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America: The View from 32,000 Feet


Frustration, narcissism spilling over sovereign borders.

Unfortunately neither Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger or the Hudson River are anywhere in sight this time.

I'll let Minyans choose the disparaging adjectives to hurl at yesterday's spectacle by our sorry excuses for representatives. I've got a few in mind, but this is a family site. However, what's worse than being led around by a bunch of incompetent clowns, is not being led at all. And methinks that's where we are.

Yesterday's CEOs' piñata party met expectations as far as accomplishing absolutely nothing practical; it far exceeded expectations in the psychological damage it inflicted on the passengers of our disabled country, and those whom we beg to prop us up. The "societal acrimony" we so often discuss in the 'Ville spilled over to anarchy in the cockpit. Our pilots showed their true mettle under stress and collapsed like wet noodles.

This isn't just a frustrated socio-political diatribe. The utter sense of hopelessness, stupidity, and narcissism emanating from what used to be the bastion of world leadership is spilling across sovereign borders, and I'm afraid it's being translated in the prices flickering on our screens.

The Chinese stated their worries about the greenback because those pieces of paper are the I-owe-yous of our Congress. After yesterday's display, can you blame them? And do you really think that they'll continue to buy our treasuries at near-0 rates, public retractions notwithstanding? Yes, I see the dollar rising this morning; but I also see gold not giving an inch.

And I know that many other countries may be economically weaker than we are right now, but they've been through this type of crisis before; their governments know how to handle it (even if they can't solve it), and their citizens are resigned to it. For us, it's all new.
In the 30's it was bad, but Americans kept their heads up, chose to do something about it, and they did. This time around we're shooting at each other while expecting our God-given entitlement to neverending prosperity -- not to mention mortgage-free home ownership -- to come down from above. I have half a dozen conversations per week with folks overseas. They have their problems to worry about and certainly no time to watch our congressional freak-shows. But they apparently don't need to: The only consistent refrain I hear is that "from over there" it feels like the US is falling apart.

I'm not trying to get readers to overdose on Prozac, but my sense is that the markets are at a truly critical stage. I would offer that statistics, estimates and dollar figures mean squat right now. The buyers are those psychologically inclined to believe that things can only get better; the sellers are those willing to take the other side of the psychological trade. That the economy is in shambles is priced into the markets. The possibility that we may not come out of this mess in one piece is not.

Yesterday, Congress needed to accomplish absolutely nothing practical to improve our current predicament; a pretty low bar, if you think about it. All the markets begged for was for the ghost of Churchill to inspire someone - anyone - in those pews to rouse us into believing that "Sully" is in charge and he can land us safely. Instead we got Michael Capuano and Maxine Waters - and our plane hurdles ever faster toward the ground.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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