I know your first thought when you heard about a major stock market tumble this week was to rush to your computer and find out what Jeanne Jackson thinks you should do to salvage your portfolio.
Frankly, following my advice is probably no more risky than following the advice of your broker. He or she probably graduated from a university with a degree in finance and maybe an MBA from somewhere else. I, on the other hand, had an uncle who ran numbers at every wedding and funeral. See what I mean?
I did, though, take Economics I and II in college. We learned about selling coconuts on a desert island and that when the coconuts started running out, the price would rise until no one could afford coconuts, at which point the supply of coconuts increases causing the price to drop to where people start making ambrosia again.
That’s about all I remember after two semesters with a professor who made Ben Stein look dynamic and gregarious. That and something about salt being the one thing that people will not buy more of no matter how cheap it is, leading me to believe whoever wrote the economics curricula never had to feed teenagers. You stockpile anything edible that goes on sale.
So that, coupled with my experience with my enterprising Uncle Tomasino, qualifies me to sort out this whole Wall Street plummeting thing.
First of all, why do we keep talking about The Economy as if it was this thing that has nothing to do with us? We are the economy. There are people with “hunches” behind every stock purchase or sale. There are people behind the reasons for those hunches. It’s all just people deciding things.
So — cut it out. Stop it. Stop doing whatever it is you’re doing that’s making the economy go sour. Stop changing your investment decisions based on totally unrelated reasons like there being an after-the-fact threat to the life of Vice President Dick Cheney and so you’re not going to buy a dryer.
Normally I wouldn’t be telling people what to do, in spite of my vast experience in this field. But, you see, Dirtman and I are in a business directly affected by what goes on with the stock market.
The after-effects of 9/11 were muted in the D.C. area because of the increase in Homeland Security and all the employment it drew. Building was booming. Last spring new housing starts, a standard indicator of what’s down the road for the economy, were huge.
As a soil scientist, one of Dirtman’s functions is to evaluate land parcels before anything gets started. So he is my indicator of what’s down the road for the economy, and last spring Dirtman had time on his hands.
So we were braced and prepared when the housing bubble burst at the end of the summer. Not that we didn’t take a pretty gut-wrenching hit, which is why I feel the need to share my economic wisdom with the rest of you.
Knock it off with the gloom and doom, you hear me? Happy days are here again. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. The buck stops here. Only Americans can hurt America. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. I am not a crook. I did not have sex with that woman. (Sorry – the last two just popped into my head from Nixon and Clinton.)
Now I realize that it’s a lot to ask that you buy a brand new home for the sole purpose of allowing me to see Italy before I die. So I’ve decided to use the Heirs’ college money to go to Italy and you can say you’re buying a new house to put two promising young men through college so they might give back to the world. I stress the word “might.”
Really, I’m only thinking of the national economy when I encourage you to build stuff and buy crap. The fact that I want to extend my back deck for an enclosed porch is entirely beside the point.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, concludes today’s lesson on the economy. Go make yourself a pina colada. Or maybe a margarita. The salt’s on me.