Patterico's Pontifications

12/25/2007

New York Times: MasterCard Reports Dissappointing Holiday Sales

Filed under: Economics — DRJ @ 1:52 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

In an article dated December 26, 2007 (but available online at 3:00 PM EST Christmas Day), The New York Times reports “bleak” holiday sales based on disappointing MasterCard charges:

“American consumers, uneasy about the economy and unimpressed by the merchandise in stores, delivered the bleak holiday shopping season retailers had expected, if not feared, according to one early but influential projection.

Spending between Thanksgiving and Christmas rose just 3.6 percent over last year, the weakest performance in at least four years, according to MasterCard Advisors, a division of the credit card company. By comparison, sales grew 6.6 percent in 2006, and 8 percent in 2005.

“There was not a recipe for a pick up in sales growth,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors, citing higher gas prices, a slowing housing market and a tight credit market.

Strong demand at the start of the season for a handful of must-have electronics, like digital frames and portable GPS navigation systems trailed off in December. And robust sales of luxury products could not make up for sluggish sales of jewelry and women’s clothing.

What did eventually sell was generally marked down — once, if not twice — which could hurt retailers’ profits in the final three months of year. “Stores are buying those sales at a cost,” said Sherif Mityas, a partner at the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, who specializes in retailing.”

However, online and luxury sales increased significantly:

MasterCard found that online spending rose 22.4 percent, a healthy, if not robust, showing, given fears that Web purchases would slow after a decade of impressive growth.

Clothing sales rose a meager 1.4 percent, but there was a stark split between genders. Sales for women’s apparel dropped 2.4 percent. Sales for men’s apparel rose 2.3 percent. Analysts said women complained of dreary fashions. “Even when the dust settles, women’s clothing is likely to be one of the weakest categories in retail this season,” said John D. Morris, senior retail analyst at Wachovia Securities.

Luxury purchases rose 7.1 percent, as the nation’s well-heeled splurged on $600 Marc Jacobs trench coats and $800 Christian Louboutin shoes. Footwear, at all prices, proved a bright spot for the clothing industry, with sales surging 6 percent.”

An increase of 22% is definitely robust by anyone’s evaluation. I’m sure the New York Times would be glad to see its ad rates and stock price increase 22%.

The article noted Target’s sales were weak while Wal-Mart and Best Buy were big winners. That makes me curious how the author knows – as stated in the first line of the article – that people didn’t use their MasterCards because they were unimpressed with the merchandise. Apparently they liked the merchandise at Wal-Mart and Best Buy. This illustrates why it’s hard to extrapolate MasterCard’s data to the US Christmas market and answer “Why?” questions based on solely on data.

Nevertheless, the author’s conclusion may be correct. Certainly one reason that supports his conclusion that people are uneasy about the economy is that more people have reached their credit card limits or are in default. There can be many reasons for credit card defaults, including not only the reasons mentioned in the Times’ article but also things like changes in federal bankruptcy law and the ready availability of credit. Easy credit lets people use credit cards to incur debt far beyond what they can reasonably repay, and more and more people are taking advantage of that kind of credit.

In addition, I think health care costs are a factor for some households. Even with health insurance, catastrophic medical events can devastate a family’s budget. The nature of our health care system makes it almost impossible to determine what treatment will cost until it’s completed, so people have no ability or incentive to evaluate whether the costs are worth incurring.

— DRJ

50 Responses to “New York Times: MasterCard Reports Dissappointing Holiday Sales”

  1. The nature of our health care system makes it almost impossible to determine what treatment will cost until it’s completed..

    Truer words were never spoken.

    steve (93b2d6)

  2. The problem with this article is that those are not inflation-adjusted numbers. In fact, this year saw a modest decline.

    Barbaro should really know better.

    fishbane (fbe4d4)

  3. The large malls I saw were still busy at 4:00 pm yesterday. I’m thinking more NY Times gloom and doom on the economy.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  4. “The large malls I saw were still busy at 4:00 pm yesterday.”

    And who are you going to believe? Aggregated nationwide statistics from the credit card industry, or your lying eyes?

    stef (1b0ec1)

  5. Aggregated nationwide stats from the credit card industry? That is one way to describe it. Or, one could describe a continual downward trend with MasterCard, which is only marginally better branded than Diners Club. Is using MasterCard an accurate indicator? Maybe, but count me in the column of the doubters. Now, if this article used nationwide numbers for Visa or American Express, I suspect that their conclusions and doom and gloom might carry more weight.

