Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oxymoronic Announcements

Today's post is inspired from yesterday's Conference Board press release, announcing that the Consumer Confidence Index for April jumped to 54.9 from 40.8 in March. Here is a relevant passage: "Continued gains in the Present Situation Index indicate that current conditions have moderately improved, and growth in the second quarter is likely to be less negative than in the first" (italics added).

Now, what the heck kind of language is this? It certainly doesn't qualify as proper English, since "negative growth" is an outright oxymoron. What the establishment's perennial cheerleaders are attempting is to couch their statements in as anodyne a language as possible. It wouldn't be as obfuscatory and deceiving to simply say, for example: "The US economy is in decline but next quarter it may drop a bit less fast".

In any case, the context is entirely misleading. The Present Situation Index hardly budged: it increased from 25.5 to 28.9. The headline index moved sharply up almost entirely because the Expectations Index rose from 51.0 to 72.3. In other words, HOPE. (By the way, that's the broad category under which "green shoots" appear, as well.)

For a less massaged message, therefore, here are charts of the indeces - pictures being worth a thousand words, and all..
  • The headline confidence index jumped nicely in April..
  • .. but people assessed their present condition as quite awful (that's also known as the real economy)...
  • .. instead, all that happened was that their expectations (hopes) for the future jumped massively.

Well, good luck with that, because hope does not buy groceries or pay the mortgage. And it can't be used as collateral to increase borrowing, either.


  1. When MY hopes occasionally were oxymoronic, my mama had this little figure of speech :
    "People in hell want icewater, too."

    A picture is NOT worth a thousand words.
    Because the WORDS are behind the pictures, still.
    You just have to flush them out. They're there.

    I love oxymorons, by the way. Shakespeare is great at them. They are... BAROQUE. Fitting for our baroque age.

    What is evident in the terribly unpoetic jargon that the economisters spew out at industrial speed (now that our industry is just a memory, right ?) is that it is designed to allow us to fool ourselves all the way to the bankstie.

    The bankstie, which is the modern day equivalent of the pleasure dome that Kubla Khan erected in Coleridge's poem.

    We need to be investing our precious, not to be squandered HOPE in something besides consumer spending and the status quo.

  2. What most people do not realize is that the Main Spin Media has been just that since 1915.

    Yes, right after the Fed coup they knew that without the media enabling them their victory would be short.

    The masses in the US have been sold down the river by the FED/Media and it is now coming home to roost as the FED enters into demise.

    Joe M.

  3. Joe,

    I do not think the masses have been sold down the river; they've more or less boarded the boats for the ride down the river. How many folks do you who refuse the gov's handouts? Who returned Bush's $600 stimulus check? Who do not take their SS? Who decline to use medicare? Many of us all too readily look to a king to save us.

  4. Our age is one of tremendous dishonesty. That is what our age may best at, lying. We are dishonest with ourselves first, and consequently with others. In a very real sense, Hell's blog is a record of dishonesty as it manifests in the financial realm.

    The truth will out, though not always in a timely fashion.

  5. r u sure I can incorporate as a bank holding company and exchange my securitized hope for TALF funds?

  6. Amen Edwardo, amen.

    Don't know why I forget to add it to my ever growing bubble list:

    #5- Dishonesty too ourselves.


  7. I beg to differ with you guys' analysis on this one.
    Qualifying our behavior as dishonesty, and lying to ourselves is a great PART of our problem.
    Believing the stories that THEY tell us is not dishonesty. It is credulity.
    Think about this one.
    By qualifying what's going on as LYING to ourselves (le fameux mauvaise foi de Sartre), we still manage to maintain the ILLUSION of CONTROL over our behavior which lying implies. Lying is CONSCIOUS behavior.
    But... our behavior is neither conscious nor willfull.
    Freud well understood that our greatest humiliation came with the realization that we do NOT control our behavior, and that we most often ACT first, then find post facto reasons to justify our acts.
    We are sophisticated animals, but animals nevertheless.
    Too bad that we collectively SHIT SO MUCH ON ANIMALS that our perception of ourselves as animals is thus depraved...
    (And shutting up animals in those no risk zoos we have is shitting on them too. It just LOOKS nicer, that's all...)

  8. Tsst, tsst, mea culpa, I made a GENDER error in the last comment. Should read "la fameuse mauvaise foi".
    Not that you guys are sensitive to gender errors, huh ? LOL (Is that what they're called in English ?)

  9. Hell, you were expecting relative $ strength a few months ago.

    Time to reassess, now it's clear the trickery is getting deeper and wider?

  10. Roger, The "masses" depend on "professionals" to look out for their well being. They depend on doctors to help them when they are sick. Politicians to deal with affairs of state. Bankers to manage with financial needs.

    The system was imperfect but we muddled through. Something is breaking down. I think TV has reached a point of efficiency and power that cannot be overcome. Logic and reason is out the window and bullshit is king (ref. Dick Cheney's bullshit).

    But to criticize the "masses" for taking a $600 stimulus check is like criticizing a rape victim for taking cab fare from the perpetrator to get out of a bad neighborhood.

  11. " criticizing a rape victim for taking cab fare from the perpetrator to get out of a bad neighborhood."

    That is a good analogy for what has happened to the savings and prospects of the unaware masses but it will be interesting to see if and how they will react once they fully realize their predicament and how they got there.

  12. No comment on $ strength?