A line piled up at the ATM yesterday afternoon, and I stood behind a man my age wearing a Raiders cap—a rarity in San Francisco. He turned. “Damn banks,” he muttered. “And I’ll tell you what’s worse. Wall Street.” I nodded. He had a point, although the Dow closed above 13000 going into the Easter (the stock market closes for Good Friday) weekend.
“Bunch of thieves,” he said. “The subprime mortgage meltdown?” I asked. His cheeks reddened. “All of it… a sucker’s game. You’ll never see me in the market again.” I cocked my head in puzzlement. He continued: “Like how the Dow dropped ten thousand points in 2006…” I smiled. “That was 2007. Something like eighty-six hundred points to about 6550 in March 2009.”
My companion’s face suggested a shade of purple. “I wised up and got out before the market hit bottom, and I’m staying out.” I scratched my head. “But if the Dow goes up just ten percent over the next twelve months, it’ll hit a new all-time high.”
He scowled. “It’s all an illusion. The insiders, they just want to suck people’s money into the market. Drive share prices up. When everything looks rosy, they’ll sell off and walk away with huge profits just before the market collapses, and Main Street’ll take it in the chops. Again.” I gave a semi-nod. “Well, the market had a losing week, and the March jobs report was disappointing. And I grant, some people have been predicting a correction for a while…” My companion waved a finger in front of my nose. “A correction. That’s a ten percent drop in share prices. See? I know what I’m talking about.” I smiled. “Then you also know that the market never goes up or down in a straight line. There are always corrections ahead. It’s not a matter of if but when. But that goes for rallies, too.”
My companion shook his head. “You know what’s going down in a straight line? The American economy.” I shook my head. “Mark Twain once wrote, ‘Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’” He displayed a quizzical look. I shrugged. “The thing is,” I said, “our economy’s not as dominant as in the ‘fifties, but that was really an historical blip, what with the damage other countries suffered during World War Two. Over the last year, though, the economic data has been pretty positive. Heck, Ford had its best March in five years, and Chrysler set a new March sales record.”
“Government interference!” my companion harrumphed. “The marketplace should have been left alone to kill off Detroit. That’s what free markets are about.” I bit and released my lips. “But Washington saved a couple hundred thousand jobs in all.“ My companion frowned. “Don’t be naïve. Washington… and I’m talking Obama here… throws our money around then twists economic data any way it wants.” I scratched my chin. “So that’s what Rick Santorum meant last month when he said he didn’t care about the unemployment numbers. By definition, the economy can’t improve with a Democrat in the White House.”
The two ATMs cleared. We each stepped forward. My companion inserted his card into the slot, turned to me and grinned. “There’s hope for you yet.”
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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.