Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh Lord, won't you buy me...?

The stock market was down again today.

Both readers are doubtless wondering why I would care, let alone write about this seemingly trivial and certainly temporal fact.  Having resolved some time ago not to wrestle with the quotidian events of life because such musings are out-of-date as soon as they are in print, this observation comes not without some considerable resistance on my part.  Yet I am obliged, I feel, to comment.

Having lived in the shadow of the Great Depression most of my life, I am keenly aware that this Great Recession was coming.  Actually, the shadow was Lynda's, and it was another Depression (not its poor uncle, Recession) that she predicted.

Naturally, I never questioned this reasoning, in the same way that certain children of Dixie never questioned their elders when told that the South would rise again.  It was something given.  A fact of life.  The economy, according to Lynda, was just a figment of the collective imagination, and I have to say, in the course of my life I've never seen any evidence to the contrary.  Now, although the US economy might have been on the rise all my life and most of hers, Lynda predicted with absolute certainty that it would go down again.

Certain, as in, not if, but when.

This assertion is a common characteristic of the Depression generation.  It went something like this:  "Hey!  Save that ______.  Do not throw that piece of _______ (fill in the blank: paper, glass, foil, plastic, steel, wood, food) away!  You never know when you might need it!"

Ok, Mom. I got it.  Even today I cannot throw a piece of foil or plastic away without a certain amount of guilt, and that's even when I put it in the recycling stream!  I know resources are limited, and that shortages will come again some day.  Or will they?

I mean, if it's just a figment of our imagination, why can't we imagine a better economy?  Why, all of the sudden, are investors so damn nervous?

A better question might be:  Just who are all these nervous investors?  Don't they have lives?  Don't they understand that what goes up must comes down and vice-versa?  I mean, if we little people--those whom the 'job providers' have decided to 'go on strike' against recently, presumably to punish us for our insatiable greed and constant need--are expected to stay calm, why can't the wealthy investors?

What causes these wealthy 'investors' to go screaming off the deck of the ship the moment it turns towards the rocks?  Is it pure selfishness or simple fear?  I think it's the latter; it seems that the wealthy simply have a lower threshold of fear than the rest of us.  To carry forward with the metaphor, not having been buffeted by real winds of change, the moment the breeze picks up, the wealthy run below decks, fearful that the wind of change is the precursor of a hurricane that will strip them of their goods.

One basic problem, I believe, is that these days, the question of who is wealthy and who is not has not been answered truthfully.  This failure to make a real distinction between the classes has poisoned the debate by allowing people who make too much to be middle class to nonetheless claim that they are poorer than they actually are.  This is nonsense.  It's time to draw a line.

I believe that people who make more than $250K per year are rich.  There, I said it.

I'll be even more specific.  To all the doctors, attorneys and professional administrators who are earning at least four times the amount of the average middle class family ($60K) and still consider themselves middle class, I say bullshit.  They are rich.  They are not bad people, just richer than they claim to be.

Now, they may not feel rich because they spend four times the average on their too-large houses, their too-many cars, their too-expensive designer clothes and their too-trendy brand-name 'ilectronics'.  They spend all their cash on Louis Vuitton bags and iPads, they avoid paying taxes by keeping their 'real' income tied up in 'real estate' and/or 'investments', and then they claim to be 'just one of the guys'.

Well, I have news.  They are not one of the guys.  They are one of those guys.

Of course, these days, those rich guys have a good reason to be nervous.  All that stuff just makes rich people nervous and afraid.  After all, when the economy goes down, they stand to lose all their stuff...and more.  They have all those investments to worry about.

We commoners are lucky, I guess.  We don't have McMansions, BMWs and Hummers or the latest 88 inch LED HD TVs to worry about.  Most of us are worried about simply keeping our houses, let alone all the stuff inside.  And we don't have investments to frighten us into sleepless nights.  The thought of losing one's job is sufficient for that.

Oh Lord, Janis had it right.  The lovely irony is that nothing has changed in forty years.  Today, if I wish for anything, it's not that the stock market will go up, it's that the whiny scared rich babies that have 'invested' in that Ponzi scheme will lose enough to force them to get back to work.

No comments: