If you've been following domestic news in recent weeks, you've probably heard about the "lipstick effect." As described in such outlets as NBC, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, the idea is that, during a recession, women substitute small, feel-good items like lipstick for more expensive items like clothing and jewelry. And indeed, between August and October, lipstick sales were up 11 percent over the same period last year.What you probably haven't heard is that, for a recession, this year's lipstick sales may be somewhat disappointing.
After one of the best ten-year runs in economic history, the torrent of bad news flooding Alan Greenspan's office this January had to be jarring. The country had just seen its worst quarter of economic growth since 1995, and manufacturing activity had fallen to its lowest level since 1991. Spending by businesses on new plants and equipment had dropped for the first time in a decade. And the stock markets' decline, already nine months old, showed no signs of abating. So Greenspan lowered interest rates, over and over again.
Earlier this year, while federal antitrust authorities were reviewing his company's proposed merger with United, US Airways CEO Rakesh Gangwal acknowledged that "there [was] no plan B" should the deal fail. The claim was surprising given that corporate executives usually pretend to be optimistic even in the worst of times. But Gangwal could no longer pretend. Though US Airways had improved since the 1980s, when it was beset by chronic delays and lost baggage, it still faced a daunting problem. With its generous pilot salaries and posh airplanes, US Airways had the cost structure of a lucrative
It's not often that a high-ranking administration official tells a reporter that another high-ranking administration official is essentially dead weight. It's even rarer that such assertions are made on the record. But that's pretty much what happened in early June, when top White House education aide Sandy Kress, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal, described Education Secretary Rod Paige as "a little bit on the periphery." Even more remarkably, Kress was almost certainly guilty of understatement.
New York representative Peter King likes to tell a story about his friend, the cabletelevision talk-show host Chris Matthews. Last May, King was a guest on Matthews's show. Rudy Giuliani had just hinted that he was about to drop out of the New York Senate race, and King's colleague, Rick Lazio, was preparing to step in as his replacement. King, who had once eyed the nomination himself, wasn't especially keen on the upstart from Long Island. But Matthews was even more dismissive.
WHEN THE DUST clears on November 7, history will record a handful of lasting images from this year's election: A1 Gore's convention kiss, George W. Bush's proctological epithet about a New York Times reporter, the word "rats" flashing momentarily across a TV screen, and, well, Michael Beschloss.In the last few months, the well-coiffed historian turned commentator has become a virtual one-man news cycle, appearing on the tube some 40 times since the Republican convention. It's not hard to see why.