Biff America: ‘The Money Memo From Hell’
Eagle County CO, Colorado
“Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”
” Bob Dylan
The event was billed as a “Round Table Economic Summit.” It might have been advertised as “The Money Memo From Hell.” Thankfully, they served good coffee and fresh pastries. Considering the message imparted by the various speakers, this was akin to providing a palate-cleansing sorbet before serving up strychnine-laced Kool-Aid.
I sat through more than two hours of four speakers and three croissants. The purpose was to provide some insight into our nation’s, state’s and county’s economic future. The take-away was: “We are all going to die.”
If I had any foresight, I would have brought a few lemons and offered to squeeze the juice into the eyes of those attending who wanted to be cheered up.
By all reports, the economy is as healthy as Keith Richard’s liver.
For the past two months during this meltdown, my mate and I have been traveling the Southwest in our small RV biking and hiking. With limited diversions available, we spent hours each evening listening to radio pundits pontificate on the cause and cure of our hemorrhaging economy. The more I heard, the more confused I became; but it was an excuse to cook in our camper and eat out less.
For one weekend, we camped near an older couple. The husband was a retired chief financial officer of a Fortune 500 company. For two nights, we sat around drinking his single-malt scotch Royal and listening to my portable radio while the sun set over the buttes of Utah. Even with his expert perspective, I’m still unable to figure out exactly what happened.
One thing he did say that I remember is, “It was a combination of bad timing, bad numbers, fear and greed.”
The summit I attended yesterday was hosted by a local business group. The speakers were experts in the field of finance, hospitality and marketing. The crowd consisted of business leaders, elected officials and staff, concerned citizens and a few miscreants like me who were there for the free food and misery. Unfortunately, there was no whiskey provided because the message imparted could make even the most pious sprint for a bottle.
I will say one bright spot immediately followed the event ” I bumped into one of the speakers at a local coffee shop paying $4.50 for a latte, so perhaps things are not as bad as he maintained.
Since the market started leaking like a screen door in a submarine, there has been finger-pointing galore. Certainly the Democrats were able to capitalize on the crisis during the election but, at least in my opinion, there is blame to go around. Even Alan Greenspan ” who can balance a checkbook better than most ” did not see it coming. And both political parties could have done more in the way of regulating our banking and lending institutions.
I’m not an expert on finance (or anything else for that matter), but I will take a stab at what I believe has contributed to this mess.
We all want more than we need.
Now granted, this is a simplistic observation. Of course we all want more than we need; what is needed to survive is the bare minimum. The problem is we all want WAY more than we need. You need only to look as far as your own community to see that many of us have bigger homes, bigger cars, more stuff and toys and are way more interested in buying more than saving. Much of the sub-prime mortgage crisis was caused by consumers buying the homes they wanted rather than the homes they needed or could afford. Our own president, just after 9/11, equated consumption with patriotism. Now, after years of consumer self-indulgence, the chickens have come home to roost.
On the plus side, most agree there is a light at the end of the tunnel ” though some fear it might be an oncoming train. The consensus of expert opinion is that we will eventually come out of this decline. We can only hope that, once better days arrive, consumers, leaders and financial institutions don’t forget the lessons learned and what caused this mess. And hopefully we will all be reminded that bigger is not better, wanting and needing should not be confused and that the best things in life are free ” love, friendship, laughter and occasionally good coffee and pastries, but only if you sit through the “The Money Memo from Hell.”
On second thought, I’d rather pay cash.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local bookstores or at backcountrymagazine.com.