For over 70 years, the marketing of one fruit has made it ever-present in our daily lives.
The Red Delicious, in the American consciousness, represents the quintessential apple. It's the one you see on the teacher's desk, and the one in every student's lunchbox. It's also known as the official compost food. But as aesthetically pleasing as it is to the eye, one bite reminds you that what you really want, is one of those crispy golden apples instead. So how is it that they keep selling, and we keep buying, this god awful thing? The production of this gorgeous monstrosity is finally on the decline but, how did we ever let it get this far?
Our story starts rather innocently, with few traces of capitalist forces.
Jesse Hiatt, an Iowa farmer, came across a mutant seedling that refused to die. Year by year he chopped it down and year by year it grew back, so finally he let nature bear its course. What resulted was a thing of beauty - red with yellow stripping. It had strong, beautiful skin and a sweet, delicious taste. Hiatt named it "Hawkeye" in Iowa tradition, and boasted of the mutated beauty he'd cultivated. He entered into a contest in Louisiana, Missouri, hosted by Stark Nurseries.
The owners of the nursery, the Stark brothers, were looking for a replacement apple for the "Ben Davis," which was the apple-of-the-day at that time. The "Hawkeye" won and the Stark brothers purchased it, initially naming it "Delicious". In 1923 a farmer reported back to Stark Nurseries that a strange and beautiful mutation had occurred on one of his seedlings, producing a magnificent, crimson apple tree. Instantly wildly popular, people flocked from all over to gawk at and devour this new beauty of a fruit.
Stark capitalized off of this revelation.
By combining the new varietal with another popular seedling the bore, the "Golden Delicious," he rebranded their new apple as the "Red Delicious". Armed with their innovative new breed, they launched what would equate to a multi-million dollar marketing campaign in today's dollars, and even went as far as to send seedlings cross country by railroad.
As growers rushed to mimic this brilliant looking mutation, they began adopting new methods to control the breeding process.
A Life of Apples wrote: "This has allowed growers and breeders to choose mutations that may be redder or more 'perfectly' shaped, constantly moving the Red Delicious closer to an ever-changing ideal of a perfect apple". They also began manipulating the fruit to maximize it's potential for mass market production and longer storage. This led to stronger, tougher skin which hid blemishes and impurities.
This is why you may bite into a gorgeous apple, only to discover the mealy and tasteless fruit within.
And as they've continued making the apple redder and prettier, as well as increasing production, we've continued taking that first bite and then throwing the apple away, unsatisfied. However, it appears that our taste buds have caught on. Sales for the Red Delicious has declined. And while many of us remember the bailouts of the bank and the auto industry, President Clinton's apple industry bailout continues to be lesser known. In seems that we may be checking out the apple market again, flirting with Galas and Fujis, and Grannysmiths'.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.