Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Experts Don't Know What's Going to Happen...

...but they kind of agree about what did happen. A panel put together by the New York Review of Books was held on April 30, 2009 @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The discussion was transcribed in its latest issue (6/11/09), How To Deal With the Crisis. The panel included such luminaries as Bill Bradley (U.S. Senator-NJ (D) 1979-1997; managing director at merchant bank Allen & Co.), Niall Ferguson (Professor of History @ Harvard, Senior Fellow @ Hoover Institute), Paul Krugman (but of course, just awarded the Nobel last year), Nouriel ("Dr. Doom") Roubini, doomsayer extraordinaire (Distinguished Professor of Economics @ NYU Stern School of Biznez and Chairman of RGE Monitor, George Soros (Chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC, well-known macroeconomic trend cruncher and legacy builder, who is distinctly unhappy with the "free market paradigm"--I think if he met John Galt, he'd spit in his eye) and Robin Wells (who co-authored the book Economics with Paul Krugman and made some very astute comments herself.

Ferguson joisted with Krugman, especially about the potential hyperinflationary effects of the government's printing money, not specifically regarding backing up all the bad debt in the financial system but decrying the fiscal stimulus. On the other hand, Paul (who believes that all this talk about hyperinflation is a way to wage war against further stimulus) despaired for the near future of ordinary Americans, which is 99.9% of all of us who are being laid off to the tune of 600,000+ per month.

I thrilled to Paul's thundering words:

The other thing not to miss is the importance of a strong social safety net. By most accounts, most projections say that the European Union is going to have a somewhat deeper recession this year than the United States. So in terms of macromanagement, they're actually doing a poor job, and there are various reasons for that: the European Central Bank is too conservative, Europeans have been too slow to do fiscal stimulus. But the human suffering is going to be much greater on this side of the Atlantic because Europeans don't lose their health care when they lose their jobs. They don't find themselves with essentially no support once their trivial unemployment check has fallen off. We have nothing underneath. When Americans lose their jobs, they fall into the abyss. That does not happen in other advanced countries, it does not happen, I want to say, in civilized countries.

In all the millions of words (along with the trillions of dollars) printed about this re/de/pression started December 2007, the pundits often overlook human suffering.

Niall became sarcastic, invoking the "lessons" of the 1970s:

The lesson of economic history is very clear. Economic growth does not come from state-led infrastructure investment. It comes from technological innovation, and gains in productivity, and these things come from the private sector, not from the state.

What could be more technologically innovative than synthetic CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) built according to mathematical models based on highly fallible projections? Or credit default swaps? Or securitization? And everyone agrees they are at the heart of this horrible economic disintegration.

As far as productivity goes, well, when you fire 4 out of 5 people in a company, that one person has to pick up the slack and eureka! productivity soars. So don't worry, Niall. Unemployment will continue to grow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Only Value: Credibility

In an age where everyone is a sell-out, the only value becomes credibility. It's so rare.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Teach Me To Communicate to the Internet Generation

I am totally out of touch. After becoming a casualty of the Re/Depression (my consultancy was lopped off the FY 2010 budget), I decided to utilize my lengthy career placement background and academic prowess (I graduated with top honors in English from college with a 1390 SAT dating back decades). I'd help people get jobs and tutor high school students in the SATs and edit college or graduate school papers with grammar and coherence in mind. So far my clients have gotten As. I didn't go whole hog and sign up with an online broker to write the term papers myself for a hefty fee.

However, I'm having difficulty communicating by email with prospective clients. This is a standard email exchange from a youngster in response to my ad:

hey my name is [young person] and ii saw your ad for career advisement and was just interested in knowing what you can do for me??
thank you for your time and ii will be waiting for your reply.

So I respond:

I can help you write your resume, cover letter, and thank you note. We can practice job interviewing (very important). I can teach you how to search
for jobs and network. I have a lot of experience in this area.

You let me know what you need. My name is [Cassandra].

He writes back:

ii juss need a job.. basically.. I have a resume and everything

So I put the pedal to the metal [that probably ages me, too]:

I can look over your resume and see if it'll lead you to a job. Does it
display your qualifications well? Do you tell potential employers what you
can do for them? What kind of job are you looking for? You have to sell
yourself in a different way for a different kind of job. If you want an
office job, what kind of computer skills do you have? If you want a sales
job, how are you in person or on the phone? If you want a retail job, are
you good in customer service? Are you a team player? Do you have any
professional experience?

After you figure out the answers to these questions, then you can go to
internet job search engines, upload your resume and check it out.

And he comes back with:

okay well maybe you can help me, I'm 19 years old attending CUNY York
College in jamaica. I have experience in hospitality, considering the fact
that ii worked in a restaurant in manhattan as a Banquet busser/waiter. I
attended Queens Vocational Technical High School and gained experience in
electrical installation, therefore I have basic knowledge in the
electrical field. I received my Regents diploma and completed internship
in electrical installation, in college my major is Physicians Assistant,
I'm trying to pursue a career in the medical field. I have my license for
Phlebotomy and EKG tech. I am certified by NHA and am currently doing
Internship at a medical office in elmhurst queens.
If any of these qualities are helpful to obtain a job, please contact
me and I seriously need help finding a job especially during these tought
times. I will be awaiting a reply. thank you.

I reply:

You have a lot of education and experience that can be presented well to a potential employer. I have some ideas for you. This is the way I work: I
meet with you and go over your employment materials, focusing on how you can
put your best foot forward to make the most of the chances you get. Most
resumes and cover letters are not very good or effective. Most people have
no idea how to act in a job interview. One mistake can change an employer's

I've been doing this for a long time. Consider it an investment in your
future. My fee is $20 per hour for students.

And the coup de grace (his response):

lol no thank you..

I am a dinosaur reared on reading books, absorbed in their meaning, soaking in language. I've placed all sorts and sizes of people in jobs, including executives and those with disabilities (known as "barriers to employment"]. I come with a pedigree. But I am out of touch with the prevailing winds.

I'm not saying I have to dumb down. But I have been doing this work for a few months now and I constantly say to myself (aside from "Stop talking to yourself!"), will this person be put off by proper grammar? Or words like "available"? Or punctuation without emoticons ):?

How can I learn to write blog? Or email? Or IM? Should I forget everything I've learned? Should the Constitution be rewritten according to Twitter, to make it comprehensible to the majority?

I'm not saying I'm impervious to the degradation of anonymous immediacy provided by the internet. I'm much more impatient, nay, impulsive, telling the computer "c'mon!" as it boots up too slowly for me, tossing off a retort with a click of the SEND button rife with spelling errors and tortured meaning. I haven't written anything in a haze of drunken vengeance. But the shame!