The Yard-Sale Economy

BILL BISHOP

August 06, 1992|By BILL BISHOP

Lexington, Kentucky. -- The economy, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, is on the way to a slow but steady recovery.

The economy, according to a far more reliable indicator, is still firmly ensconced in the Dumpster.

I refer here, of course, to the local country radio station. The songs coming out of that box are a sight better at telling the truth about money than any number of economists.

(George Bernard Shaw was dead right when he noted that ''if all economists were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion.'' Country music, by god, gets to the point.)

During the last depression, it was Merle Haggard who sang the best description of the economy. ''If we make it through December,'' Merle moaned -- and we darn near didn't.

He ain't no Merle, but Sammy Kershaw is giving this year's economic commentary in his near-hit, ''Yard Sale.''

''I never thought I'd ever live to see them sorting through what's left of you and me,'' Mr. Kershaw sings. ''Paying yard-sale prices jTC

for each golden memory.''

Yard sales are what this economy is all about. Up and down every road, people short of money are desperately selling their old stuff to people who can't afford to buy new stuff at K-Mart.

The harder the economy, the more frequent the little roadside piles of clothes, lamps and old black and white televisions. Check out the nearly continuous yard sales along some roads in the hard-pressed coalfields of Kentucky and you'll know things aren't getting better -- even slowly.

There is, of course, an economic logic in the yard-sale economy. You can increase the supply of money in a system any number of ways. Reducing interest rates is the most popular. But another way is to jack up the speed money travels around the system, increase its velocity.

Yard sales do just that. The rapid actions and transactions of the yard-sale economy give people a little relief until real relief comes along.

So, the yard sales continue. People by the millions are sorting through what's left of their lives -- everyone hoping they can make it through December, again.

Bill Bishop is a columnist for the Lexington Herald Leader.

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