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How Now Brown Dow? Alan Greenspan vs. Dr. Seuss

When I was in junior high school I excelled in literature and math. You know -- fractions, algebraic equations, and Venn diagrams. Economics, not so much. Too many theories, too abstract. It wasn't concrete.
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When I was in junior high school I excelled in literature and math. You know -- fractions, algebraic equations, and Venn diagrams. Economics, not so much. Too many theories, too abstract. It wasn't concrete like Given: and To Prove.

So... in order to prove to my arrogant teacher that I could semi-understand the topic, I summarized my MacroEconomics class in rhyme:

The U.S. System's private--
A capitalist device;
An economy whose guides are fixed
By quantity and price

Analysis: a market base
Of decentralized control.
Supply and demand of labor and land
Comprise the economy's whole.

The basic problems number four:
What to produce and how?
For just whom can we goods assure?
How is growth measured now?

The monetary policy
Can fluctuate or swerve;
The question's one of currency
And DD of the Federal Reserve.

The ratio of the discount rate,
Open-market operation;
The sell or purchase bond debate--
The reserve's recommendation.

The policies do function
As fiscal and monetary -
Together, in conjunction,
Not in motion solitary.

Just what is a paper dollar
In a system that is muddy?
To the amateur and the scholar
Economics is a study

Of importance to all students
Who must answer and not shirk
The question met with prudence:
Just how does this country work?
Photo: Alice Birkin -

On Black Monday 10/19/87 I noticed that the date had numbers that were trickling backwards. I also knew it was the birthday of Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) Herman and Jon Favreau. Other than that I had no clue. It seemed to me neither did the news commentators.

And now it's no different. Amidst this recent Coney Island-ish week of rollercoaster-ride conundrum of stock up and down-ness, I hear gobs of questions and thimbles-ful of answers.

I mean seriously, if anyone truly knew the perfect solution to investing, most of us would not be working our 9-5 jobs. Not even the anchormen, the politicians and the bankers, I'd venture to guess. None of them truly knows the golden rule. And if they did would they dare to share the knowledge?

There's lots of talk about tumbling, sliding, grappling, and somersaulting. Frankly it sounds more like gymnastics than banking. Perhaps it's Summer Games Rio 2016! Some of the more sophisticated business journalists are talking about leverage buy-outs, loan bubbles, and one of my all-time favorites: the dollar is the cleanest dirty shirt in the laundry. That's the magical finance metaphor for geopolitical uncertainty. Is this the best we can come up with? Really?

And, by the way, there's more than the usual chatter about the financial crises and the Great Recession of 2009. I think many 2015 dishwashers and busboys are scraping by on minimum wage, stuck in their own daily financial crises. They don't have to wait for some Wall Street strategist to lecture them about managing their capital. There's simply not that much capital piled up to invest.

As for the wealthy, they'll always have their summer homes in Martha's Vineyard and their winter vacations in the Riviera. It's primarily the lower and middle class who've been scrimping and saving their pennies for years that could suffer.

We're all yapping about the devaluing of the yuan and the dollar. Did we all just forget about Greece? I almost choked on my baklava when all heads turned to Beijing and I started salivating for Peking duck. Then the words started pouring out in economic gobbledygook: sell-offs, bull runs, stock index, stagnant revenues and managing mandates. For all I know, these could be ingredients in a trendy Joyce Chen recipe. We could be cooking up batches of mortgage-backed moussaka or municipal bond moo goo gai pan; S & P souvlaki or Dow Jones dumplings.

And then there's Quantitative easing (QE): the policy used by central banks to stimulate the economy when standard measures are not working. I always thought the QE was a huge cruise ship. Oh right, that's the QE2.

So my thinking is this. We've got two options:

1. Let's go back to Ancient Greece. Remember Pythagoras? He had these things called theorems and they were either provable or not. No meandering, and none of this guessing game vague stuff. No "one step up/two steps back" either. I say we consider going back to the days of Aristotle and Plato - they had it pretty well figured out. And we'd all be better off for no panicking.

2. Nope. Even better. Listen to Dr. Seuss. In Oh the Places You'll Go , he's got the facts and feelings down: simple, clear and to the point:

Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.
Because sometimes you won't.
I'm sorry to say so, but, sadly, it's true ...
And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done

* * * * *

On and on you will hike and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems whatever they are. ...
remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

* * * * *

Summing up his financial theory in four lines, Theodor Seuss Geisel (I Can Read with My Eyes Shut) explains:

The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn the more places you'll go.
You might learn a way to earn a few dollars.
Or how to make doughnuts.... or kangaroo collars.