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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2008

A whiner apologizes for rattling economy with negative thoughts

BY REG HENRY

ON BEHALF of the whiner community, I would like to say a few characteristically depressing words about the economy.

As former Sen. Phil Gramm said recently, whiners like myself are having a mental recession when it comes to the economy. I have to admit this is true. My mentality long ago receded so much it took my hair with it.

Just this week I did a bit of whining when I looked at my retirement investments and realized that I will have to work for perhaps another 30 years past my projected retirement date. While I love all of you very much, I was rather hoping you could tell yourself jokes in a few years so I can go fishing.

Of course, that assumes there will be a newspaper industry to work in. Fortunately, we in the nation's word factories are reinventing ourselves every day in new and exciting ways.

For example, I have suggested to management that we use our circulation system to deliver breakfast pizzas with news printed on the box. Our motto could be: "All The News That's Fit to Eat." In fact, we could change our name to the Pittsburgh Pepperoni-Gazette, in which case our motto could be "One of America's Great Napkins."

Unfortunately, it's not just the word factories that are hurting. It seems that every industry has its problems, with the possible exception of the repossession industry. But to say this is to contribute to the gloom and doom that apparently is the only brake stopping the Bush Administration's economic plans from taking flight on the wings of eagles (or turkeys). Today I want to apologize for any excessive, recessive mental doubting on my part that may have caused the subprime mortgage crisis, the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the wholesale export of jobs overseas, through-the-roof gas prices, the devalued dollar, and the failed IndyMac Bancorp, which had the bad manners to have its assets seized just after Mr. Gramm blamed all the economic bad news on Whiner Nation.

Worse yet, Starbucks is closing 600 of its stores, which threatens to end American civilization as we know it. Some experts among the moaning classes predictably fear that the only question about a recession is whether it will come in the grande or venti size.

It's sobering to think what we whiners and moaners have wrought, but that's what Mr. Gramm, a top economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, suggested - and who is to say he is wrong, except, you know, we whiners. To his credit, Mr. McCain immediately disavowed his adviser's remarks perhaps because "Let Them Eat Cake" is not the best slogan for his campaign.

Still, I feel a personal sense of responsibility. IndyMac was the second-largest financial institution in U.S. history to close and I hate to think it was my fault even in a collective sense. Have we in the moan brigade really learned our lesson? Even after this Mac was fried, did we stop our incessant whining for a second in order to give the engines of commerce a chance to start purring again like a contented fat cat?

Sadly not. Pathetic depositors lined up in Pasadena, Calif., to make withdrawals in a scene reminiscent of the Great Depression. Such a public display was surely a form of creative whining that did no good for the economy. The least the bank's customers could have done was to bring puppies or balloons, or even little cardboard smiles on sticks to make the occasion more festive and conducive to a better business atmosphere.

For his part, President Bush, who has long insisted that the fundamentals of the economy are sound, even as the incidentals rained down on the heads of we the whiners, had his own reassuring words at his recent White House news conference.

Mr. Bush conceded, just a teensy bit, that things could be better, but suggested we are still hopping along the bunny trail to prosperity. He also said that offshore drilling wouldn't produce a barrel of oil anytime soon, "but it will reverse the psychology."

Ah, yes, that mental recession thing again. It's all in our heads, even when it's in our wallets. I sincerely want to have the right attitude in case I get blamed for the national debt, but that old whiner in me just won't let go.

There's a small part of me that dares to think that the real problem is not my thoughts, or those of my fellow whiners, but that the flight from regulation made poverty an equal opportunity nonemployer without a serious thought to the consequences.

Reg Henry is deputy editorial page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: rhenry@post-gazette.com



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