Skip the economic rah-rah, please

Susan Trausch

November 11, 1991|By Susan Trausch

SO, NOW the recession is our fault. Thanks a lot, economists. Thanks a lot, George Bush.

The president of the United States and chief executive cheer leader says it's a great time to buy a house and can't understand why the country is not hopping to it.

Because it's a lousy time to sell a house, George! We're up against that real estate thing. You remember -- buy low, sell high, and most of us did just the opposite, so we're in a mood to spit nails.

We don't want to buy cars either, no matter how easy that may seem to a man with tax-supported limo service, who is running for re-election on the good-time ticket. The old rah-rah is not what we need. Cash is what we need. Also, somebody in a position of authority to understand that the economy is not a state of mind, but a checkbook.

We're sick of positive thinkers. "Economy in the U.S. isn't nearly as sour as the country's mood," read the headline on a lead story in the Wall Street Journal last Monday. "Pessimism could become a self-fulfilling prophecy further stalling recovery," it continued. "Can attitude be everything?"

Oh, shut up!

If one more guy in an expensive suit looks at us as though we're recalcitrant children who need to be coaxed into the economic sandbox, a lot of us are going to start throwing shovels and pails. This is not a game. We are not lacking in school spirit. The problem is that we've had it with a system that skims the cream for the top and tells the middle to pay for it.

Over the past couple of weeks I've received letters from people who are simply tired of racing to stay even or, more often, racing to stay just a little behind. They are hard-working folks who have trouble buying groceries.

A retired man wrote saying that he wouldn't be surprised if people just said, "No more," and stopped paying taxes. A lot of them have already stopped buying insurance.

This week a friend walked over to my desk in a rage. He took advantage of a special on paper towels and then discovered that the rolls were shorter and thinner than his regular brand.

"I'm a chump!" he bellowed, pounding the desk. "We're all chumps!"

The man has a good job. Reading his resume you would not peg him for a person who would go ballistic over a couple of cents off on paper products. But this is where America lives right now. We're grabbing those 59-cent specials and counting the change.

Why doesn't our leader know this? Maybe because he never has to shop. I've always felt that America would be vastly improved if our presidents stood in line at the store once in a while or wrote the check for the oil bill.

Also, they should stop talking to economic advisers. These people weave fantasy phrases such as "crisis in confidence," "fear-mongering," and "consumer perception," which create the illusion that the mess can be fixed with the right magic words.

I'll bet a package of the good paper towels that one of George Bush's fiscal gurus told him to tell America to get out there and buy domiciles and wheels. Next will come posters that say, "Uncle Sam wants you to trade up!" Or, "Tight fists sink recoveries!"

The trouble is a lot of experts announced that the recession was over last spring, so they're feeling like fortune-tellers with bum crystals now. Nothing left for them to do but make the public take the fall.

"Goose them, Mr. President," they say in long meetings around polished tables, drinking coffee from china cups. (I think this is what is meant by the "invisible hand" theory of economics.)

Just keep it out of our wallets, guys. And keep your recession, too. After all, you invented it. We just work here.

Susan Trausch is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

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