Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Ivy-League Diet

President Obama's economic stimulus has lost so much weight in the last few days that dieters everywhere are flooding Congress and the White House with requests for information about the so-called "Ivy-League Diet," named after an association degree-granting institutions in New England that granted degrees to President Obama and most of his economic advisers. Thanks to my new job as a busboy at Washington's exclusive Alfalfa Club, I was able to get the inside story from Tim Geithner (Dartmouth '83), Paul Volcker (Princeton '49), and Larry Summers (Harvard '82).

"Excuse my humble self for disturbing your Lordships," I groveled, "but would you please be so kind as to explain the "Ivy-League Diet" that I hear so much about on TV?"

Larry Summers graciously replied.

"It's very simple. We shit on the economy and you eat it."

"Harharhar!!!" said Paul Volcker.

"Harharhar!!!" said Tim Geithner.

And even my humble self joined in the merriment.

"Harharhar!!!"

"What are you laughing at?" said Larry Summers.

"Nothing, your Lordship," I replied. "Enjoy your soup."


Friday, January 23, 2009

The Floating World

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In 1840 Thomas Carlyle observed that every significant social connection had dissolved into cash, and this realization was so unpleasant that even a grim contrarian like Carlyle could only pronounce it in a book about Chartism, a fundamentally optimistic British movement intended to reconnect the working class with something, because the cash connection had left it more or less completely out of the loop.

Unfortunately for the Chartists, the something with which they tried to connect was Parliament, a gang of lords and squires that was happy enough to laugh down three million signatures on a petition for government reform that would have thrown lords and squires out of power.

"Cash payment the sole nexus," said Thomas Carlyle, and for the cashless working class, no nexus at all.

Now cash is the least significant form of money, and the Federal Reserve extends credit by two or three trillion dollars in a week, all of it invisible to the human eye, and the destination of most of it demonstrably incomprehensible even to the subtlest financiers, who only a moment ago misplaced the same unthinkably enormous sums.

The cash nexus is long gone, and the credit nexus is quickly breaking down. Banks are bankrupt, mere bubbles left behind when a greater bubble burst, sustained only by a current of fiat currency that flows from nowhere, and can only return to the same.

Chartist optimism has been miraculously reborn in the Democratic multitudes who elected Mr. Obama, and now they earnestly petition new lords and squires to save their jobs and houses and avert the evil day that even the very next dawn may bring.

The auguries are inauspicious, but our optimism is not disproved, and no one is likely to convince us we were falling instead of floating, until we hit the ground.