Recession? Downturn? Depends on who you ask.

I took the day off yesterday. I needed it. Even with final exams looming ominously only a few short weeks away, even with all of the time I’ve spent here at America’s Right and away from the books, I didn’t study. Even with winter fast approaching in Philadelphia, even with a few downed leaves lounging around in my yard and in my now barren flower beds, I didn’t rake. Even considering how much I learn on a daily basis reading and debating and writing for this site, even considering the vast number of wonderful people who come here on a daily basis to see what this overworked, perpetually distracted law student has to say, I didn’t write.

Instead, I slept in a little bit on Saturday morning, my daughter in bed with my wife and I, the sweet sounds of Spongebob Squarepants in the background as a struggled to delay wakefulness for a few more precious minutes. Instead, we actually took nearly two hours and watched a movie in our living room. Instead, I goofed around and played hide-and-seek with my little girl. And, of course, since the entire day couldn’t be spent without some sort of accomplishment, we went shopping.

The first stop was a new Wal-Mart Supercenter. We’re on a budget, see, and come Thursday we’re cooking for 12. While Wal-Mart certainly has its detractors (though, to its merits, it is one of the most charitable organizations in the world), at this point in my life, as we struggle each and every month, I cannot afford to do my shopping at Whole Foods. We got everything we needed for a dozen people, everything from turkey to stuffing to green beans to [frozen] shrimp to potatoes and more, for $160. Hallelujah!

I noticed a few things there yesterday. First of all, the store wasn’t nearly as packed out as I suspected it would be. Secondly, it seemed as though even for Wal-Mart, the lower-priced items were flying off of the shelves. In the deli area, the lady behind the counter said that she didn’t even have time to put the cheaper stuff back into the case before being asked to slice them again, that the more premium meats and cheeses weren’t going anywhere. It was noticeable, she said. In another area, the remaining Butterball turkeys greatly outnumbered their generic counterparts, even though the better Butterball birds were only a few cents more expensive per pound. I overheard one couple—the woman was still faithfully wearing an Obama/Biden pin on her coat—saying that they needed to “be serious” this year. Apparently, Butterball turkeys are silly. For me, a guy who looks to be pushing into his second trimester, there’s nothing funny about fowl.

Our second stop was the King of Prussia Mall. The second-largest shopping mall in the United States of America, the King of Prussia Mall has been steadily getting more and more high-end over the past few years. Burberry, Hugo Boss, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co, an entire luxury store devoted to shaving – you want it, and they’ve got it. We’d been there a few weeks ago looking for a Christmas dress for our daughter (adorable and only $14 at Sears, of all places – woohoo!), and having not been there in a while before that and honestly surprised at the nature of some of the stores, I couldn’t help but wonder how they would fare during this holiday season. How many people, after all, are looking to purchase their two-year-old a $150 dress at Lilly Pulitzer, their husband a $5000 chair at Williams-Sonoma Home, a $12,000 handbag at Louis Vuitton?

Yesterday, the mall was packed. I had to drop my wife and daughter at the door—in the cold weather, I would have done so anyway—and stalk a shivering Asian family just to find a parking spot. Finally, after a few minutes and with many thanks to that perturbed couple and their three adorable children, I wedged my hand-me-down minivan between an AMG S-Class Mercedes (read: $100,000 car) and some sort of Detroit monstrosity no doubt driven by an overtired soccer mom with an infant in one hand, a cellphone in another, and her knee on the steering wheel.

I was astounded by the crowds in the mall. At close to 1:30 in the afternoon, T.G.I. Friday’s had a one-hour wait, and we’d still be waiting if we hadn’t already eaten at home and wanted to eat lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. There was a line to see the new Blackberry Storm—it was disappointing—at the Verizon Wireless store, half of the people waiting to see the new phone playing with their old phone as they waited. People were literally packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the Apple store, everyone clamoring for the latest and greatest from Steve Jobs. Women were doing that “tilt” thing with expensive-looking dresses in Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, a season of hors d’oeuvres and shallow conversations ahead of them. A well-dressed man was laying, reclined in a dental-chair of sorts, getting a shave in the aforementioned luxury store while passersby looked at his scuffed-up shoes in the picture window. Even if I had been tempted to further expand my exponentially expanding waistline with a selection from Haagen-Dazs, I sure wouldn’t be able to find a seat at the enormous food court in which to plant my growing posterior and eat it. It was packed. People were everywhere, everyone with bags.

Here we are in America, facing down possibly the most dire economic circumstances we’ve ever seen, at least since the 1930s, and thousands upon thousands of people were throwing caution to the wind, in some of the most unimaginably expensive stores available, still a week removed from “Black Friday.” I’m not saying that my wife and daughter will not be receiving nice gifts this year, but our circumstances now and the country’s anticipated circumstances down the road demand a little more common sense and reticence on our part. Still, while I’m all for people spending money if they’ve got it, and I’m certainly nobody to suggest that they should refrain from doing so if they do not, I was nonetheless amazed at what I saw.

