O.K., class, time to take stock. Or, as the comedian Henny Youngman might have said, "Take my stocks. Please." (All of my cultural references seem to be at least 30 years old.)
So far this year the market has lost 24 percent of its value. And we've barely begun month three. At this rate, that raft of newly minted dollar stocks in the Dow(n) Jones Industrial Average will be penny stocks by year's end.
No, I do not expect instant results. That is, I'm afraid, the American way: instant gratification. But I've got to think:
- The stimulus/porculus/bailouts are masking the symptoms not affecting a cure. Once again, Dr. Reagan's prescription: don't just do something, stand there! How many times can we bail out the same company? Insurance giant AIG is now up to three.
- Forget Bernie Madoff and now a guy named Stanford operating out of the island of Antigua (or is it Arugula?). The entire economy has been a Ponzi scheme.
- That the way out is not to pump borrowed money into the system. Isn't that how we got into trouble in the first place?
- That the trillions being thrown at the problem in undue haste is funny money.
- For all that, I got to think the market and the larger economy has over-reacted. Things were never as good as we imagined when the Dow(n) Jones was at 13,000. But neither are they near as bad - the true fundamentals (whatever they are) as 6,626. The economy is based on trust and you can't trust what you can't see. What is Washington going to do next? How about: All in, all done!
There is a growing sense that we are making the problem worse - like the 19th Century habit of bleeding sick patients. Or, like Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks' The Producers after Max Bialystock resorts to a drastic measure to calm him down: "Now I'm anxious - and wet!"
Strange new respect - going the other way!
What's this? Roger Cohen, getting it "Right" in the N.Y. Times? Reading is believing!
... the $3.6 trillion Obama budget made me a little queasy. There is a touch of France in its "étatisme" - the state as all-embracing solution rather than problem - and there's more than a touch of France in the bash-the-rich righteousness with which the new president cast his plans as "a threat to the status quo in Washington."
Money has never been more fungible than today.
Punish capital and it will punish you by saying, "Hasta la vista!" The former French President Franois Mitterrand learned that a little over a quarter-century ago when, after an initial wave of nationalizations, he reversed course.
Churn is the American way. Companies are born, rise, fall and die.
Others come along to replace them. The country's remarkable capacity for innovation, for reinvention, is tied to its acceptance of failure. Or always has been. Without failure, the culture of risk fades. Without risk, creativity withers. Save the zombies and you sabotage the vital.
If America loses sight of these truths, it will cease to be itself. [New York Times: One France is Enough]
Isn't this exactly Rush Limbaugh's point? Even Paul Krugman, the poster boy for Bush Derangement Syndrome, is turning on the Obaminator:
There's a growing sense of frustration, even panic, over Mr. Obama's failure to match his words with deeds. The reality is that when it comes to dealing with the banks, the Obama administration is dithering. Policy is stuck in a holding pattern.
Here's how the pattern works: first, administration officials, usually speaking off the record, float a plan for rescuing the banks in the press. This trial balloon is quickly shot down by informed commentators.
Then, a few weeks later, the administration floats a new plan. This plan is, however, just a thinly disguised version of the previous plan, a fact quickly realized by all concerned. And the cycle starts again.
Why do officials keep offering plans that nobody else finds credible? [New York Times: The Big Dither]
Here is Stanford University economics professor Michael Boskin:
Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, by his own admission, redefines the role of government in our economy and society. The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents -- from George Washington to George W. Bush -- combined. It reduces defense spending to a level not sustained since the dangerous days before World War II, while increasing nondefense spending (relative to GDP) to the highest level in U.S. history. And it would raise taxes to historically high levels (again, relative to GDP). And all of this before addressing the impending explosion in Social Security and Medicare costs. [Wall Street Journal: Obama's Radicalism Is Killing the Dow]
On the home front:
O.K., four hearings have been held on Kathleen Falk's Tax and Ride program, aka: commuter rail. And, well gee gosh and golly, some folks just aren't getting on board, so to speak.
The people are speaking out against the $250 million scheme and Steve Hiniker of 999 Friends of the Environment and counting (down) thinks he knows why. Poor communication. Hiniker, of course, is a member of the Transport 2020 Implementation Task Force, the front group behind the proposal.
I continue to think - and am probably alone in this - that a small subway in winter-weary Madison would be better received. The requisite density is growing in downtown Madison, hemmed in on its isthmus by two lakes, despite the worst efforts of Brenda Konkel. A subway obviates the conflict with autos, bicyclists, and pedestrians. If nothing else, a subway qualifies as "shovel ready." (That's got to be the cliché of the year.) As long as we're digging a hole we might as well put a train in it. N'est-ce pas?
Lie of the week
I'm sorry. I am tired of euphemisms. This is Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:
Falk hired a consultant in 2004 to assess the county's 911 emergency response system, then exceeded the consultant's recommendations.
Wrong, it took The Kathleen the better part of five years to even meet the expert's recommendations. In 2004 when the consultant said hire eight more dispatchers she actually tried to reduce the number. It's in the official minutes, lady. The Kathleen only met the recommendations after Brittany Zimmermann's tragic death.
Congratulations to Barbie, who is 50 years old this year! Thanks, Charlie, for this: