Morning Must Reads: Tough Times Discounted Salmon Versus High Anxiety

Bruce Bartlett this morning discusses the tendency for very high-income households to get press when they have fallen on hard times. 

It’s hard to feel sorry for people who may have saved almost nothing during their prosperous years and made 50 percent more than the median family income of $13,000 in 1974. But the urge to find ways to pity the well-off is still alive and well.

Last week, Bloomberg News reported that declining bonuses are creating severe hardship for many in the top 1 percent of income distribution. One of them, Andrew Schiff, complained that his $350,000 salary barely covers his expenses. Others lamented that they could no longer go to Aspen to ski and must buy discount salmon.

So if the Masters of the Universe are upset over having to buy discounted salmon, how are the 99% feeling? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provides a glimpse into the feelings of the 99% with a profile of a report produced by a Pittsburgh-based firm that conducts in-depth interviews on how the economy is making people feel in order to help marketers craft better sales pitches.

A Pittsburgh market research firm wanted to get beyond the grind of economic numbers that roll in daily, numbers that offer an analytical view on the sometimes messy business of jobs, homes, pay and spending that help determine how Americans really live.

"I find a lot of those statistics kind of bloodless," said Gerald Zaltman, co-founder of Olson Zaltman Associates, in a phone interview on Friday.

Images that the firm's research subjects — a diverse collection of 28 Americans, ages 25 to 65 with household incomes between $25,000 and $150,000, from places such as Boston, Kansas City, Dallas and Pittsburgh — brought in to illustrate how they felt about the economy showed a lot of stress.

Basically, the researchers found, many citizens in the land of the free aren't feeling easy. They're feeling trapped, discouraged, resentful and fearful — at least when they think too much about their personal financial situations and that of the country.

"It's not that they dwell on it all day long," Mr. Zaltman said. It would be difficult to survive or function well obsessing about paying for college or the nation's economic difficulties or having to shop at dollar stores and skip vacations. But the struggle is wearing on them.

The extended quotes in this slideshow (PDF) from Olson Zaltman Associates provide quite a contrast to the Bloomberg story that Bruce Bartlett references:

“I’m in a hole…I feel like for me and my family it’s a never ending pile of debt that keeps coming down on top of us and we’re trying to climb our way out but everything keeps going wrong and it’s hard. It feels like a brick, like the lady sitting at the desk with all the collection sitting on top of your head and your brain and weighing you down.”

It has been a while (a week) since I have heard an industry association claim employers can't find workers, but I'm sure it is just a matter of time. Consider this story from McClatchy Newspapers a preemptive strike on that kind of nonsense. Flooded with a mountain of job applications, larger employers are moving to using computers to narrow the pool of job applicants.

Technological advances, reliance on computers to scan resumes, and staff cutbacks in human resource offices are causing most large companies to use computers for a first read of submitted resumes...

“That’s what a computer pulls out. It’s not whether the person has the skills. It’s whether they’ve tailored their resume to the job they’re going after,” [said Jonathan Ciampi, president of Preptel Corp.]

Suppose a sales manager posting says they’re looking for someone with cross-functional sales team experience.

Every legitimate applicant will have “sales manager” experience on the resume, but that cross-functional phrase better be on it too. The art is not just copying the posted requirements, but artfully blending the words with one’s actual experience...

The average job applicant, [Ciampini] said, has a 4 to 5 percent chance of getting a “hit” from a computer selection process. With resume optimization, he said, the chances improved to 50 percent in a test his company ran last year.

The Patriot News comes out in favor of closing tax loopholes.


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