Quite a while after we arrived, we left the mall with little more than tired feet, sticker-shocked eyes, and a sleepy two-year-old. Our shopping, it seems, will be done at some new outlets which sprung up over the course of the past year. Nicer gifts for our family and friends, doing more with the little that we have.

In the meantime, I’ll be interested to see the retail numbers for the holiday season when they come out in early January. I firmly believe that things will get worse before they get better, and certainly will continue to do so should our president-elect quit being so pragmatic once he reaches the Oval Office, roll back the Bush tax cuts, and go hog-wild with his spend-happy plans and policies. Also, God forbid should anything more sinister happen on American soil again soon—I saw thousands and thousands of people at the mall yesterday, but not a single security guard—and these few months will look like the good ole’ days.

I suppose there’s no easy or right way to tell a few hundred million Americans to quit being so fat and happy and oh … so … oblivious. I suppose it would be foolhardy to even attempt to appeal to the teenagers in every other nook and cranny of the mall to be wiser with their money and more aware of their surroundings. Nobody really wants to hear that stuff. I can only encourage all of you to be careful, think twice, and remember that the real value of the holiday season is in time spent with family and friends.

That, and take a day off every once in a while. From pretty much everything, too. Unplug, de-Blackberry, and do what makes you feel good – play with your kids, hug your spouse and, if you have the chance, marvel at people who may have just lost 40 percent of their stock portfolio but felt it necessary to spend $650 on a pair of shoes.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    jeff please read this please!!! id love to see what you have to say about this. i think this is the smoking gun!!
    http://polarik.blogtownhall.com/

  2. Anonymous says:

    Around here its noticeable that things are not good. NAFTA has nothing for our area ecept take away thousands and thousands of jobs and replaced them with nothing.

    Where I work there were over 200 people. As of last week, we are down to 20. I dont know if we will survive this or not.

  3. Anonymous says:
  4. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, You and Your Family
    Deserve a Peaceful and
    "Happy Thanksgiving".
    If it were not for "You" providing us with "TRUE"
    information, we all might
    just wither and suscumb to
    the "Evil Doer's", (I had to use that one!).
    We all "Thank You, and your
    Wife & Daughter's Tolerance
    for "YOU" giving up the precious time with your Family to Inform (US).
    Thank You Mrs. Schreiber &
    Daughter for giving the
    Strength & Courage of Jeff's
    Concern of Your Family, and
    US, the American People.
    We are Gratefull to you!
    We also "Prayer" that your
    Teacher's are aware of your
    "Support" for US, and the amount of time & wisdom you
    have given us.
    You have been Doing a Remarkable Job.
    We are Extremely "PROUD" of
    You! Had it not been for You, many of US would not even be aware of the "TRUTH"
    Sincerely, Daniel Smith, NY
    (Recipient of a United States Silver Lifesaving
    Medal in May 1998 for
    Heroism)

  5. ratpyan says:

    Our mall in Bridgewater has been dead, we were in shock when we visited it last week. The sellers in the carts scattered in the public spaces were lunging at the handful of passerbys. The Holiday Sales figures will indeed be interesting.

  6. ~Jennifer~ says:

    This was an interesting post, Jeff, thanks. Having come from the affluent area of D/FW and recently moving to the rural center of SD (to a reservation no less) it’s interesting to go back to the city and visit. Here, folks are for the most part poor, so I am interested to see how this new administration will affect them. From what I understand, every republican administration except Nixon has cut the budget of the Department of the Interior which is where the Bureau of Indian Affairs gets their funding for the promised (via treaty for them allowing us to put them on a reservation) healthcare, welfare, and schooling for their children- so they typically vote democrat.

    I rushed back to Texas on Election Day to vote a straight Republican ticket since I’m not yet registered to vote here.

    Even more interesting, in my situation is that I’m in the ranching/equine business. This horse industry, by last set of statistics is the 3rd largest by GDP in the US. We raise and sell and breed registered Quarter Horses here, and have many priced at a solid 4 figures, and people still come to try them. There are people still buying horses in the 5 figure range- some as will have a 70k price tag. That’s not to say that all people are buying expensive horses. At Ocala, FL the racehorse yearling sale numbers were down by around 14% this year.

    It’s interesting to me- since horses are generally purchased with discretionary income- unless you’re someone in the business like myself, that the industry’s high-end horses are still selling. Kill plants having been closed did affect the pricing on the low-end of the spectrum, as there are more unwanted horses out there (kill plants slaughtered about 125-150k unwanted/old/dying/sick/crippled horses per year) so we have a bit of an overflow right now.

