Wednesday, February 23, 2011

UCLA Basketball and Our Decreasing Standard of Living

John Wooden was a great coach who turned UCLA into a basketball dynasty. However, every coach who followed him was never given enough credit at UCLA.
There were two coaches named Larry who were treated as if their assistant coaches were Curly and Moe.
According to UCLA boosters there was no one acceptable to fill Wooden’s shoes. Now, even though they have a great athletic director who goes the extra mile, attendance in Pauley Pavilion has been dropping every year for the last three seasons.  This in a venue where disposition of four on the floor seats was once written into divorce agreements. 
The memories of Wooden’s tenure will soon no longer cripple a basketball program, because even UCLA boosters have to move on.
Soon our nation will have to smarten up and forget about the old days, because our standard of living will probably fall for the next seven years and people must face the concept of deleveraging. Everyone is still ignoring the fact that we thought there was twice as much money in our economy than there really was. When a bank loans out forty dollars for every dollar it keeps in reserve, asset prices go to ridiculous levels and a country’s assumptions get distorted.
Another indication that we have been ignoring the problem came yesterday from Robert J. Shiller whose book “Irrational Exuberance” warned us of the stock market crash to come, and told us house values would drop 30 percent, which they already have.
Shiller said Tuesday that there was a substantial risk of the housing market falling another 15, 20 or 25 percent.
Stock prices have climbed back to the level they were in 2008 and everyone seems to assume companies can keep laying off people to raise revenue without Americans returning to work.
Young Americans will find it tough to choose between Air Jordan’s and a new cell phone. They already are graduating from college with hopes of a job at McDonalds. Our standard of living is going to go down because we play with cheap money we already owe to countries that understood beans didn’t grow to the sky.
We are buying our own Treasury bonds on days when West Texas Crude sells for $100 a barrel and where most people were already using Brent as the standard. (Damn it, why couldn’t I find a Kroner fund?)
But the reckoning will come.
Bernanke uses the mistakes of the depression as the guide to how we must not respond to economic growth.
He has forgotten that the French built the ridiculous Maginot Line because they assumed that the Second World War would be fought like the first one. To that I say two words: “Belgium and Blitzkrieg”
And if I have to choose who to believe, Shiller will always beat out Geithner.  Let’s get ready and deal with the fact we’re not going to be as rich as we were. If you’re having trouble with this, buy yourself a Norman Rockwell calendar and drink the last of the Remy Martin.

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