    I blame President Bush.

    JD (bad43f)

  6. Gee, maybe more than a few shoppers are paying cash!

    Another Drew (758608)

  7. Well, I know that the Master Cards that I have tend to have rather poor service, and they charged me something like five bucks when I ordered tickets online from Japan, so I stopped using ’em….

    Foxfier (97deae)

  8. To me this seems like the equivalent of forecasting poor auto sales nationwide based on poor performance by Buicks in the month of December in southern Alabama.

    JD (bad43f)

  9. I love how some observers can watch an economy that has for the sake of argument growth rate of a little over 3% and complains that spending doesn’t stay on a 6% growth rate.

    More likely the spread was caused in prior years by growing employment more than modest pay changes.

    Where would they expect the extra disposable income to be sourced from?

    daytrader (ea6549)

  10. Well this is purely anecdotal, but on the 23rd, when I started my Christmas shopping, I did a path between Fry’s, Best Buy and Circuit City in Plano, TX. At 10am Fry’s was busy, but not too crowded. At 10:30 Best Buy was so packed I had to circle the parking lot for a spot. At 10:50 circuit city’s parking lot across the street was barely half full.

    So my thoughts were, er, sell Circuit City short?

    Skip (c69414)

  11. I think the market has been doing so, Skip.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  12. “To me this seems like the equivalent of forecasting poor auto sales nationwide based on poor performance by Buicks in the month of December in southern Alabama.”

    The article doesn’t say, but i’d guess mastercard’s data extends to more than just southern alabama, and goes across brands and products.

    Luxury goods are doing well though. Must be more MSM lies.

    stef (beffb0)

  13. stef – I think you are missing the point. Since it is Christmas, I will assume that was accidental.

    Why should MasterCard be indicative?

    JD (bad43f)

  14. stef – My comment was an observation, so blow me. The NY Times has a history of trying to induce a recession in this country, they’ve been forecasting one each month of the last 51 of consecutive growth for this economy. Eventually they are going to be right. Will you finally cheer, stef.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  15. Had the NYT’s circulation increased by 3.6%, the NYT would anoint themselves masters of the universe.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  16. We all know that this is, and has been, the worst economy in the history of the United States. When Shrub leaves office, he will be the first President to reside over a net job loss, and he will have saddled the next President with crushing debt, a recession bordering on depression, and a quagmire in Iraq. How am I doing, Stef?

    JD (bad43f)

  17. Does anyone care if they have a MasterCard or Visa? I had no idea what my cards are until I just looked at them. I have Citibank(MasterCard), WaMu(Visa), Providian(Visa), Bank Of America(Visa), Chase(MasterCard), and AT&T Universal (MasterCard).

    I used my WaMu card this year. It’s a new card and I’ve decided to pay off the balance every month. I’m getting old. It didn’t use to bother me to owe $10,000 or more on credit cards. But as I get closer to retirement I guess it finally dawned on me that it is real money after all.

    Anybody who shops in a store during the holidays is nuts. You can get so many great deals online. Most of the time it’s free shipping, but even paying the shipping is worth it. I bought a lot of big stuff this year and most of it was shipped free. Even if it wasn’t free shipping I would have had to pay to have it delivered anyway.

    Oh, and most of it still had no sales tax. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone that part.

    nt250 (180411)

  18. stef – Maybe other people saw the same thing I saw:
    AP
    Last-Minute Buyers Give Retailers Relief
    Tuesday December 25, 10:45 am ET
    By Anne D’Innocenzio, AP Business Writer
    Last-Minute Shoppers Bring Relief to Retailers, Who Are Also Counting on Post-Christmas Season

    NEW YORK (AP) — Just weeks ago, the holiday shopping season seemed headed for disaster. But in the waning hours before Christmas, the nation’s retailers got their wish — a last-minute surge of shopping that helped meet their modest sales goals, according to data released late Monday by research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  19. “Why should MasterCard be indicative?”

    You miss my point. Its more indicative than what some people on this blog saw. Its a larger sample set, nationwide and across industries. But it is not random.

    “stef – My comment was an observation, so blow me.”

    all it takes for you to think ‘doom and gloom’ is your observation. very nice.

    “The NY Times has a history of trying to induce a recession in this country, they’ve been forecasting one each month of the last 51 of consecutive growth for this economy.”

