Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Almost Daily 2¢ - Greater Fool’s Day!

I’d like to propose that February 1st be, this year and forever, known and celebrated as “Greater Fool’s Day!”

What better and more fundamental a theme for Americans to observe (at least once a year) than the lust for fast cash, easy money, celebrity lifestyle and fame and fortune leading to the inevitable national panic and widespread financial ruin.

Yes, on this day we can pay homage to all the half-baked Ponzi-schemes that have ever swept our great nation, drawing in throngs of wide eyed “investors” full of optimism and greedy animal spirits only to finally see them crapped out again as total losers faster than our country’s macroeconomic fabric could withstand.

And what better a generation of Americans to begin this celebration than our current?

In the course of 20 short years there have been not one but THREE, successively larger, national financial calamities (S&L, dot-com, Great Housing Bubble) culminating in our current most dire predicament… truly an historic achievement in and of itself!

But, this day of celebration is not meant to be mean spirited … no … it should be a day of collective remembrance, humor and socialized atonement for all our individual acts of foolishness and stupidity.

It’s not like anyone had a gun to your head forcing you to sign the mortgage documents resulting in that 65% debt-to-income ratio or to hand over your retirement savings, paycheck after paycheck, to the “safety” of the mutual fund manager and his “well diversified” investments.

Risk was always a factor but you shirked it… even welcomed it!… and here we are… but this was a collective delusion and you are certainly not alone so why suffer individually?

So, I hereby declare February 1st to be “Greater Fools Day!”

Aside from observing the day I would also like to propose a few possible rituals that can be carried out throughout the holiday to better, and more publicly, celebrate the foolish spirit.

First, on the night of January 31st, now and forever to be known as “All Losers Eve” I propose, as a preparatory ceremony, a family, community or otherwise shared reading of the chapter titled “Financial Crisis: A Hardy Perennial” of Charles Kindleberger’s classic title “Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises”.

A better synopsis of bubble history, the bubble paradigm and post-bubble collapse has likely never been written.

Now, as for February 1st…

For those of you stuck “holding the bag” so to speak I would suggest that you distinguish yourself… Mark yourself so that others may identify your level of foolishness.

Perhaps consider wearing a tag specifying the year in which you bought your “dream home” and your level of indebtedness.

For example, your tag could read: “2006 – 100% LTV - 67% DTI – 75 days in Arrears!”

Or, for Boomers, simply indicate the year in which you would be solidly prepared for retirement and your desired location such as “Ft. Lauderdale – 2079!”

As for the many renters who were so lifelessly thrown to the side during the Great Housing Bubble or those rare “Cassandra’s” and “Chicken Little’s” who saw the whole mess brewing, sold their homes in 2005-2006 and pulled all their cash to the sidelines I would suggest that you spend the entire day patting yourself on the back while frequently screaming “see, I told you so!” and very publicly dancing that “happy jig” you have so impeccably refined in private.

Rejoice! Rejoice! You have no choice!