Ghost Pirate Economics: A Booming Disconnect

(Originally published in 2011, the following article points out how long ago the “economic recovery” truly began. The continuing lie that President Obama has “failed” to turn the economy sounds even more infuriating when you see that Wall Street has been standing on the neck of our nation for over three years now and counting.)


(image copyright Jarko Vanhalaka)

Did you know that the economy is actually booming? That it has been doing so since 2010?

I didn’t either… but then, you and I are not part of that boom.

While the rest of us have been wondering when and if we have a home, a job, or a future, the top executives and stockholders for Exxon, Wal-Mart, GE, Bank of America (who, after reaching #5 on the Fortune 500 list, recentley announced a new $5.00 per month surcharge for using ATM cards) have contiuned receiving big bonus checks, high salaries, and other perks. By the phantom “bottom line” of abstract profit statements, the economy – at least for some folks – is doing great.

An article in CNN Money (from April 15, 2010) underscores the vast disconnect between this phantasmal “bottom line” and the reality of social and business economies. While the article trumpets the “long-awaited recovery… now underway,” it repeatedly gives the reason for the surging profits behind Fortune 500 giants: layoffs and salary cuts: “The crucial reductions came in the item accounting for two-thirds of their costs: labor. In 2009, the Fortune 500 shed 821,000 jobs, the biggest loss in its history — almost 3.2% of its payroll. By mid-2009, companies were making fewer goods with far fewer workers.”

Yeah. About that…

(crucially reduced)

Shawn Tully – a CNN Money senior editor and the author of the article – remains apparently oblivious to the connection between the loss of all those jobs and the “feeble overall recovery that’s far from normal.” While Mr. Tully laments the people who are “still too fearful about their jobs and homes to crowd malls and auto lots with the buoyant abandon that heralds a full-rigged revival,” he cheers for balance sheets gains perched on the losses of those jobs.

In short, then, Mr. Tully has not the slightest fucking clue how economies really work.

When people are “fearful about their jobs and homes,” the economy is in TROUBLE. When a balance sheet looks pretty because you suddenly have fewer people, working harder, in fear, for less money, your COMPANY is in trouble. When you see a rosy future because you’re not the one worried about his job and home, your SOUL is in trouble. And when you multiply these problems by the number of corporations involved, theNATION is in trouble.

And that, Jack, is a fact.

Yet an odd attitude of entitlement persists – an idea thatBecause I am [fill in the blank], I am therefore entitled to [fill in the blank], regardless of the truth of one’s circumstances. Because, for example, a guy is a corporate executive, he is therefore entitled to certain pay and perks, regardless of whether or not his company can afford to provide them. If the company is sinking, he is still entitled to his pay and bonuses… and if that means firing half the staff and cutting salaries for the rest, so be it. Hey presto – he’s prosperous again! Too bad about those other folks… but then, if they’re not him, it’s their own fault.

In view of the nationwide protests against this attitude and the situation it has caused, presidential hopeful Herman Cain – whose own “prosperity” is based upon low wages, layoffs, and shoddy products – insisted that “...if you don’t have a job, if you’re not rich, BLAME YOURSELF.” To a certain point, that seems like a reasonable idea… so long as you can divorce yourself from the fact that those people who have no jobs, or who have jobs that pay poorly, had their jobs and pay cut by people like Mr. Cain… and that the global hypercorporation culture is filled with those people, cutting pay and jobs across the world.

When you do that sort of thing on a grand scale, it kinda adds up.

One might think that a businessman with the background of a Mr. Tully or a Mr. Cain could at least do math… but then, as an old friend of mine who graduated with honors from a business management program told me, that’s not the kind of math they teach to folks on the executive track.

The level of disconnect involved when a person cannot bridge the connection between a land where hundreds of thousands of people are laid off and one where hundreds of thousands of angry people no longer have jobs… that disconnect is profound to an almost psychotic degree. It’s as though someone cut off his own hand with a golden cutlass, then blamed the blood for flowing and the fingers for going cold.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, Mr Tully’s article and Mr. Cain’s declaration both reflect a pirate mentality: a slash-and-burn approach in which nothing matters beyond the nebulous concept of a “profit” that does not, and cannot, extend beyond the boardroom and stock portfolio.

Sailing on the winds of those phantom bottom lines, such an attitude might be called “ghost pirate economics.” Based upon a legacy of bygone plunder, it refuses to acknowledge that it’s already dead.



The ghost pirate looks pretty impressive. He’s got a golden cutlass and a big ol’ ship. His booming cannons still echo through the seas. The fact that his sails are tattered and his skeleton crew looks fragile don’t seem to matter to him. He is, in his mind, the master of the seven seas. So he’ll take what he wants and keelhaul the crew (or pay the cops to do it for him) every so often, and then lift his jeweled goblet to toast his own magnificence.

And if the ship starts sinking – why then, he’ll blame the carpenters and throw the crew overboard until…

Until reality sets in.

The core problem with ghost pirate economics – all moral ones aside – is that the ship doesn’t fucking float. It might drift, it might sparkle, it might even scare other ships for a while, BUT IT’S DEAD IN THE WATER, a spectre of its former glory.

And that’s where we’re headed under pirate captains and phantom bottom lines.

Drifting, sinking, and haunting what used to be our home.

We’re not there yet. But it IS where we’re headed until we change that course.

And if it takes a mutiny to wake the captain and change that course, well then, just look outside.

That mutiny has already begun.


Text copyright (c) 2011 Satyros Phil Brucato. All images copyright their respective owners. Permission is granted by the Author to circulate this article, with attribution, for non-profit purposes. Permission to circulate for profit, without prior arrangement with the Author, is explictly denied.

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About Satyr

Award-winning fantasy author, game-designer, and all 'round creative malcontent. Creator of a whole bunch of stuff, most notably the series Mage: The Ascension, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium, and Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy. Lives in Seattle. Hates shoes. Loves cats. Dances a lot.
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1 Response to Ghost Pirate Economics: A Booming Disconnect

  1. Pingback: Barnes & Noble’s Corporate Malaise | Satyros Phil Brucato

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