CSotD: Winding down the year and the economy

Graeme Keyes finds a way to freshen the stale old “kids play in the box” gag.

There’s no gag so moldy that it can’t be made new again, but sometimes it requires turning it completely upside down.

Strict analysis of this raises the question of whether those are “kids” and whether they were the recipients of the gifts that were originally in those boxes.

But the humor is in the cluelessness of the speaker, as indicated by the horror on the face of his companion, which means we aren’t supposed to assume that he knows what he’s seeing.

He’s simply reciting a timeworn phrase that lets him ignore what is before him.

These days, if you don’t want to see poverty, you have to work to ignore it, because it’s no longer hidden.

When Jacob Riis wrote “How the Other Half Lives” in 1890, it truly was a revelation to a world that did not yet have film or broadcasting, and in which even photography was not always reproduced in books: Many of Riis’s groundbreaking photographs were rendered into engravings for publication.

He wasn’t alone in trying to open the eyes of those who had never seen the ghettos: Helen Stuart Campbell had begun the task a few years earlier, both in investigating the Five Points slums overall and in laying out the plight of poor working women, while, a year after Riis’s book hit, her “Darkness and Daylight in New York” added the convincing blow to their one-two combination.

But it should be remembered that, while New York City was a major population center in those days, nearly two-thirds of Americans lived in rural areas.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that most people had no idea what it was like to be poor in the streets of our cities.

Not sure what their excuse is today, with three-quarters of them living in urban areas. I’ve driven through their cities and, like the fellow in Keyes’ cartoon, you have to make a real effort to remain ignorant of what is plainly there to see.


It does, however, make me wish more people had read Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s 2014 book, “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt,” which shone a light on life outside Gotham and explained the brewing anger out there.

How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see?


Meanwhile, back in Utopia, Matt Wuerker notes how the military-industrial complex has nearly become an actual physical thing rather than a hushed-up secret to be kept from the children.

My grandfather used to say that, in terms of jobs and the economy, we should build all the weaponry we’d normally make during a war, but then go dump it in the ocean instead of using it against each other.

Perhaps someone took him seriously.


Plus, as Ann Telnaes points out, there are also economic impacts to be had in providing security for Thing One and Thing Two as they travel around the world. Nearly a quarter of a million a month does seem a lot.

Some of this wretched excess is a result of electing an old man rather than a young one, since Amy Carter and the Obama girls were home and less expensive to protect.

The Reagan offspring, who were no longer kids, had Secret Service protection, but, then, they weren’t globetrotting off to Dubai.

While, even if Amy had been older, her father’s blind trust would likely have meant she wouldn’t have been out selling peanuts.

However, I’m less outraged by the money spent protecting these young tyros in Dubai than I am by the fact that their old man won’t comp the Secret Service when they need rooms at Mar-A-Lago, particularly since there are perfectly good already-paid-for quarters at Camp David.

Granted, the golf facilities there are somewhat limited.

He’s promised to donate the profits back to the gummint, which is a generous-sounding offer if you’ve never been foolish enough to make an agreement in which you received a percentage of the net, as calculated by the person who is supposed to fork it over.

Never mind. The differences between oligarchy, plutocracy and kleptocracy are a matter of national security and we ought not to ask questions.


I did get a laugh out of Stuart Carlson‘s cartoon, which, once again, uses a timeworn symbol, this time of the stock price graph as a rollercoaster.


However, the usual usage is similar to this Pat Oliphant panel from the 1987 crash, in which Ronald Reagan smiles to assure everyone that things are fine, or, often, Uncle Sam clings to a coaster that flies up and down.

Carlson’s down-only route is something of an innovation, while the cry of surprise seems entirely new: In previous iterations of the gag, it’s been assumed that investors knew that markets rise and fall, however terrified they might be at the fluctuations of the moment.

And he’s right: I’m hearing people freak out over their nest egg, apparently unaware that it’s called a “nest egg” for a reason and not because you’re supposed to crack it open and make an omelet the moment you feel a little hungry.

Leave it alone and give it time to hatch.

My own IRA is tied strongly to the overall market, which has dropped 12 percent since the last time I had a report.

But, then again, I’m not planning to start raiding it regularly for a few more years, and it’s been a couple of decades since I set it up.

I do feel for anyone currently living on their retirement, though, even then, they’d better be dipping in and not chug-a-lugging the whole thing at once.

Yes, it’s better to be nibbling at a large chunk than a small chunk. I get that.

But you knew it would rise and fall, unless, instead of a financial adviser, you placed your future in the hands of a “wealth manager,” whose self-chosen title makes a fairly explicit promise.

Granted, a seemingly absurd one.

Among several.