Monday, May 31, 2010

Do you remember Mike Royko?

Award-winning newspaper columnist? I hadn't thought about him in years until earlier today, when cleaning out one of the file cabinets that won't be making the move, I came across an article written by him at least twenty years ago, maybe twenty-five.

I think it's really funny and I'm going to copy it nearly verbatim. Mike is interviewing a "Dr. Chernal", past chairman of the President's Commission for the Shrinking Buck and a consultant to numerous financial institutions. Hope it tickles your funny bone almost as much as it did mine!

What Wall Street needs right now is a good slapper

Q: Dr. Chernal, many experts say that panic and hysteria are among the major reasons for the stock market collapse. Do you agree?
A: Oh, yes. Panic and hysteria are very bad. Upset the stomach. Bad for the digestion. Give you heartburn and gas. I caution against them.
Q: Yes, but what can be done to prevent them?
A: Don't eat that deli food. You ever see what they eat on Wall Street? Greasy pastrami, corned beef, salty pickles. They swallow without chewing. No wonder they have heartburn. They should eat yogurt.

Q: No, I meant what measures can be taken to reduce the panic and hysteria?
A: Oh, that. Well, the first thing they should do is hire slappers.
Q: Slappers? What are slappers?
A: What's the matter, don't you ever watch old movies?
Q: Sure, but what has that got to do with it?
A: So, in the movies, what happens when a person gets hysterical?
Q: Somebody slaps them?
A: Right. It always snaps them out of it, calms them down, makes them stop screaming.

Q: So this is what you recommend for Wall Street?
A: Sure. They could hire a few hundred big bruisers just to cruise around the Stock Exchange, the trading pits and all those other places where people are too nervous. If they see somebody getting hysterical, they go over and give 'em a slap or two.
Q: Do you really think that would help?
A: Maybe. Maybe not.
Q: That's not a very definitive answer.
A: That shows you know little about economics. "Maybe, maybe not" is one of the foundations of economic thought. I know guys who got to be professors at Harvard just by saying, "maybe, maybe not."

Q: I didn't know that. Now for another question. With the market so depressed, many people are wondering where they should put their money so it is safe.
A: Good question. I recommend emptying out a couple of boxes of frozen dinners, putting your money in the empty boxes and sticking them in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator.
Q: But why?
A: Because my brother-in-law is a cop and he says that the average burglar doesn't look in the freezer. And even if he is hungry, he wouldn't eat that kind of stuff anyway. So your money is safe there.

Q: But I was talking about putting money in safe investments.
A: Oh, investments. Don't bother. Spend it, go be a good-time Charlie, whoop it up.
Q: That doesn't sound very prudent. What about planning for the future?
A: The future? How do you know what the future is going to be? You ever seen it? Have you been there?
Q: I suppose I haven't.
A: That's right. So let's say you are careful and you save your money for the future. Then one day you swallow a bad oyster, you get a fever, the preacher comes and mumbles over you, and the undertaker hauls you away. So, what happens to all that money you've been investing?
Q: It goes to my widow and my children?
A: Right. And what does your widow do? She'll probably head for Florida, dye her hair blue, take dancing lessons from some skinny young guy with a moustache and pointy shoes, and they'll go out on the town and spend your money drinking banana daiquiris. And your kids will grab their share and buy new cars, CD players and go to a Club Med. So don't be a stiff. My advice is to have a good time while you got it. Buy a hair piece. It'll take your mind off the Dow Jones.

Q: But many people would like to invest their money so it shows a reasonable return. What should they do?
A: OK, then stash it away where it'll get a little interest. Then wait and see if there is going to be a terrible depression. And if there is, and everybody is going broke, you will be in position to do something for your friends.
Q: You mean to help them?
A: No. You see if they have anything that's worth buying and you offer them 10 cents on the dollar.
Q: But that's taking cruel advantage of the helpless to enrich yourself.
A: See? You're learning. You want to join my firm?


whalechaser said...

this commentary works no matter what year it is. It is just as fresh today as when originally published! Thanks for sharing!

The Bug said...

Hilarious! And pretty much what Dr. M & I are doing anyway :)

I'm just back from spending the long weekend in NC & finally catching up on blog posts. I'm sorry about your friend's friend, but glad that the house closing finally happened!

Chuck said...

I grew up reading Royko here in Chicago, and I even used some of his columns in HS English classes I taught. He has a wonderful book called "Boss" about Mayor Daley the 1st. Also, in the John Belushi movie "Continental Divide", Belushi plays a Royko newspaperman who has to escape Chicago because of attempts on his life, so he goes to Colorado to do a piece on an eagle researcher high in the mountains. Hilarious! Thanks for the memories!

Edna said...

Yes I remember Royko and how much I enjoyed him.

What a shock to learn today that you are moving, and so far away. I will miss you at the bridge table. You are the best bridge teacher I have had. Now I will have to keep up with your blog!
With my warmest regards,

Goldenrod said...

Except for the blue hair, Whale, I agree.

Still haven't mailed your 'gift' out, Bug, but don't give up. Glad you got back from NC safely.

Can just see you using Royko's columns to base some of your classes on, Chuck. I had a lot of fun doing some background reading on him (none of which I included in this post), and so am quite familiar with "Boss".

Edna, thank you so much for your kind comments. It's been a real pleasure to get to know you and some of your fellow students over the years, and to watch you progress in this fascinating world that we call bridge. You'll be out of sight, but not out of mind.