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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Economy: The New Four-Letter Word

It's nearly inescapable, around every corner of every supermarket, gas station and workspace, as widespread as the Swine Flu or the California wildfires; no matter where you turn someone is talking about "The Economy". It's almost like a steamy Hollywood rumor or a new movie you saw during the coming attractions, "have you heard about 'The Economy'?", or maybe a viral video being passed around. For those of you who think I'm exaggerating, I've heard mention of it 3 times this morning in the 2 hours since I've been at work.

Throughout my life, I've heard about "The Economy" in many different stages and conditions. During the Clinton administration, I heard it described as "strong, stable, booming". I've heard about events that helped to "boost" the economy, like the Sammy Sosa/Mark McGuire home run battle that generated impressive memorabilia sales, until talk of steroids brought the game to its knees thanks to a washed-up former slugger with no code of honor and an empty bank account. Lately, words like "crumbling", and "sluggish" are heard regularly when talking about today's economy.

President Obama spoke of "The Economy" and the need for repair during his nomination speech, clearly stating that "it may not get done in one year, or even one term", yet people have the nerve to wonder why he hasn't made everyone rich in less than a year of office, when G.W. was given a full 8 years to do his damage. However, this is neither a rave about our current president or a rant against our "ex".

The economy, in my own interpretation, is a complex system of corporations and investors, and consumers, all buying into the collective force known as "The Economy". Political parties, such as the Democratic and Republican parties separate those who wish to help the rich stay rich from those in the working middle class who are trying to level the playing field a bit; at least that is my understanding of it. These political parties are really just grown-up versions of the same cliques we dealt with in school. The Republicans are the popular kids who drive nice cars and go to prom, and the Democrats are the kids that are picked on by the Republicans for being unpopular, uncool, and for coming from "working class" parents.

The economy is at its strongest when people are making purchases, spending money on the things that improve our everyday life. Black Friday, the infamous day after Thanksgiving which kicks off the holiday shopping season, is usually a good indicator of the strength of our economy. The new NRF's (National Retail Federation) Black Friday survey for 2009, conducted by BIGresearch, shows that 195 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 172 million last year. However, the average spending over the weekend dropped to $343.31 per person from $372.57 last year. There is some very simple logic involved in creating a strong economy, and it involves the percentage of American families who can afford to spend the kind of money that helps to boost our economy. Basically, there is an elite group of people who make enough money to put into our economy, beyond simple staples of living. According to a number of reports, less than 10% of the American population makes more 100K or more per year. That means that unless those people are out buying in bulk and making large purchases on a regular basis, the economy will never be strong because they are a "minority" among consumers.

In recent news, there is widespread criticism of President Obama's efforts to revive our economic situation, even though the housing market is already on the rebound thanks to the Homebuyer Tax Credit and its extension into June of 2010. For now, the upward climb of "The Economy" is slow but increasingly steady and hopefully in the new year pop culture events will reclaim their spotlight in break rooms across America.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Backyard Customs: Reader's Choice Winner 2009

The Sacramento News and Review hosts an annual "Best of Sacramento" issue with favorite picks of local businesses by readers and editors ranging from best smoothie to best pet salon. Being that I live in Folsom, I look to the Folsom/El Dorado Hills edition of Style Magazine for local favorites and they've just released their Reader's Choice 2009 Awards.

Backyard Customs, owned and operated by Jarrod Zehner, got the top award for "Best Landscaper" in the Reader's Choice issue. Jarrod left the corporate world a few years back to start the business, and that decision is obviously paying off. Backyard Customs offers a wide variety of services like design and installation, maintenance, fencing and concrete, water features and irrigation, and more. They even have a connection with John Deere Landscaping for financing options. The website offers great before/after shots of their previous jobs and is laid out well for easy navigation. When you're ready to transform your yard into a amazing retreat, or give your house the curb appeal it needs to fetch top dollar, be sure to call Backyard Customs and tell 'em SharkByte sent you!*

For the full list of Folsom/El Dorado Hills Style Reader's Choice 2009 winners, click HERE

*This is not a paid advertisement and any tracking is for the purpose of marketing research.