    This may have been way more information than anyone here wanted to read- but it’s a slice of pie from my side of the world.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, this was very well-written and a joy to read (well, other than the content of it being hard times these days.)

    It’s interesting that King of Prussia is still packed. I wonder whether those “people who may have just lost 40 percent of their stock portfolio but felt it necessary to spend $650 on a pair of shoes” feel pinched. Maybe not, because 60% of 10 million is still 6 million, which means you have enough money for those shoes. Also the rich are the ones who have had a temporarily better tax cut than others compared to pre-Bush times (everyone has had lower taxes, but the difference is much bigger for the rich in recent years.) So maybe they’re not feeling as screwed. I don’t know.

    Anyway, I found an article that you might find interesting in this era of Bush-bashing: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=982040

    I also found a blog written by a critical liberal that you might like (he is a liberal who is critical of everyone, including liberals): http://dissentingjustice.blogspot.com/

    –Katherine

  8. Anonymous says:

    So much talk of bailouts, free money. If students can walk away from their loans then why can’t consumers walk away from their credit cards?
    For a rich liberal,the worst that can happen is to have all those high end stores go out of business and then the coveted goods won’t be available except as used items on eBay.
    Anyway, last thing we need is for a good blogger to burn out. Rest while you can, this is just the beginning…
    Roses,WA

  9. Anonymous says:

    Oh hold up there Jeff,…were you dissing the Blackberry Storm???

  10. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that the Bush administration did a very poor job of planning for future Republican administrations to come. In fact, both Bush administrations have ushered in “Democrats-on-Demand” because of their lack of foresight. I’ve often said that we would not be in this mess today if Gore would have won the election, as much as I think that would have been a catastrophe all of in itself.

    Having said that, I’m convinced that the Democrats have worked diligently to orchestrate a complete collapse of the financial markets, because that’s the only way they ever get elected. Their goal is to create class envy and thereby present themselves as the benevolent saviors of the masses and deliver them from the evil Republican oppression (otherwise know as “less welfare – more jobs”).

    Unfortunately with a BHO administration, those that conspired in this debacle will get a pass and they’ll blame it on Bush until 2099, who by-the-way has not had the courage to stand up and tell it like it is, and point out those in Congress who have derailed America’s prosperity.

    I don’t know where this will stop, but I do know that we as a nation will never be the same. We’ll emerge on the other side of this, but we may not recognize what we have become.

    One extremely significant transformation that we’ve already encountered is the fact that our national media no longer tells the truth. Our MSM firewalls information and gives us doses of what they believe is best for us to know, so as to shape our minds. – Wow, scary! – I laugh when I hear people say…oh, communism, that will never happen here, we’re too powerful of a nation to be taken over by the communist – really? Hey, let me share a little secret with you…it’s already here… in our schools, in our colleges, and now in our MSM. – I’d suggest we all make a written list of our rights as Americans, and then begin to cross things off the list as the next 8 years go by.

  11. John says:

    Jeff,

    This article gets exactly to the message that I am trying to spread. My three daughters are going to love me and my wife just as much if they are dressed in Ralph Lauren as if they were dressed in a Walmart brand (at least for now; they are 4, 2 & 1).

    We are fortunate that we do not have to go without much. But this economic downturn has level set what really is important to us as a family. It's not the cars parked in our driveway or the over-priced organic fruit snacks in our pantry; but rather, the amount of quality time we spend with each other.

    Conservatives have fallen victim to Hollywood mainstream and it's time that we realign our political/social values with our own personal expenditures. What makes Louis Vuitton a more capable handbag than a $20 Buxton? That $12,000 purse you reference pays the endorsement salaries of people like Madonna, J. Lo and Uma Thurman. All which donate 100% of their political contributions to Democrat or Liberal causes.

    Look through your list of fashion/name brands and you would be lucky if you found a moderate in that group. We need to do everything we can stop spreading our conservative earned money to the pockets of far left liberals. I vow to educate myself before making purchases. I am going to support the companies that support the agendas that I support.

    If you would like to help me help Conservatives companies, please visit http://www.stopspreadingwealth.com. Help us build a database of Conservative businesses that we can support. From national retailers to the local grocery store; I want to limit how much money I put in Liberal hands. Over the next several months, I will enhance this site to track paid endorsements of Hollywood actors and the social agendas of company officers (i.e. Pro-Life, Gun Control) so that Conservatives can learn even more about the political alignment of these companies.

    Proud to be a Conservative American,

    John

  12. Anonymous says:

    I see two sides of the coin. If everyone stops buying like I have, the economy would be in worse shape. Seeing normalcy is a good thing, and for every pair of shoes someone buys, someone else keeps their job. On the flip side, most of the purchases are probably being made with over-extended plastic.

