re reducing consumption — starting with their consumption of the Washington Post. Add that to the environmental benefits that the Post’s target audience, such as John Kerry and Claire McCaskill say accrues from less consumption, and it sounds like a real win for both the Post and its former readers.
But can the paper top these results in the next quarter? (Survey says: maybe, especially considering the fine product the Post generates these days.)