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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Light in a Dark Economy

On the weekends my wife, Jen, goes to WalMart to do the weekly grocery shopping. Meanwhile, I hang out with our two sons for a few hours. Today we played whiffleball. When Jen returned she commented that WalMart seems to be getting more and more congested with shoppers as of late. I wasn't surprised. The chain is just about the only retailer that actually performed well in the fourth quarter of '08. When times are tough, shoppers will be more price sensitive, and WalMart has the reputation for having the best prices. Of course, that's common sense. This got me wondering, what other "common sense" winners might there be in a tough economy? Let's put it this way, with unemployment rising, what are the growth areas for jobs?

1. WalMart Greeter - So I already established that WalMart has more customers, so they need a nice elderly person to greet them. If you are over 65, this job is for you.
2. Mortgage Loan Workout Specialist - Mortgage loan modifications are the service du jour. Since most homeowners no longer have equity, it's the new refinance.
3. TARP application reviewer - There is a backlog of 2,000 applications for bailout funds. Since the government is only getting through about 50 per week, that means that banks are waiting at least 9 months before they get a response on their TARP fund requests.
4. Keynesian Economist - The passage of the stimulus bill is based on the assumption that government spending will stimulate the economy. Well, that depends on what the money is spent on. Tax cuts help, as does some of the spending, at least temporarily. Regardless, if you know formulae for fiscal multipliers by heart, then you are sure to get a job as a White House economic advisor.
5. Liquor Store Owner - Cheap vices do well in recessions. Alcohol and cigarettes are sure to be good sellers with the light supply of discretionary income. Local governments won't mind since those items come with a hefty sales tax.
6. Security - More liquor stores are also likely to get robbed. So anything related to security should do well. Cameras, alarm systems, and rottweilers should all sell well.
7. Gun Sales - Also related to security, but the criminals will also be buyer them. But they will likely be buying on the black market.
8. Repo Man - duh!
9. Attorney - I'm not sure on the specifics here, but lawyers will always find a way to fleece the public.
10. Federal Bureaucrat - There are tons of examples, but here is just one. In the recent stimulus bill, there is an appropriation for $2 billion dollars described as "Extra money for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology." Really? "Extra Money?" Well I'm sure some of that extra money will go to hiring some highly productive bureaucrats.

So there you go. When you thought there was only darkness in this economy, I have shown you the light.

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