    Remember after 911 Bush told everyone to go shopping. He was criticized for this, but I think he was trying to create a feeling of normalcy and spur the economy, which is exactly what needs to be done now, IMHO.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Friends, speaking of recession and spending…keep in mind when you do go to the mall this holiday season, DO NOT reward those that have put us in the worst governmental crisis of America’s history. Below is a list of companies that are Obama supporters. Show them that you are in control of YOUR money and it won’t go to them. Also, keep the liberal Hollywood crowd in mind when going to the box office for the next 4 years. Liberal actors cannot survive when we refuse to reward their “liberalism” by buying tickets to their new movies. Join millions of Americans that love our country and join in the Obama supporter boycott, also know as “Obama-cott”

    It’s our money and we will decide where to spend it – thank you very much Mr. Liberal!!!

    List of Obama Supporters:
    http://sirjaxx.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/america-calls-for-a-boycott/

  14. Fernley Girl says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family. Your site is the first I visit each day, and I wish I could afford to donate but, for now, I am one of those careful Walmart shoppers.
    I read Donofrio was under FBI protection. I assume the only event that would initiate "protection" would be either a credible or actual threat on his life. However, to involve the FBI instead of the local police would seem to indicate intervention at the Federal level: SCOTUS? Your thoughts.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone heard anything about this guy that supposedly worked at the Hawaii department of HHS that claims to have seen Obama’s birth certificate and also claims it says Obama was born in Mombassa, Kenya?

    I’m not kidding, there is some guy out there that is actually claiming this, but I can’t find any articles on this. – I sthis a Hoax or is this guy for real?

  16. LAPTOPLIZARD says:

    Oddly enough my friend I had just the same type of day as you as far as the warm and fuzzy family thing. watched Cars again twice just cuz the kids wanted to. Quietest most peaceful day we have had here in awhile. We ALL need more of them.

    As for the shopping I have never been one to wait…however that is just what I am doing this year…gotta go with what ya got ya know?

    In my scanning of stores last week they seemed to all be pretty dead some nearly ghostly dead. Even the Best Buy which is always full was dead both times I went. I wonder just how bad the numbers will be this year not that they will effect me any…It just sure dont look like it did this time last year.

    You take MORE days like that. And be forewarned that if you keep this up until you are old enough and can prove who you are (ha ha) I for one am ready to give YOU my vote for POTUS.

    And ditto on all the Prayers and Thanks to your family for allowing you to keep us informed.
    Jackson TN

  17. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous #3,

    I get it! Great fun.

    What do you think?

    Storyteller?
    Bank teller?
    FORTUNE TELLER?

    There’s no tellin’

  18. Anonymous says:

    I lived in Chester County for a number of years before moving back to GA and I’m not surprised about the KoP mall. Come on, Jeff, you’re talking all the Main Line/VF Corporate Center shoppers here.

  19. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Anonymous said…

    Oh hold up there Jeff,…were you dissing the Blackberry Storm???

    Yeah. I fooled around with it for a few minutes, fondled it and typed on it. It seems alright, I guess, but I wasn’t blown away like I hoped to be.

    My guess is that the second generation will be much better.

    Jeff

  20. Anonymous says:

    Have you heard the radio interview on this link?

    http://www.freedommarch.org/FreedomMarch_Radio.html

    “Please listen to the Ambassador Dr. Alan Keyes’s Legal Counsel interview with Gary Kreep, Esq. Interview PART 2 (last one at the bottom – below)

    “The radio host is saying that he has a friend who works at a title research company in Hawaii who HAS seen the original Obama vault Birth Certificate – and it reads and states that he was born in Mombasa, Kenya. The statement is at about 17 minutes into the audio.

    “The host said they are trying to connect that person (his friend) with Gary Kreep, one of the attornies for Dr. Alan Keyes case here in California to obtain an affidavit in writing.”

  21. Lil says:

    Excellent post, Jeff! I’m glad you finally got to spend some time for yourself and your family!!

  22. Anonymous says:

    I live in NE Philly, and a few weeks ago I made my last major purchase (new shortwave radio) for the next 4 years (unless Obama get disqualified by SCOTUS.)

    I refuse to help this economy if he stays in, because if the economy improves, HE will get the credit and then he will be re-elected again.

    I’m part of a nationwide campaign called BE FRUGAL TO STOP OBAMA. We’ll be buying only absolute necessities (food, paying basic bills, etc). No going to movies, no luxuries, etc And no patrionizing any business that had an Obama sign in their window.

    I’m lucky in that I have always basically lived frugally (that’s what happens when you have parents who survived the Great Depression). My husband and kids are the one who need to learn frugality, but they’re all excited about doing this, because they hate Obama too.

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