Time for the Fix

My blog today was going to be about branding. It’ll have to wait a bit. That’s because of the influx of e-mails I’ve received today from various financial entities with which we do business. I am sure you got some today too—or perhaps a call from a broker or two.

The people who administer our pension fund wrote me, and so did the “friendly bankers” with whom we have our checking and payroll accounts. Shoot, I even heard from a major credit card company which weighed in on the subject as well—that subject being the recent downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by one of the agencies that does this sort of thing.

To be honest, I really didn’t know much about the U.S. having its credit rated until the whole debt ceiling thing. It’s not like you go to and see if the U.S. missed a payment to Kmart. Just like the sun rising and setting, the U.S having a strong credit rating seemed a given. So this feels sort of like the high school student who got all straight A’s all four years on her entire report card, except for one B+. I know that feeling well (thank you Mr. Danner, social studies, third marking period, junior year—not that I carry a grudge or anything). Actually, a B+ does not feel good when you fancy yourself a straight-Aer. It’s a complete embarrassment for life.

Each of these e-mails today sounded real official. I liked the one from the banker the best. It sounded so calm and soothing as I read: “Given the unprecedented nature of a United States debt downgrade, there is a fair amount of guess work in analyzing the short- and long-term ramifications.  We believe the dollar’s reserve status, and the fact that arguably most U.S. Treasury holders have ‘nowhere else better to go’ should serve as a cap on damages.  But as most asset pricing models use a ‘risk free rate,’ if a downgrade causes interest rates to rise, all financial assets could decline in value.”

Translation: “Gee, we really have no idea what will happen, it’s all a guess, but golly whiz there’s no place better for anyone to invest right now so that should hold ’em.” Really? That’s what it’s come to.

As I write this, the Dow has closed down 5.5%. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Neither, I venture to say, do you. But I don’t believe our leaders –all of ‘em, any of them—are serving us well right now. And this includes any party you want to throw in there. I don’t care which party you belong to, or which ideology you don’t like, they are all culpable. And they can each blame the others from now to eternity, but that won’t do a thing to fix it.

A couple of years ago, I had a water pump issue at my home that could not be resolved. The electrician was in and blamed the plumber. The plumber came back and said it was an electrical problem. I sat in the middle in the cold soggy basement while they passed the blame ball back and forth.

After a few rounds of this, I told them the same thing I would say to all our elected officials. “It may not be your fault, and it may not be your fault either, but I know it’s definitely not my fault. So you need to do whatever it is you need to do together to fix it.”