    I’m not a new york times reader. Do you have a link to the last time they forecasted a recession?

    stef (e5e849)

  20. stef – All it takes for me to trade insults is to be insulted first. Nice comment about the lying eyes.

    I thought the liberal death star was required reading for you folks. You’ll have to do your own looking. They have perfected the art of the “but.” As in the administration released stronger than expected economic statistics for the most recent period, but most observers expect weakness in……Look for it, you’ll find it. The 51 refers to months. I left a word out.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  21. “Nice comment about the lying eyes.”

    Its from the Simpsons. Perhaps elsewhere too. “who you gonna believe, me? or your lying eyes.” I must admit that I do not know if it is meant for the point that eyes do lie, by presenting anecdotal evidence.

    “You’ll have to do your own looking.”

    You told me they forecasted it every month for the past 5q. I dont know why not 50, or 52. You haven’t seen one lately? In what format do they publish these forecasts? With the stocks? In the editorial pages? News?

    stef (57aa5a)

  22. Do you have a link to the last time they forecasted a recession?

    This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but Googling “Krugman and Recession” results in many links analyzing Paul Krugman’s frequent and wrong predictions of economic disaster.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  23. Here’s a good one that is fairly typical, although now the Times can point to the mortgage market as an additional bogey man. With low inflation, low unemployment, continued economic growth, hyping these fears as the Times has for the past four years is like an elderly person leaving the turn signal on for an eventual left turn.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/weekinreview/25goodman.html?

    Go Figure
    The U.S. Economy: Trying to Guess What Happens Next

    By PETER S. GOODMAN
    Published: November 25, 2007
    YOU need not be a Wall Street chieftain to feel the anxiety that has wrapped its arms around the American economy. The stock market seems locked in a downward spiral as one bank after another suffers its day of reckoning with bad mortgages. Companies are sharply cutting profit forecasts as the sense takes hold that American consumers are finally too loaded with debt to buy the next flat-screen television. The dollar has fallen to inglorious depths, turning Manhattan department stores into something like a Tijuana street market for Germans. One unpleasant word hovers large: recession.

    Dot Earth Blog: Growing Pains in Pursuit of Happiness (November 25, 2007) How bad could things get? Pretty bad, say many economists. Not so bad that your grandfather’s prescriptions for enduring the Great Depression need dusting off, but nasty enough to force many Americans to get reacquainted with living within their means. That could make life uncomfortable. It may also be an unavoidable step toward purging the United States and the global economy of a major source of instability — an unhealthy dependence on the willingness of American consumers to keep buying even as debt mounts. Concerns that Americans must eventually grow thrifty, leaving factories from Guangzhou to Guatemala City scrambling for buyers, now sows unease around the world.

    It is worth bearing in mind that the American economy has a history of unexpected resilience in the face of supposedly grim prospects. Moreover, some parts of the economy are enjoying good times, notably farmers able to cash in on the making of ethanol. That said, most economists think the American economy is headed for a significant slowdown, as housing prices keep falling, consumers grow tight, and businesses cut investments.

    The Federal Reserve last week said it expected the economy to grow 1.6 percent to 2.6 percent next year, a stark contrast from the 3.9 percent rate registered in the most recent quarter. Some see signs of a worst-case scenario — a severe recession that would feature a plummeting stock market, a lower dollar and the loss of many jobs. That would make for an unpleasant year or two for Americans from most walks of life. It would probably drag down the world economy, as Americans put off purchases of everything from computers made in China to Italian-produced sports cars.

    The most bearish indulge frighteningly gloomy tones. “The evidence is now building that an ugly recession is inevitable,” declared Nouriel Roubini, an economist who was among the first to warn of the dangers of a real estate downturn, writing last week on his blog, the Global EconoMonitor. “When the United States sneezes the rest of the world gets the cold. And since the United States will not just sneeze, but is risking a serious case of protracted and severe pneumonia, the rest of the world should start to worry about a serious viral contagion.”

    Most economists are not so pessimistic. The most likely outcome envisioned by many is a slowdown or a mild recession. That would increase unemployment somewhat, and it would keep the stock market in the doldrums, but it would probably not be severe enough to significantly crimp economies abroad. And while it would impose pain, some see in this more moderate path a way to fix the imbalances in world trade that are at the center of fears of a great unraveling.
    ……………………………………..

    daleyrocks (906622)

  24. “Here’s a good one that is fairly typical”

    If its fairly typical, then it disproves your point. That article doesn’t forecast recession.

    stef (69c7b9)

  25. The most likely outcome envisioned by many is a slowdown or a mild recession.

    Last para.

