We’re swirling around in a weird, high-tech inflationary race to the bottom, and if one wants to come out on top after the economic collapse…
(by Half Dollar) In a weird way, we’re all in one great big giant inflationary race to the bottom.
Let me give just one example: The washing machine.
About 20 years ago, Wifey and I purchased our first washing machine. I don’t remember the specific brand, although I do remember it was an off-brand, white in color, and I kinda-sorta remember other details. We were renting our first apartment shortly after getting married, and we hated going to the coin-operated laundromat on those hot, humid North Carolina summer days where the laundromat had no air conditioning, where the commercial dryers were always in use, operating at full heat while full of damp clothes, and where the actual act of doing the laundry was more like a profusely sweated workout rather than time spent cleaning something. And need I mention the stench from a dozen or so large, sweaty people inside the laundromat, a stench which made one question whether the clothes were actually even getting clean in the first place?
Nonetheless, we were both working our butts off at two jobs each in order to save up for a down payment on our first house, and perhaps to buy some furniture, and we really hated the time spent going to and fro, as well as the time spent at the laundromat itself, and since the tiny one-bedroom apartment had washer and dryer hook-ups, we could more than justify the purchase of a washer (and dryer) by the time saved going to the laundromat alone, not to mention the bump in productivity we’d enjoy due to our newfound ability to multitask.
Now, we didn’t really have any “credit”, so to say, but we both had two low-paying jobs, and Best Buy was offering 0.0% on appliances for a term of two years, and yes, that was some 20 years ago. Best Buy approved us for just enough to qualify for a washer and a dryer, and the price came to about $800 for the pair, if I recall correctly. Perhaps it was closer to $900 with taxes and delivery, but the point is we got both, delivered, and I’m pretty sure they came with all of the water lines/power cords necessary for hook-up because I do not recall purchasing them at the time.
We purchased our second home in 2012 in El Paso, Texas. The Federal Government was building out Fort Bliss in general, and brand new houses were both cheap and well equipped, so to say. In fact, the house we purchased included landscaping, which meant we got to choose the size and color of rocks we wanted for our front yard, with the option to pay a little more and get some sweet additional brick and stone pathways and walkways, the house included an alarm system with some bells & whistles, and the purchase of the house even came with a brand new Sanyo 40” LCD TV that I didn’t even know about until the real estate agent told me to swing by the office and pick it up, and, of course, the brand new house came with a brand new washer and a brand new dryer.
Now, at that point, our El Cheapo washer and El Cheapo dryer were doing a spectacular job. The old-school washer was ultra reliable and had not one problem, ever, and the dryer gave us the same kind of dependability and reliability. That is to say, the two machines worked as good around the time we were purchasing the house in Texas as the machines worked when we originally bought them at Best Buy in North Carolina.
Regardless, it was in with the brand new Whirlpool washer and the brand new Whirlpool dryer, and out with two 10+ years-old, perfectly fine machines. The new washer and new dryer were stainless steel, or painted gray, or finished in something nice, they had sleek dials, buttons and digital displays, and the washer had a glass lid that you could see into, so that’s cool, and the washer was also one of those “high efficiency” washers, so that’s got to be good too, right?
Well, that washer had more problems over the years than about any durable good that I’ve ever owned. Now don’t get me wrong, the Whirlpool washer worked fine for a few years, oddly enough right until it was no longer covered by a warranty, and then the problems began. So much for the “high-efficiency”, because it would always error out and require an extra rinse-n-spin mode, during every single wash, and it would always drip just a little when washing more than a couple of loads at a time, and every so often, that Whirlpool washer would leave little tiny shreds and bits of who-knows-what all over the clothes, and that was really, really annoying.
Here’s the point: The Whirlpool washer and the Whirlpool dryer were much more expensive, and by expensive, I mean at least twice the price of our first washer and dryer, and I remember this because we went to the appliance distributor’s showroom and picked out the machines ourselves. The Whirlpool dryer works fine to this very day, albeit some nine years later (only seven years of actual use, however) and with some serious scratches from moving three times since, including a move across the country, but the washer, oh that stinkin’ washer. Besides all of the problems, which I didn’t even fully mention, that expensive Whirlpool washer didn’t even really wash our clothes all that well!
