I wrote last week that the value of my house dropped $12,000 in one month. As unsettling as that is, since we have no intention to sell, I can almost rationalize it away as raw data.
Yesterday I visited my financial planner to see where things stand and to discuss any changes he thinks may be worthy of consideration given prevailing trends. I’m sure many of you have had similar conversations recently. Not being a numbers guy, I value his counsel. His track record is good. He’s been pro-active and responsive, providing growth and protection when I’ve needed it most. I’ve had several other financial advisers through the years but none as responsive . It’s a relationship business. It’s important that a planner be smart, good with numbers and likable. Mine meets all these criteria and more.
Yesterday we discussed status, history and circumstantial evidence intended to convince an investor to stay involved in a market that has lost half its value in mere months.
I was more engaged than I’ve been in years. The numbers meant more to me. It helps that my adviser, a converted life-long republican, became interested in politics after the `04 election and as I became more politically involved, I had to read/understand much more about economics. So we have more to talk about these days and our meetings run long.
What was notably absent from our exchange yesterday was anything remotely resembling projections or even even highly qualified, disclaimer-riddled prognostication. He was clearly frustrated by this but since I’m much more accustomed to not knowing what’s going on, I found myself reassuring him.
The fact is, we just have no freaking clue as to how this will turn out. Neither did the republicans, they just lied about it.
It’s a good time to be philosophical. When events defy description, we resort to analogy to create something our incredulous senses and intuitions can substitute for knowledge to provide hope and reassurance.
One such analogy is “The economy is like a log floating down a river.” Depending on the current, it can creep calmly or charge. It may run into debris, which impedes its progress but in time, as the river rises, currents can free the log to continue its journey. Movement is inherent. More on this in a minute.
As a youth, I never had 2 nickels to rub together. I worked in low paying jobs, sang in bands and lived in a two-room, 2nd floor walk up with no kitchen, above a garage, where we practiced. My rent was $40 a month and sometimes I paid late.
I worked/borrowed my way through college and never had money to invest until after I got married. With student loans to pay off but with a working spouse and my first “decent” job, IRAs and a 401-k made our future look bright. We caught up, paid cash, had disposable income and started a family.
I considered Reagan little more than a puppet but he looked good in a suit, made everything sound rosy and even though he was anti-union, my financial statements always brought good news. But Reagan corroded my Rust Belt roots. When my company was picketed by its hourly workers, I was asked to videotape the demonstrators. Now in “management,” for the first time in my career, I felt like a traitor. The dispute was resolved and we moved on. Other hourly workers fared much worse under Reagan.
The “Gipper” wasn’t a “nurturer.” He grew the ranks of our homeless to include families–and even people formerly cared for were turned away from mental institutions under his administration. Reagan’s “trickle” simply didn’t trickle down. “Supply side” theory woefully misinterpreted demand.
October 19 , 1987 was two days before my 35th birthday. Having just changed jobs/industries, rolling over my 401-k and selling stock earned through it, I was hopeful. New job, new kid, new investments. As we anticipated the “trickle,” on Black Monday, we got the “down”.
But as the junk bonds and punitive labor practices that had blown an artificial economic bubble burst that day, I saw a over third of what I had socked away in close to a decade vaporize.
Still, I was still young. I’d get it back. After Clinton got elected, I did–in spades. We continued to invest as much as we could. The kids grew. We traveled. Life was good.
But over time, things changed at work. I spent too much time on the road. Hiring stalled. We constantly reorganized. Contracts replaced salaried workers.
Attrition claimed positions as remaining employees assumed the responsibilities of furloughed workers. The workday grew, hampering family life. My investments rode high, though, on the “dot.com” bubble.
Still, I felt burned out, trapped. Eventually I jumped ship, only to be fired. For the first time in over 20 years of progress, I was out of work.
I went free-lance and it worked out fine at first. But within five years, business was slowing down and as the market showed signs of stagnation, I started to dip into my investments.
Then came 9-11. 14 years older, I no longer was a “company man.” I was a free-lancer with no 401-k, annual bonus or profit sharing. Not only did my investments tank, my business suffered deeply. I was lucky to have a working spouse.
I continued to run my business in fits and starts, had good and bad years, dissipated our kid’s college funds, borrowed to send them to school and at 56 am in debt and unemployed. I do volunteer work because it needs to be done and keeps me from feeling worthless. I’m blessed to have a working spouse who’s both patient and loving. We have a home and I think, can still get credit. We’re lucky.
Back to the river. You’re dreaming. The current is swift. The log tears through debris, unimpeded, ripping downstream.
Suddenly you’re aware that you’re directly in the log’s path, dog-paddling, gasping, taking in a bit of water as you bob up and down, asshole and elbows, just trying to stay afloat. You wonder…will it ultimately overtake you and run up your bum so far you can taste it? Will you manage to get to shore and crawl upstream? Or will climb aboard, riding that son of a bitch clean through the levy?
When I consider these options, I have little patience for simpering, snide contrarions, who do nothing but criticize a president who’s accomplished more in his first month in office than most do in their first year. Traditional “wisdom,” especially as it relates to “supply side” or “trickle down” has failed. “Trickle on this…”
It’s time to try something new, something bold, something that flies in the face of what’s been done before.
The republicans have proven that they can’t lead. In so doing, they’ve diminished us as a nation and as a world leader. They’ve also and have disgraced us by ignoring our constitution, pissing on the legacies of its framers. Why should we listen to these pasty, sanctimonious, dimwitted phlubs?
We should ignore their advice and prosecute those responsible for impaling our weary nation.