Sunday, October 12, 2008

“Got to Get My Rest, ’Cause Monday is a Mess”

We suppose it’s not going too far out on an Ike-damaged limb to conclude that the days of Easy Credit and Ceaseless Happy Motoring are rapidly drawing to a close here in the U.S. of A., yet we couldn’t help but notice amid the sobering events of the past week that many of our fellow citizens still refuse to decamp from the FantasyLand where they apparently took up residence long ago. They seem to be everywhere we look these days---or maybe they just stand out in bolder relief against the darkening backdrop---but we can find no better example than the archetypal Grumpy White Man who during a McCain rally in Wisconsin on Thursday commandeered center stage to rail about “the socialist[s] taking over the country,” a development he laid at the feet of “Obama, Pelosi, and the rest of the hooligans up there …”

This man obviously missed the previous evening’s debate, which Comrade McCain opened by tossing out his $300 billion plan to buy up bad mortgages, a "plan" that at least had the small virtue of extending taxpayer largesse to the deadbeats of “Main Street”* in addition to those dashing “risk takers” of Wall Street. Yeah, socialism has come to America, but the Grumpy White Man slept right through it.

The next day’s McCain rally in Minnesota brought forth from the woodwork a woman who blurted out “he’s … an Arab!” when explaining to the candidate why she doesn’t “trust” Obama (his ethnicity a "fact" she claimed to have “read”). We presume she was about to cut loose with “he’s … a nigger!” but hastily settled on “Arab” as an acceptable substitute.

The addled and aimless lurking at the far fringes of McCain’s rallies are indeed scary, but what we found truly frightening last week was the fading specter of Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan, once hailed as “The Wizard” by Republican and Democrat alike but now reduced to having the veneer stripped from his reputation on the front page of Wednesday’s New York Times, wherein it was reported that …
Today, with the world caught in an economic tempest that Mr. Greenspan recently described as “the type of wrenching financial crisis that comes along only once in a century,” his faith in derivatives remains unshaken.

The problem is not that the contracts failed, he says. Rather, the people using them got greedy. A lack of integrity spawned the crisis, he argued in a speech a week ago at Georgetown University, intimating that those peddling derivatives were not as reliable as “the pharmacist who fills the prescription ordered by our physician.”
Imagine that: people got greedy! That’s never happened before in the history of humankind! Look at Roark, in The Fountainhead, he was a man of such rectitude …

It’s days like these that we wish our father were still alive, just to talk to a bit, get his take on the events, maybe be bucked-up with some advice. Back in ’98 or ’99, we remember him poking his head up through the fog of the Alzheimer’s that was then slowly enveloping his mind to offer a cogent, lucid warning on the dangers of putting too much of our meager assets into tech stocks, and while we were already aware of the risks and had acted accordingly we as usual were comforted to have our instincts seconded by someone who had our interests at heart.

As far as we know our daddy never read Ayn Rand but he was always smart about money, pursuing a Buffett-style course of investing long before he or anyone else had heard of the Nebraskan. Late in his life he hung from the wall of the suburban home he built in 1962 for $15,000 a piece of wood on which was lacquered a letter from a small-town bank attesting to the good character of his father, our grandfather, who worked for many years in the lignite mines of East Texas before quitting to open a small grocery on the square of a town that even then would have rated the description “dying.” The banker said he could gladly recommend our grandfather as a man of his word who always made his payments on time, and that was the extent of it.

At the time we were puzzled by the wall hanging, as the letter was all of two sentences long, but now, as with most everything our father said or did, we understand.

*A street called home by a guy named "Joe Sixpack" and his wife "Hockey Mom."

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