Friday, December 11, 2009

Federal "Stimulus" = Heroin

Here is an extended analogy of the U.S. economy as a badly injured delusional mountain climber.

Analogies and metaphors serve as tools which capture the essence of a situation or context. So bear with me as I spin what may seem a wild analogy: the U.S. economy as aging, delusional and now badly injured mountain climber.

Back in the day, U.S.E. (U.S. economy) was indeed a lean climbing machine; trimmed of fat by the arduous malaise years of the 70s (a.k.a. the Bear Market of 1967-1981) and restored to a modicum of reasonably honest self-critique by the near-collapse of governance caused by various official lies, obfuscations, secret black-bag jobs and embezzlements, U.S.E. tackled one peak after the other: inventing the personal computer revolution and the Internet, to name but two which revolutionized global commuication and commerce forever.

But then the hubris of endless success set in. U.S.E. started taking on riskier routes up heretofore unexplored peaks, while letting his safety equipment fray. The twin peaks of Financial Innovation and Teowaki (the native word for "Endless Immense Profits From Doing Nothing But Shuffling Paper") beckoned, and even as his fitness declined to flab, his self-confidence rose to delusional heights.

Not only would he conquer these peaks but he would do so with a pathetic collection of jury-rigged safety harnesses and badly frayed ropes.

U.S.E. slipped on his ascent in Fall 2007, a warning that his route up Financial Innovation was riskier than he was willing to acknowledge; but he ignored the warnings and actually switched to an even riskier route, one which experienced observers declared as impossible to continue for long.

U.S.E. ignored the signs and dismissed the critics as "doom and gloomers." Alas, in the Fall of 2008, U.S.E. fell as predicted, and all his faulty, frayed safety ropes broke. He fell hard on sharp, broken rubble.

Unfit and flabby from years of high living and immense profits, U.S.E. insisted he was was only bruised a bit and nothing was wrong. But he was purposefully self-deceptive to the point of delusion; bones had been fractured and internal organs ruptured by his fall to the rocks below.

Rather than admit to the failure of his risky plan and safety equipment, U.S.E. opened his first-aid kit and placed band-aids over the fractured bones and rubbed first-aid cream on the skin over his ruptured organs. Then he broke open his vial of last resort: heroin to suppress the terrible pain of his injuries.

The first dose had an immediate effect: a pleasant euphoria came over his entire broken body: all would be well. As a stumbled down the rough terrain, his clouded mind roiled with new plans for ascending the same old mountain tops of Financial Innovation and Teowaki, only with routes marginally less risky.

But U.S.E. was delusional; he was in no shape to climb a grassy slope, much less a major peak with nothing but impossible routes. As the horrendous pain of his potentially fatal injuries returned, he jabbed another needle into his battered arm and injected another dose of high-grade heroin into his veins: borrowed money and Federal stimulus.

Rather than deploying savings and capital derived from income--having squandered his reserves on high-risk gambles and high living, he had neither--U.S.E. kept injecting borrowed money (heroin) to stave off the pain. Delusional about his injuries, he stumbled forward as if his flab was still muscle and his planning still prudent rather than suicidal.

Unfortunately, U.S.E. turned ever more frequently to the balm of heroin; and now, of course, he was addicted to the drug. His self-deception was now pathological; he was no longer able to perceive the grim realities of his worsening situation. In his derangement, he still considered himself King of the World and Number One, hardy and robust, easily able to scale Financial Innovation and Endless Profits once again, just as soon as he reached Base Camp and repaired his laughably inadequate safety equipment.

This delusional, addicted climber is the U.S. economy and its Id, the U.S. government. The only question is whether the climber expires peacefully at base camp in the haze of borrowed money heroin, or whether he attempts another ascent of Financial Innovation and falls to a quick death. Given his internal injuries, addiction and self-reinforcing delusion, there are no other visible options. Recovery would be possible but only if U.S.E. tore away the hubris and delusion which has conquered his mind, suffered the tremendous agonies of Cold Turkey withdrawal from borrowed money, and rehabilitated his broken, unfit body slowly, over a great length of time.

There is no evidence that U.S.E. is willing to make the slightest effort to pursue even one of these three essentials, much less all three at once. Thus he is doomed, by his own delusions and choices, to expire.

Permanent link: Federal "Stimulus" = Heroin

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