    Foxfier (97deae)

  26. Pretty equivocal. “most economistss” see a slowdown or mild recession ahead. As for whats the NYT’s own voice, its even more so:

    “So, for better or worse, Americans and countries whose prosperity is tied to Americans’ spending are apparently headed into uncharted territory: We are about to find out what happens when the easy money runs out.”

    I do want our press to be critical of state of our ecomony. But this is weak.

    stef (60ea9a)

  27. stef, please show us then where in the example article the author talks at all about a stable economy, much less a good one…

    I’m having trouble with my English tonight….

    reff (99666d)

  28. “stef, please show us then where in the example article the author talks at all about a stable economy, much less a good one…”

    The economy isn’t stable. The article seems a pretty middling summary of various forces at work — including some that are doing well. The key force ahead being the credit / housing collapse. Some people might be doing good, but how that plays out isn’t going to be good. Thats not forecasting a recession.

    I think folks are more concerned to maintain their bias against the NYT than with seeing just how basic that article is. It even contains some equally middling cheerleading: “It is worth bearing in mind that the American economy has a history of unexpected resilience in the face of supposedly grim prospects.”

    stef (49a79c)

  29. stef – The banner graphic on the article is the word recession in giant red print. It’d pretty plain to me. Shall I hunt for some more?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  30. But, stef, NO ONE in the article spoke of anything but a “bad” economy….so, my point is correct…

    But, unemployment is down, wages are up, inflation is in check by all standards, and, is it possible that many people didn’t use credit cards (I didn’t for the first time in my 27 year marriage, and I don’t have more than about 2K in credit card debt) because others, like me, just chose to use cash instead….

    Which would also mean the NYT, which all but never seems to talk about a good economy since Clinton left office (wonder if there is some conspiracy there???) might just be bias against….

    What??? Actually saying something good about the economy???

    Now, think about the facts in the article: sales are up 3.6 percent over last year on Master Cards sales. Sales on-line are also up 22 percent. AND, it seems that Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which would be considered places that the working poor would use, are up in sales….so, money is being spent in the lower economic levels, which must mean they have some to spend….

    I take the same information and say that, spending is up, and while not as much as in previous years, it is still up, which says that the consumer is not afraid to spend…(as opposed to spending being 3.6 percent lower than last year, which would signal a bad economy, right???)

    That is a good sign, isn’t it???

    But, according to the tone and the intent of the article, this is bad….

    reff (99666d)

  31. Krugman’s fearless forecast for 2007.

    http://select.nytimes.com/2006/12/01/opinion/01krugman.html?hp

    His conclusion:
    How serious a slump is the bond market predicting? Pretty serious. Right now, statistical models based on the historical correlation between interest rates and recessions give roughly even odds that we’re about to experience a formal recession. And since even a slowdown that doesn’t formally qualify as a recession can lead to a sharp rise in unemployment, the odds are very good — maybe 2 to 1 — that 2007 will be a very tough year.

    Luckily, we’ve got good leadership for the coming economic storm: the White House is occupied by a man who’s ideologically flexible, listens to a wide variety of views, and understands that policy has to be based on careful analysis, not gut instincts. Oh, wait.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  32. Liberals have been bearish on the economy since rhe end of 2001, when we came out of the last recession. We’ve had something like 24 consecutive quarters of economic growth yet the economy remains an issue for many Americans in spite of wage growth, low unemployment and other statistics. I blame relentless negativity from the liberal media, much like their coverage of the Iraq war.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  33. I’ve made a lot of money betting the opposite of whatever Krugman claims about the economy/market.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. “Or, one could describe a continual downward trend with MasterCard…”,

    Just maybe that’s why the NYT used Mastercard’s figures. They just might be the worts they could find.

    davod (5bdbd3)

  35. “stef – The banner graphic on the article is the word recession in giant red print. It’d pretty plain to me. ”

    And its under “trying to guess what happens next.” If you read the article, then you realize they don’t really take a position other than that some pain is coming ahead.

    “But, stef, NO ONE in the article spoke of anything but a “bad” economy….so, my point is correct…”

    They did say that agriculture was looking up.

