More Dogs On Main Street
January 2, 2009
After a dismal 2008, the new year is a time filled with optimism, excitement, and enthusiasm for all the good things to come. Or not. As economists continue to make comparisons between the present economic conditions and the Great Depression, it’s hard to find much to be optimistic about. The best news is that "it’s still not quite as bad as 1933." George Bush will be out of office in 17 days. There’s a bright spot. Even the most hard-bitten conservatives among my friends are looking forward to the end of Bush’s reign of incompetence.
That change alone won’t carry us through the year, but it’s a good start. Obama takes office on the 20th. I figure that the traditional honeymoon allowed new administrations will last about to the end of that week. If he hasn’t found 2 million new jobs, balanced the budget, stoked the stock market, brokered lasting peace in the Middle East, saved the planet, ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and provided affordable health insurance to everybody by about Friday, there will be trouble. Maybe he can stretch it out to the end of the month. Nobody’s going to cut him any slack. The White House has more or less been vacant for 8 years and there’s work to be done.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, from Ohio, has insisted that none of Obama’s plan will get approved unless "Republican ideas are considered." I hate to pick at the wound, but aren’t those Republic ideas largely responsible for the mess we’re in now? At least they’ve quit talking about the benefits of privatizing Social Security and investing those funds in the stock market. Boehner should retire to his tanning booth.
To make his economic plan work, Obama will need to raise and spend an enormous amount of money. They will be bailing out taco carts before this is over. It’s going to be hard to find the money. They can borrow only so much. They can print a whole lot more, but that causes problems too. So they will turn to the master to raise the cash. My prediction is that Obama will hire stock market con artist Bernie Madoff to raise the money. Madoff made off with $50 billion with nothing more than a laptop computer, an accountant who hadn’t left his apartment in years, and an office staff of two or three people. Put him in charge of a federal department with some real resources at his disposal and we can get the economy turned around in no time.
Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme, where money raised from new investors was used to pay fat returns to the existing investors. When Madoff does it, that’s a crime. When the government spends the income taxes that will be paid by your great-grandchildren to bail out bankers who should have known better, it’s economic recovery. Obama has pledged to staff his administration with the best people he can find. When it comes to "funny money," there’s nobody better than Madoff.
In January, market gurus will issue reassuring statements that the markets will turn around in about six months. In June, market gurus will issue somewhat less reassuring statements that the markets turn around in about 6 months. By 2010, people will be eating market gurus roasted over a pile of worthless GM bonds.
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Locally, things may get exciting. My psychic friends consulted the chicken entrails and offered the following predictions for 2009:
In April, Bob and Janet Peterson, of Portland, Oregon, will purchase a condominium in Park City. The resulting economic tsunami from that $300,000 sale will jolt the local economy back to life. The Board of Realtors will sponsor a parade in their honor. The city will declare a holiday to commemorate the event. Over in Coalville, somebody will have to come out of retirement to boot up the computers in the recorder’s office and figure out how to record the deed. Two timeshares will be sold in June, followed by a single-family home sale in August.
Based on the surge in sales, the Sweeney Brothers will bring the 75th version of the Treasure Hill project before the planning commission. The new buildings will be cloaked with some kind of magic stealth siding that renders the buildings invisible. Traffic will be mitigated by entering the project through a tunnel that starts at Summit Park. Bowing to the economic conditions, the planning commission will embrace the project on the premise that somebody building something, somewhere, is better than nothing. But in the end, not even Bernie Madoff will finance the project, and the application will go dormant again. The American City Planning Association will give them a trophy for the longest running approval process in the history of zoning. The city will declare a holiday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the application. Everybody will go to the parade because their hours had been cut and they had the day off anyway.
Nationally, there is a trend toward comfort food. Starbucks is serving oatmeal. Nobody really likes oatmeal. It has always been eaten for entirely medicinal purposes it’s full of moral fiber. Main Street restaurants find that they can’t sell their usual menus and struggle to bring the cost of a meal under $50 a plate. Organic gnu with a mango chutney gives way to more conventional offerings like a cheeseburger. Nobody misses it.
The state legislature will take up the complicated issue of liquor-law reform. The governor, the hospitality industry, and tourism officials have all recommended that we eliminate the "private club" concept in the legislation. The private club is a bar that you have to buy a membership to enter. The membership requirements are rigorous anybody with $5 can become a member. Everybody familiar with the rule finds it ridiculous, and that its primary function is to confuse tourists in the state. But the state legislature will fight to preserve the private club requirements, and will probably impose a new regulation that each club is required to have a unique secret handshake. Predicting something stupid from the Utah Legislature is hardly news.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.