This obsession with these peripheral, inconsequential non-stories is a sign of our growing detachment from the real productive economy that was once the backbone of the economies of the developed first world nations.
The mainstream news websites are teeming with hand-wringing about the state of the Hollywood box office. Did you know that this past weekend was the slowest weekend box office since the week after the 9/11 attacks? No? Well you would if you were reading the Chicago Tribune, or the Detroit Free Press, or Bloomberg, or Breitbart, or the Sydney Morning Herald, or any of a million other publications.
Perhaps we are meant to take away the message that the economy must be bad because the only reason people could possible have for avoiding the latest Hollywood schlock is that they don't have enough money to shell out for a night at the movies with their family. However true that may or may not be, I think the real message is that when the MSM wants us to concentrate carefully on box office receipts and its possible implications for the economy, that's a sign in and of itself that the economy is not doing well.
This obsession with these peripheral, inconsequential non-stories is a sign of our growing detachment from the real productive economy that was once the backbone of the economies of the developed first world nations. No more do we talk about the fortunes of a GM or US Steel. Now it's Hollywood ticket sales and the latest iDevice that hogs the headlines. This is a testament to the fact that the real productive economy that used to make the American dream of three kids and a house in the suburbs come true for the average economy has long since been offshored. All that's left now are iPhone apps and McJobs.
The latest jobs report underscored this phenomenon. Everyone but the most deluded talking heads realized that the latest employment report was dismal. The forecast was for 225,000 new jobs in August. The reality? 142,000. But if we look under those numbers, it's even worse. Firstly there is the problem we've talked about before of the labor participation rate; namely, that however they want to cook the books by changing the meaning of the terms “employed” and “unemployed,” the actual percentage of the total population that is currently in the labor force has declined to nearly half-century lows in the years since the Lehman crash and are remaining in the doldrums. But secondly, there's a problem identified by the Washington Post: nearly one in three American workers is now a “freelancer.” And by “freelancer” they mean contractors, temps, and moonlighters “among others.” This fact tells us what we need to know about the current McJob economy and how far it has fallen from the days of industrial America.
So, look for the breathless reporting about iWatches and Hollywood ticket sales and Facebook valuations (it just hit $200 billion, don't you know) to increase in proportion to the decline of the real productive economy. And when you see these types of stories, just realize that you're reading about a symptom of a much more fundamental problem.