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Retail Bliss
Commentary on the News
Monday, December 27, 2010
Ed DeShields

One of the great things about Americans is our sense of optimism.  With retail sales up during this holiday season are consumers finally seeing a sign of relief economic relief?

The news media is giddy in its reporting that retail sales are up as much as 15% over last year.  Some reporters are writing about “record sales” and “all time highs for online sales” or “near record sales”.  Their source?  The National Retail Federation and the government of course. 

After all, up is good.  It’s the right direction.  Never mind that retail sales have plummented faster than any prior recession on record and lingered longer following one.  Up is a long way from here, especially if you dig into the reported numbers.     

In real dollar terms, retail sales remain far short of pre-recession levels.  It’s a book keeping game.  The government reports retails figures as a percent of GDP, but consumers spend their dollars based on real dollar terms.  Real dollars data aren’t hard to report.  The government just doesn’t want to do it.

I’ll bet that if you ask a consumer, they aren’t actually feeling so blissful.  They sense its high time a major reality check as we enter the New Year.

Europe is giving us a preview of what’s ahead.  The majority of European retailers predict a decline in business in 2011.  The British Retail Consortium said two thirds of retailers responding to its Retail Prospects for 2011 survey said they expected retail sales to worsen compared with 2010.  The reason?  Higher prices are ahead generated by new taxes and higher commodity prices. 

Everything to produce retail sales is up sharply.  Oil is up as well as food prices and virtually all commodities are at records levels.  Last week we saw a break out from recent highs which means the sky’s the limit until new highs in commodity prices are found.  This is stimulated by the Central Banks pumping trillions of newly printed money into the financial system as the attempt to kick-start the economy.  They actually want inflation because it devalues the dollar and helps artifically bring the debt down.  

In the mean time taxes are up.  Check your property tax bill.  While housing prices have plummented up to 35% (your assets are now variable) property taxes have, on average, doubled in ten years.  They’re going to continue up as your tax rates will soar as the federal government pushes the burden down to the local level.  CBS’s 60 Minutes reported this week that within a year many cities are not going to able to maintain even the basic services.   

Our economic system is in an advanced state of decay. Our nation is a sea of red ink from coast to coast, we continue to consume tens of billions more than we produce every single month and we are rapidly being transformed into a post-industrial wasteland.

The economy is not going to be "getting better" in the long-term. Unless fundamental changes are made to our economic system, we are going to continue to speed toward a horrific economic collapse. 

About Ed DeShields

Last week: Why has Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Stopped all Future Oil Exploration?

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