We gave away our perfectly fine, great working no-name washer & dryer to a “family in need” on Craiglist in El Paso. The funny thing is, however, when the “needy” family came to pick it up, it was just some sketchy dude with a pick up truck and a modded, custom hand truck that he used to load the washer and dryer into the bed of his truck, by himself, in like thirty seconds tops, and to this day I have this sneaky suspicion those perfectly fine machines were taken into Juarez and sold for top dollar.
But I digress.
ENTER THE SAMSUNG
Wifey had enough!
She ordered the brand new Samsung washer from Lowe’s in January of this year, and it was just delivered last week, the first week of April. First things first, this washer cost over $1000, for just the washer, and that’s with my Veteran’s discount.
If they’re giving any discount for any reason, I’m doing my darnedest to qualify for any reason, and I hope you are too.
But there I go again with the you-know-what.
Now, this new Samsung washing machine has pretty much all of the bells and whistles, including a ringtone like chime that’s super long, pretty annoying and loud enough to let you know it’s done “washing” no matter where you happen to be in the house, what you happen to be listening to, or at what volume.
But wait, there’s more!
That’s right folks, because nowadays, washing machines no longer come with the water lines necessary for hook up, and Lowe’s won’t “install” the washer anyway unless you buy the new water lines, and while I’m pretty sure I can hook up hot water, cold water and drainage lines, because I’ve only done it like a dozen times, there’s another fifty bucks added on to the price for the three lines because even though I could have cannibalized the water lines from the crappy Whirlpool washer, I decided that it would have been some kind of bad karma or something to use the lines from such a terrible machine, as well as the fact that every so often, a weird smell would come out of the Whirlpool, and it wasn’t really due to the water itself, so to make a long point short, we went with buying the new water lines to go along with our new Samsung washer since the delivery and installation were free.
And you know what? This “high efficiency” isn’t really all that efficient at all, but more importantly, Wifey hates it!
A brand spankin’ new, $1,000+ washing machine, and quite frankly, it sucks!
Ahh, if we only had our old-school washing machine with the agitator, because I know that thing I still kicking strong to this very day! In fact, my mother in-law’s washing machine is from 25 years ago, before Wifey and I were even married, and yes, it is of the old-school variety, and yes, it is still washing strong to this very day!
SELLING THE SCRAP METAL
I wasn’t looking forward to getting scammed on Craigslist, again, and there was no way I could live with myself if I sold anybody the Whirlpool washer as a working washer. It “worked”, yes, but you can’t really say it is in “working condition”. Between the attention needing errors with every cycle, the drip requiring one of those plastic “tubs” underneath the machine to catch the water, the weird occasional smells and the tiny pieces of shredded debris that got all over the “washed” clothes from time to time, and simply between the myriad problems with that dang Whirlpool, I decided I was going to make some money off of that washer one way or another even if I couldn’t sell it as a working washer. So Son and I threw the old washer into the bed of my giddy-up pick-em up truck, along with a couple old PC cases and some other “scrap metal” that I had in the garage, which was three hundred and some odd pounds of scrap metal, and to make another long point short, we drove for like 20 miles to get to the “we buy scrap metal” place, spent about two hours of our precious time because we first drove to the wrong place, plus the cost of our gas and the wear and tear on the truck, and we ended up selling the 300+ pounds of scrap metal for a whopping $38.
I’m just glad I didn’t pop a tire in that glass and metal shrapnel infested scrapyard, because quite frankly, aside from the time and money we’d already lost, I’d have spent way more than $38 plugging or replacing a tire.
OK, “Hey Half Dollar, quit trying to sound like you’re applying for a retail sales job because everybody knows Big Box Retailers are dead in the water anyway, and do you have a point to make today, or are you just back to your wandering posts again Mr I’m-To-Cheap-To-Buy-The-Good-Stuff-And-Yet-I-Complain-When-I-Get-What-I-Pay-For?”!
What are you now, the Maytag Man?
Nothing but time on your hands to come up with jokes?
Good one, by the way, and yes, I do have a point to make.
I saw this headline this morning over at Everybody’s Favorite Wannabe Alternative-Media Website:
The phrase, “if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features” comes to mind.
That is to say, when it comes to this whole high-tech modern life thing, such as this electric car thing, it’s starting to feel like people are going to be switching cars like they switch their cellphones, and by that, I mean every few years and essentially “throwing away” the cars.
