Economic pie in the sky

Costa Rican rainbow Central HighlandsEric and I had fun in Costa Rica playing with a rainbow in the hills outside Santa Elena. We traveled down a narrow bumpy road until the bright double rainbow appeared to end in the backyard of the only house in sight. An inspiring illusion to be sure, but still only an illusion. Rainbows are like that, aren’t they? Manipulable to a point; there, but not, depending on your vantage point; seen by all, fully comprehended by few. As kids we dreamed of finding the promised pot of leprechaun gold, but we never could quite get there. The promise forever remained only a promise.

Chasing rainbows has become our financial pastime of late. Golden parachutes, speculation, valuation, debt forgiveness, creative accounting, off-book transactions, suspense accounts, slush funds, contra accounts, accruals, clean opinions, full disclosure, extraordinary items, going concerns, immateriality — I could go on for hours. We have a financial system that’s impossible to discern, is largely illusory and widely un-understood. Even by its makers.

The fractional reserve system, patently illegal not so long ago, means that our money isn’t a paper representation of what actually is, it is only what they say it is, which is whatever it is, I suppose. I’m told it’s lost 50% of its value in the past decade which means, I guess, that it’s now something other than what it was. And who knows what it will be tomorrow?

It would seem that printing off billions more crisp banknotes to give to soulless corporate people, whose paper assets and liabilities can be altered with the stroke of a pen, means little to anyone except the publicly-traded rich.

Is it any wonder that no one – which includes everyone – can get their arms around this mess? We don’t understand what’s really going on so we keep doing what we do, which is whatever that is, on any given day. Today Obama is coming to Denver to sign his economic stimulus plan into law — 1588 pages of freshly-printed unread paper that will solve our economic crisis and put us back on the road to financial prosperity.

I can’t recall where the momentous event is to take place, but I imagine it’s somewhere over the rainbow.

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