Economists in the house? Run!


Don’t’ look now, but Dr. Econ — that master of the malaprop, that tangled tiller of economic turnips, the clearest, coldest-eyed killer of the English language — just walked into the office of your faithful reporter and, trapped, I can only…

Dr. Econ, how have you been?

“I’ve been busy, of course, attempting to divide the bottom line of the just-gassed Banking Reform swill.”

I take it you mean ‘divine the bottom line of the just-passed Banking Reform bill.’

“Yes, yes; define the krill. At 2,300 pages there’s a lot of feeding to it.”

And your reading of it led you to what judgment: good, bad, helpful, harmful?

“All those things. I see in the Wall Street Infernal that several of my colleagues also have several opinions on what the left hand of Congress did to the right hand of bankers. Who’d have guessed anyone in either place would have known their fright from their fret?”

The Journal did interview several economic leaders of the last decade — Hank Paulson, the need-it-now former Secretary of Treasury; Noriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicated today’s economic mess; and Harvey Pitt, boss at the Securities and Exchange Commission when Enron collapsed — and, respectively, each graded the banking bill as ‘incomplete,’ ‘C+’ and, ‘F.’

“Amazing that these two guys Paltry and Pity, who did nothing during the recent crack-ups of Fall Street, think this new law is nothing. Nothing plus nothing is exactly what I’d bet that neither of them is correct this time, either.

“Dr. Houdini, however, knows the value of handcuffs; I trust him.”


“Right. Handcuffs, I’ve found often in my multi-storied, up-an-down career, are useless unless used. Prudence and humility usually accompany stainless steel bracelets.”

On the topic of prudence, U.S. business, reportedly, is sitting on $1.6 trillion in cash and the big banks are swimming in profits even as they claim they can’t find good loans. What gives?

“Not the banks! Ha ha! Who says economists have no tumor?”


“Whatever. Banks are banks; they lend you money you don’t need until you need it and then they become wieners. I mean franks. I mean banks. Sounds so Goldman Sachs to me.”

Goldman Sachs is a bank.

“There you have it.”

Agriculture, on the other hand, seems to be weathering the slow economy. What’s your view?

“Oh, I don’t have a view. Too rainy here to see anything but mostly mold; growing everywhere. On trees, grass, flowers. Big fungus year. Big. I suppose the smart money has bought up all the fungus futures already. In on the gourd floor, as it were.”

Sir, there’s no such thing as fungus futures.

“Are you sure? There’s futures for everything: corn, soybeans, mini-wheat — I don’t know if they’re frosted or not — and even something called the Cheese Spot Call. Well, I ask you, who needs a spot of cheese while making a call?”

Do you have an opinion on where we’ll be a year from now?

“Good golly, son, how the devil do I know where you, me or anyone will be next July? Your questions reflect your ignominy and agony.”

Let me guess: ignorance and arrogance?

“Precisely. If the question, however, is where will we be economically, well, I can say with great conference and equal marginality — sorry for those collegially anemic terms — that we will be nowhere where we’ll want to be and very, very close to where we shouldn’t be.”

Hmm, I’m starting to get that feeling already, sir.

“Well, I have been known for my uncanny predictability. But, I hasten to add, modesty prevents me from adding that if I’ve been of any assistance whatsoever I deeply and succinctly apologize.”


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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.



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