by Hénock Gugsa
Wonder of wonders, folks. I ran into Donald the other day at Lake Calhoun.
The "Duck" is well, by the way ... a bit exhausted from all that politicking he did recently in America's bounteous ponds. He's gained quite a bit of weight what with every one of his constituents pushing seeds, grasses, bugs, and little yummy snails in front of him all the time.
However, his run for the Presidency came to naught. We all knew that would be the outcome going in, but poor Donald of-course didn't. He told me that he is now totally cured of politics and plans to spend the rest of his duck days doing the things he is best at ... waddling, musing, and from time to time quacking just for the hell of it.
I asked Donald what he ponders about most.
He fluttered his wings once, and without missing a beat, said, "Why the American psyche of-course. What else?"
I said, "What do you mean, Donnie Boy? What about the American psyche?"
"Sheesh," he said, " You're the only one that calls me that! I ain't no damn Irish. I'm an American thru and thru. And I live and breathe America, don't you know that?"
I apologized and offered him a piece of aquatic delicacy to calm his nerves. Then, I pressed on with my interview of the great man, er duck.
He sat on his rump and stretched out his old legs and let them dangle in the water.
"I am worried about the American psyche," he began, "The recent financial debacle on Wall Street is sending tremors of fear and unease all thru the land."
I asked, "Do you think that Obama is up to the challenge?"
"Well, he seems to have a good team behind him. They'll be shovel-ready, don't worry."
"So what is worrying you?"
"My friend, it is them so-called experts that are messing with our heads, telling us this and that about where we are and where we are headed. What do they know? And some of them, they call themselves, 'financial advisers'. They mess with the American psyche telling us about the 'right' investment strategies. They talk about credit cycles and, get this, about solid data-driven financial analyses that will ensure success in our investment ventures. First, they assure us, then they caution us.It's enough to make your head spin."
I nodded in agreement, and he was emboldened to continue.
"I ask you, how much can the American psyche take? They tell you to access your brain, a new fangled way of telling you to think. These advisers guarantee that they are hard-wired to the raw data out there, but the prognostications depend on the behavior of us Americans. They say our future depends on our core values, yours and mine. True enough. But, what if our values-based behavior is affected by the fear factor emanating from the pit of our stomachs? Should we make decisions by proxy, or should we just adhere to the herd mentality? Should we hedge our funds, and should we continue being free to be greedy? And what about our x,y,z expectations? Should we not buy into the crisis of confidence in the market? Should we keep holding on to losing positions? And yet, thru all of this, the financial advisers fail to mention that they themselves have vested interests in the things they are pushing.They also neglect to tell you one very important detail: The system has no fail-safe mechanism."
"Whoa, this is all doom and gloom," I said with worry in my voice.
Donald thought for a moment before he replied. Then, with a glint in his eyes, he said, "Well, pal. We shouldn't let those dastards and fools sway us this way and that. We Americans know what is a useful activity and what is not. Financial positions? pfftt! There are only three positions you can have with your money.You can spend it, you can save it, or you can invest it. Now, for spending you have checking accounts and credit cards. You can still save your money the old-fashioned way in a savings account. Your social security funds and pension plans (401Ks) can be considered savings ... but it is a stretch, I know. Then, you can invest in stocks and bonds. I heard one old geezer say that the best investment strategy these days is 'insured guaranteed bonds' or certificates of deposits."
"Wow, that is a lot to digest, Donald. But tell me what is your own investment strategy?"
A small quack escaped from his orange beak. But he managed to reply, "Easy. I invest in bird seeds. What else?!"
* Originally posted at politico.com in April, 2009