Forget that the computer “chips” in cars, which are globally in short supply already, become obsolete in just a few years as “required” updates take more processing power and disk space than the vehicles’ various computer systems can provide, and forget the fact that batteries degrade over time and much more rapidly than traditional gasoline or diesel engines, and forget all of the hype and the pipe dreams, unless, of course, we can just keep cranking out super-duper, high-tech vehicles hand over fist.
And what are we to make of the fact that, whether we’re talking about washing machines, or cars, or whatever, all these complicated machines ever do is cost more because they have more “features”, for lack of a better term, yet the quality, durability, reliability and dependability are just not there?
Oh yeah, and add in the fact that cryptocurrency is competing against all of this too, demanding ever growing amounts of computer processing power, constantly expanding hard disk space, and increasingly improved and speedy network connectivity!
And if that wasn’t enough to show just how overly complex the conveniences of modern life have become, add in a gas grill that you connect to via Bluetooth, a refrigerator that tells you what you’re running low on, and sidewalk landscape illumination controlled through WI-FI, because apparently increasing the brightness or dimming the lights that are illuminating your bushes is a thing, and no matter what the next big thing is, I’ve got to tell you, something has to give.
It’s like on the one hand, in a weird way, it feels like a race to the bottom.
It’s as if everything is becoming more complex, yet at the same time, the more complex things become, the more things break down and the less useful things are. It’s as if a Bluetooth connection will make up for the low quality grill to make my cube steaks taste any better, or it’s as if I’ve gotta rush out to get some spicy brown mustard and I’ve gotta go get it right now because dang it, I just got an alert on my cellphone telling me to do so, honey mustard be danged, or it’s as if I need to adjust the brightness of my landscape lighting on certain days, but not on others, and quite frankly, all of this stuff is super wasteful and none of this stuff is really necessary.
It’s progress, sure, but is it useful?
Everything costs more, and everything supposedly does more, but it’s all to the detriment of usefulness, simplicity and value.
The stock market looks like it’s melting-up:
And just like our washing machine, or our cars, or our whatever, it costs more, but what do we really get out of it?
Follow-up question: If the stock market can’t crash, then are we not getting less for more, which is another way of saying the stock market isn’t so much going up as our US dollars are losing value?
The VIX seems to be having a melt-down to go along with the stock market’s melt-up:
Amazing, isn’t it?
Now that we’re past the first quarter of 2021 and Easter Weekend, I’m sure market “participants” are nervously watching yield on the 10-Year Note:
I’m not certain we’ve seen the highs in yield.
Of course, on the one hand, yes, the Fed says it wants to let the economy run hot, but on the other hand, we won’t really go too much higher with interest rates because the economy can’t handle higher rates.
Remember, I bought my first washer and dryer some twenty years ago, with zero percent interest rates!
And if one doubts as to whether the economy can handle higher interest rates, just go to the local T-Mobile store and notice one can now pay installments on a $20 cellphone case, or just go to the local craft store Michael’s and notice one can now pay installments on some sticker labels and magic markers!
I was watching a recent YouTube video from Venezuela, where the YouTuber was calling it Dollarzuela, and part of the point of the video was about the fact that your low-wage, retail sales workers make about $60 per month, and yes, I do mean US dollars, and yes, I do mean for an entire month’s worth of work, which, if Venezuela is anything like Mexico, means more like six long days of work with no overtime pay instead of four or five short work-from-home days, or, conversely, a long work week in the United States in which one can work as much as one desires to scoop up all of that juicy overtime pay:
Just think about that for a moment.
Copper’s beginning the week looking strong:
It’s sad that more money will be corruptly and fraudulently wasted, stolen, squandered, and abused than will actually get productively spent on “infrastructure”.
Sixty is looking more and more like the new forty:
The question is, for how long?
If you’re long platinum, you’re up over 10%, year-to-date:
As platinum attempts to put in a higher-high to go along with that higher-low, we’re getting the necessary grinding action for a trend change in the short-term from bearish to bullish.
Palladium is, for now, the odd ball out:
The concept of “supply” does not come without consequences, you know!
Disgruntled participants are supposedly supplying the market with a useless relic from the past:
But I doubt it.
That said, smart investors may, however, be supplying some yellow metal for silver:
That is, if real, physical silver can be found for anywhere near that price.
One of these days real, physical silver will be hard to find at any price:
We’re swirling around in a high-tech inflationary race to the bottom, and in my opinion, if one wants to come out on top after the economic collapse, there is no better hedge than silver.
Silver Bugs and other smart people already know this.
Paul “Half Dollar” Eberhart