    A bad economy doesn’t forecast a recession. We’ve got some pain coming ahead as the credit and housing boom collapse. The question is how worse its going to get. I don’t see the NYT forecasting a recession there.

    “But, unemployment is down, wages are up, inflation is in check by all standards”

    The economic cycle is peaking. Though it looks like real weekly earnings fell in 2007:

    “Average weekly earnings rose by 3.8 percent, seasonally adjusted, from November 2006 to November 2007. After deflation by the CPI-W, average weekly earnings decreased by 0.8 percent.”

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/realer.pdf

    Inflation may be in check “by all standards” but its still large enough to erode all earnings gains. Note how that nominal wage gain is the same as the number that mastercard reports? So if you deflate that, you get drop in sales in inflation adjusted terms.

    You’re fishing for good news. The economy is not in a recession. But it is slowing from the credit/housing boom.

    stef (2ed38c)

  36. “stef – The banner graphic on the article is the word recession in giant red print. It’d pretty plain to me. ”

    And its under “trying to guess what happens next.” If you read the article, then you realize they don’t really take a position other than that some pain is coming ahead.

    “But, stef, NO ONE in the article spoke of anything but a “bad” economy….so, my point is correct…”

    They did say that agriculture was looking up.

    A bad economy doesn’t forecast a recession. We’ve got some pain coming ahead as the credit and housing boom collapse. The question is how worse its going to get. I don’t see the NYT forecasting a recession there.

    “But, unemployment is down, wages are up, inflation is in check by all standards”

    The economic cycle is peaking. Though it looks like real weekly earnings fell in 2007:

    “Average weekly earnings rose by 3.8 percent, seasonally adjusted, from November 2006 to November 2007. After deflation by the CPI-W, average weekly earnings decreased by 0.8 percent.”

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/realer.pdf

    Inflation may be in check “by all standards” but its still large enough to erode all earnings gains. Note how that nominal wage gain is the same as the number that mastercard reports? So if you deflate that, you get drop in sales in inflation adjusted terms.

    You’re fishing for good news. The economy is not in a recession. But it is slowing from the credit/housing boom. Its slowing from a boom/recovery that has created jobs and wage gains, but proportionally fewer job and wage gains than previous cycles.

    stef (2ed38c)

  37. “stef – The banner graphic on the article is the word recession in giant red print. It’d pretty plain to me. ”

    And its under “trying to guess what happens next.” If you read the article, then you realize they don’t really take a position other than that some pain is coming ahead.

    “But, stef, NO ONE in the article spoke of anything but a “bad” economy….so, my point is correct…”

    They did say that agriculture was looking up.

    A bad economy doesn’t forecast a recession. We’ve got some pain coming ahead as the credit and housing boom collapse. The question is how worse its going to get. I don’t see the NYT forecasting a recession there.

    “But, unemployment is down, wages are up, inflation is in check by all standards”

    The economic cycle is peaking. Though it looks like real weekly earnings fell in 2007:

    “Average weekly earnings rose by 3.8 percent, seasonally adjusted, from November 2006 to November 2007. After deflation by the CPI-W, average weekly earnings decreased by 0.8 percent.”

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/realer.pdf

    Inflation may be in check “by all standards” but its still large enough to erode all earnings gains. Note how that nominal wage gain is the same as the number that mastercard reports? So if you deflate that, you get drop in sales in inflation adjusted terms.

    You’re fishing for good news. Just look at it honestly. The economy is not in a recession. But it is slowing from the credit/housing boom. Its slowing from a boom/recovery that has created jobs and wage gains, but proportionally fewer job and wage gains than previous cycles.

    stef (23c2b4)

  38. Now why would any one read that rag.
    ALL news papers are just outhouse fodder.
    I read the local town paper and do all my news search on the net.
    By the way, I used a VISA Debit card.

    dimitri (da8aed)

  39. From Mastercard, huh? Interesting. When I shopped for gifts via Amazon this X-mas season, I used the bank check option, i.e., providing the bank routing and account numbers along the bottom of my checks. Amazon encourages that only by way of suggesting that if this transaction method is used significantly, Amazon will be able to lower prices and that sounds good to me.

    Dusty (e28a9f)

  40. JD #16…
    Your astute observations of the current economy make you elegible for a senior editorship in economics at the NYT. Please play nice with Paul;

    dalayrocks…
    I think “lying eyes” originated in a 30’s Marx-
    Bros. movie, but I’m open to correction, unlike;

    stef…
    Is this another acronym for alphie/blah/???

