That title isn’t just what my wife sings while at the Bubble Lounge in San Francisco or while in a spa… it’s the topic of today’s article.
Earlier this week, I said I was going to try to be more positive. So before I get into some heavy negative stuff, I feel it’s worth reflecting how awesome life is. It’s not lost on me that I’m part of small percentage of the privileged few in a privileged country. We carry awesome computers with us that have almost any information that people want. We can tell our Amazon Echo to play Jack Johnson and instantly be happy. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
Sometimes I think the negative stuff stands out to me like a sore thumb because of the sharp contrast with all the awesomeness of everything else? What’s that phrase that people use nowadays, “first world problems”? Exactly.
I want everyone to have all the awesomeness and none of the bad stuff. And a lot of that awesomeness comes with money and financial freedom. When I see people or business taking that away from people, it makes me sad… very sad. No one likes a sad, Lazy Man.
Let’s Get to the Bubbles
I’m not really sure if these really meant the definition of “bubbles”, but that’s kind of the road I went down. One might also call it capitalism running amok without regulation… or at least “timely” regulation.
Cable Companies and Bundling
Yesterday, I wrote my experience with Cox cable/Internet pricing. In case you missed it, they seem to automatically assess a $25 fee for a declined credit card. In addition, they require products that some consumers don’t want (me in this case) to get a “bundle deal.” When that expires consumers who fail or forget to complain feel the pain of raised prices. For what it’s worth the FTC does have a page about bundled communication services, but it looks like it really isn’t a priority for them at this time.
I got several comments and not one was in support of Cox or their cable company. Many claimed that because they have a monopoly in their area (like Cox in mine) and lack choice, the pricing just keeps going up and up. I’d say that’s an example of capitalism run amok without regulation. In fact, a few people commenting openly wished regulators would step in.
In the meantime, is it wrong for Cox, or any other cable company, to make as much money as it can? It’s in the business to make money, right? If tactics that some described as “shady” makes them more money that’s just the business doing business stuff, right? I don’t agree with this thinking.
Housing Market in 2008
This is an easy and famous bubble, right? We saw housing prices go up and up. At least part of the reason was because mortgages were easy to get. And as prices of homes got higher, banks created new mortgages to keep putting people in homes. You can reduce the monthly payments on house by making offering a 50-year, interest-only mortgage.
I wonder how many people are still digging out of that mess. The condo I bought in 2005 is worth about $50,000 less than what I paid for it. That’s kind of a big deal, right?
I haven’t followed student loans too closely as I’m passed that age (Thanks for the scholarship, Brandeis!) and my kids are in pre-school. However, it seems to me that colleges have been regularly raising prices (similar to the home market above) and using a similar idea to the new mortgages… people will just get more financial aid.
Medication (such as EpiPens)
I’m sure you haven’t missed the news of late, but prices of medication are drastically shooting up as well. It’s rarely that the products are better or more effective. Instead we find the same kind of passing of the buck as above. In this case, insurances cover some of the cost, so the medications may not seem as expensive, but the result has been raising insurance premiums.
Multilevel Marketing Scams
I’ve covered these extensively in the past. This isn’t exactly like the above products, because you can simply choose not to buy the products, and it doesn’t hurt that like not having a home, education, internet, or medication. Instead, companies found a way to sell hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of consumers things like $45/bottle juice or $70/bottle salt water make outlandish health claims by its salesforce and bundling the purchase with a “business opportunity” in selling products via an artificially closed market.
What Can We Do?
In all these cases, I’m not exactly sure what we can do. Congress and the FTC are looking into one or more of these areas, but it seems like all they do is talk. I don’t see any meaningful action.
In the meantime, it seems we are left to fend for ourselves as best we can. We try to stay healthy to avoid rising medical costs. We say “no” to $45/juice and MonaVie goes out of business. We decide to look into ways that we can eliminate our cable package. We look schools that present better “value” rather than the very best education.
It’s not ideal, but it’s your money and in the end, you are the only one who can protect it.