Wednesday, August 28, 2013

US Economy Improving : Random Thoughts From San Diego Vacation

I spent last week in San Diego getting together with family.  Random notes below. 
  • Deflation?  Many economists are worried about deflation.  However I did not see any signs of this.  It has been 7+ years since I was last in California (albeit San Francisco). Gas prices are now higher.  Quoted prices are US$3.50 to US$4.50 range per gallon when it was US$2.++ range before.  Most things seemed to be more expensive than when I lived there before including.  A trip to the outlet mall was particularly depressing, as I did not see as much value as I was expecting. Air tickets are also more expensive (see last bullet point).
  • Economy seems to be recovering.  Hotel salesperson at San Diego's Sheraton hotel said that bookings and reservations are up compared to last year.  He thought that things had finally turned the corner after several bad years since 2008. 
  • However parking lots at tourist attractions were not crowded.  Legoland and USS Midway parking lots and theme park/battleship were not as crowded as expected.  It was the height of the tourist season and I thought things would be totally full.  I gauged that parking lots were at best half-full.  Waits for rides were short.
  • Chinese tourists.  My Shanghai-via-Beijing-native-and-15-year-San Diego-resident-friend said that he's never heard so much Mandarin spoken at San Diego tourists spots.  He also noted that Mainland Chinese were buying lots of real estate in San Diego.  I also noticed a lot of Mandarin.
  •  Homeland security myth.  My software engineer brother-in-law had a particularly depressing story.  Not for himself, but for the country.  He found it difficult to get a job in the Washington DC area as he does not have security clearance to work in the still expanding intelligence service and consulting business.  Getting this seems to be an expensive endeavor.  Instead, companies vastly prefer to only hire those that already have clearance. This clearance system does not seem to have stopped leakages (i.e. Snowden).  It does likely produce a good stream of income for the numerous ‘consulting’ firms living off government largeness.  This is a shame as my brother-in-law is a US military buff and would have made a great asset to a homeland security or intelligence firm.  Restricting hiring to already cleared candidates decreases potential candidates and will lower available talent and quality.  It is also depressing to know that the US government continues to expand its eavesdropping service and spying service.  Americans should not feel secure by this practise.  Instead my brother-in-law is now doing something much more productive.  He has moved to Iowa and is developing systems to improve agricultural yields.
  • Dreadful airlines.  Had an awful experience on United Airlines.  In addition to the surly air crew, crap food and odd boarding practice; I spent 8 hours in the San Francisco airport due to a missed connection.  My first plane was 2 hours late taking off.  It was a very old plane and it sounded like maintenance was the reason for the delay.  Thus I spent 1 out of my 7 days wandering around the San Francisco airport in a jetlagged daze. This is despite paying an extra hundred or more for the short connection time.  This is the second time I've missed planes due to missing a connection on United.  I suspect United purposefully puts in short connection times for marketing purposes.  Their is a very high chance that the connection will be missed, but the low connection time lures buyers.  A fellow delayed traveler said the other US airlines are pretty much the same. 
  • I suspect bad service from US airlines is likely to continue. This is because that, according to Morgan Creek's Second Quarter 2013 Market Outlook, the US airline industry is an effective oligopoly with the top three carriers accounting for 84% of US volume.   As per textbook oligopoly economics, prices are noticeably higher and quality lower.  What's that about deflation? 

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