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  41. Had the NYT’s circulation increased by 3.6%, the NYT would re-anoint themselves masters of the universe.

    There, fixed that for you.

    Actual (3b18c4)

  42. Actually, I just noticed this isn’t data from mastercard sales, but a number calculated by Mastercard Advisors, their analytics arm. I’m guessing they do have access to mastercard data at leats. If they’re worth their salt, they’re also correcting this to try to get population-wide statistics.

    But maybe mastercard has a liberal bias.

    stef (fc2202)

  43. stef,

    I think it’s safe to assume MasterCard Advisors is using MasterCard data. However, I don’t see how it would have access to proprietary information from other sources unless there is some kind of shared data agreement, and that seems unlikely for competitive reasons and antitrust laws.

    Of course, they would have access to public information from other sources and some of that is starting to leak out. It seems to confirm the MasterCard numbers, including that some retailers did better than others and online sales were excellent. (I know I bought almost everything online this year.)

    DRJ (09f144)

  44. Although the study is prepared by the analytics arm of Mastercard, you have to read the actual text of the article to understand that the estimate uses Mastercard charges as a base.

    “It is based on purchases made by more than 300 million MasterCard debit and credit card users and broader estimates of spending with cash and checks. It encompasses sales at stores, on the Internet, of gift cards, gasoline and meals at restaurants.”

    daleyrocks (906622)

  45. “However, I don’t see how it would have access to proprietary information from other sources unless there is some kind of shared data agreement, and that seems unlikely for competitive reasons and antitrust laws.”

    What I’m saying is that they probably have figured out how take their proprietary data (mastercard, and whatever they buy / trade for) and transform it so that they have a gauge of general economic activity.

    But maybe they also apply a liberal bias multiplier.

    stef (23c2b4)

  46. The NY Times characterized the sales as disappointing, not Mastercard, if you read the article.

    I’m sure Mastercard has developed algorithms to translate mastercard charges into overall retail charges over time, just as the NY Times has developed formulas to ignore significant upward revisions of GNP (see 3rd Quarter 2007) during republican administrations and to spin positive news releases into impending doom.

    daleyrocks (c960ea)

  47. I saw an interview tonight of four business writers for the major papers in LA, Phila, KC and Detroit. The interviewer kept asking in various ways, it’s bad isn’t it, when do you see the recession coming?

    The answers were 1) KC’s doing great, no housing crisis, great farm prices, export boom with cheap dollar; 2) Phila’s doing fine, diverse economy, no major problems; 3) LA’s OK, real estate is down, but rest of economy is good, low unemployment; and 4) Detroit is bad, bad housing market, bad auto industry, very bad.

    But 1 out of 4 does not a recession make. The consensus was that jobs are the critical factor – as long as employment holds, no recession. One of the writers noted that recessions were often driven by psychology (scare mongering). He cited and old joke that the last 10 recessions were predicted 100 times.

    JayHub (0a6237)

  48. “The nature of our health care system makes it almost impossible to determine what treatment will cost until it’s completed…”

    I’ll say. I second the point that it’s not a question of if but when and for how before long a typical family will incur debt when serious illness strikes.

    I have one of the best health plans in the US through my union. Last year out of the blue my previously healthy husband was diagnosed with cancer. He’s covered under my policy but at the beginning due to various red tape issues he opted to pay his own cash for a single MRI scan.
    Funny thing: upon being informed that he was paying cash the folks at the hospital summarily cut the cost of the scan in half-half-on the spot(we’re still talking a 4 figure bill).
    I’m sure there must be some logical reason a Plan would be billed double what John Doe would be expected to pay out of his own bank account, but I’m damned if I know what it is. It just seems so…arbitrary. Strange, isn’t it?

    Sorry to digress to such an extent–but I certainly get a very uneasy feeling about the fiscal outlook for 2008 and beyond. I sincerely hope I’m wrong for all our sakes.

    Mrs. Moto (f9a456)

  49. Just for the record, reports of weak sales were not a Mastercard/NYTimes anti-Bush conspiracy.

    Christmas sales tanked, down in real terms from 2006.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  50. Let me see…I filled my tank for $62.00 hmmmm…

    I notice deisel fuel was $3.27 gal. and all those damn products were on a truck… gee willickers Batman, can we say duhhhhhhhhhh JM

    Manson48 (f19dd6)


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