This first bit of folly may be yours.
Kirk Walters offers a variation on a familiar end-of-December theme: The crush of Christmas bills that arrive in the new year.
But unike Ramadan or Hannukah, Christmas doesn’t wander around the calendar and pop up at unexpected times. It’s always December 25 and New Year’s is always January 1 and as the man said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, won’t get fooled again.” Or something.
That Walters builds the crushing ball out of credit cards is appropriate, because a few generations ago, it was much harder to spend what you didn’t have. You could put things on layaway, but that only saved them for you in a storeroom. You still had to come up with the money before you could take them home and put them under the tree.
Banks also used to have Christmas Clubs, where you deposited a small amount each week so that, by the holidays, you had enough saved up for presents. If they still offer this service, they don’t promote it like they used to. (Ignoring the fact that you always had the option of saving in a regular account, a piggy bank or a coffee can. But the Christmas Club added a sense of obligation, I suppose.)
But the advent (no pun intended) of credit cards in the past century made it easier to spend money you didn’t have and, in fact, never really would have. A benefit for consumers but a much larger benefit for merchants and banks.
Mencken said “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”
Or, one might add, their ability to budget. And while “It’s a Wonderful Life” is uplifting and all, you really can’t count on your friends and neighbors pitching in to bail you out when things go cattywumpus.
That’s the microeconomics point of view. The macro view is a little more complex:
Lisa Benson (Counterpoint) is apparently of the opinion that Joe Biden is lying about the economy. There are some economists who are predicting a real recession in 2024, but they’re a distinct minority, and a reminder of the old wisecrack that, if you laid every economist in the country end to end, they wouldn’t reach a conclusion.
The consensus is that the economy is doing pretty well, certainly better than expected. There could be a slight shudder in the New Year, in part because there always is and in part because we’re still shaking out from the pandemic and from global inflation. But very few experts are concerned and there is, if not a giddy sense of anticipation, at least a calm attitude towards the year ahead.
Oh, and as most of the US looks out at bare ground this Christmas, the Weather Channel’s incoming major system is barely predicted to deposit enough snow to cover the ground.
If you want to find a problem with the economy, you might check with your local ski hill:
I don’t know that “the weather’s fine,” but around here it’s only a slight drizzle, and we don’t have to shovel that.
Juxtaposition of the Day
Luckovich gets a laugh out of Nikki Halley’s absurd answer to the question of what caused the Civil War, while Murphy is horrified at her ignorant dismissal of the “peculiar institution” over which 750,000 Americans died and for which countless men, women and children suffered.
It was a question she should have been able to swat over the centerfield wall for a home run. As has been said since, it’s not a matter of opinion: South Carolina gave the preservation of slavery as the first and foremost reason for their secession, and teaching that is now mandated in their school curricula.
Halley is now complaining that the questioner was a Democrat intending to set her up, but, first of all, if she becomes president, she’ll meet all sorts of Democrats, not just on Capitol Hill but everywhere in America. Second, it might have been a “gotcha” question, but the easy, obvious answer would have earned her points with the opposition. As it is, her answer confirmed the opinion that the Party of Lincoln has been transformed into a white supremacist organization.
The truly bizarre part being that there was some hope that Halley would leapfrog over Trump and offer voters a conservative-but-not-insane candidate in November.
She not only damaged her chance of overtaking him, but the hope that she’d prove more acceptable if she did.
Juxtaposition of the Day #2
The posters used to say “War is good business: Invest your son!” but these days, people who want wider wars can send both their sons and daughters to the battlefield.
If not in Europe after Kyev falls, perhaps we can return to the Middle East for a return engagement there.
Meanwhile, the idea that the US is doing nothing about Houthi attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea requires staying away from the news entirely, while saying that we’re not doing enough seems like a desire to see more open warfare involving American troops.
There are experts who want the US to step it up, but that’s a matter of going from knocking down rockets to hitting launch sites, and we’re about an inch away from that escalation.
But just as sending a few troops over to topple the Taliban or to root out Saddam was not as easy as the chickenhawks assumed it would be, the options in this case, with its roots in the Israel/Hamas violence, are equally tangled and perilous.
Meanwhile, to suggest that we’re doing nothing is not simply ignorant but an insult to the American troops already engaged.
But, gosh golly, it’s still Christmas time, and Tim Campbell reminds us that we should continue to celebrate our Lord’s birthday in the proper mood for which our leader, a stable genius, has provided a good, Christian example in which I think he was quoting his favorite book of the Bible, Galoshes 2.
It truly is a Wonderful Life!