What Time Is It Mr. Bear?
Rock Gale

My children are playing a game in the family room and I'm listening to them laugh uncontrollably as only children can. How blissfully unaware they are of the current events that shape their future lives and prosperity. I wonder if they would be laughing so hard if they had any idea of the impossibly huge debts our government is running up on their credit cards. Perhaps it's a blessing that most people, like children, are incapable of reliably extrapolating more than about 3 months into the future. For example, try to think of what it will be like here in 25 years. We live in Ottawa, one of the coldest capital cities in the world. Tonight, as I write, it's minus 40 with the wind chill - exactly the same temperature both in Celsius as in Fahrenheit. Montreal, and Toronto are almost as cold. Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, are probably colder. In all there are somewhere just over 30 million people in Canada, most of them experiencing this same frigid week of winter. Imagine how depressed everyone would be if they all kept thinking, "What's going to happen in 25 years when the oil and gas runs out?. How will 30 million people heat their homes? Is our way of life sustainable?"

Unfortunately for me, I studied engineering, so it's just my lot in life that I am forced to think a great deal about sustainability. I owe it to myself, and to my family to endure this pain, so that they don't have to. I do it so I can plan some way around the problems we might encounter. I do it to try to fix things before they get out of hand. Shouldn't our government be doing the same? Does anyone else ever think about sustainability? Does anyone else care? Perhaps they do. Maybe they've already calculated the odds that more than one in ten or one in twenty, or even one in a thousand will still be around 25 years from now. Then again maybe they just have no idea. But they should, damn it! Our governments should care about sustainability. We could reduce our consumption. We could limit our population. We could save our precious resources and perhaps one day, our lives. When does it become prudent to start thinking about our future, and that of our children? But no, all our leaders tend to think about, publicly at least, is 3 months down the road. "What's my earnings report going to look like then?." If productivity's down, we just lay off a few. Who cares, right? They'll all probably be dead in 25 years anyway.

Drowsily, I knock back another shot of scotch - for medicinal purposes - to calm my frazzled nerves. All this thinking about sustainability is scary, but I still manage to drift off at the terminal

The children's' laughter wakes me up from nightmare scenario number 37. The house is under siege by a mob of street-people with guns. They've seen the smoke from our wood fire, and come to warm themselves and steal our winter supply of dried meat and preserves. Thank god the children woke me up. I was losing a lot of blood very quickly.

The children are now playing "What Time is it Mr. Bear" and screeching like Banshees.

What time is it Mr. Bear?

The bear says, "It's 1:00 PM, December, 1996." Dow is around 7000. Greenspan says that investors could be in the grips of "irrational exuberance." Nothing is done by the Fed. But years later, he defends this non-action, saying that it is very difficult for policy-makers to know when a stock market bubble is developing, and that attempting to slow the market, by raising interest rates, might bring on a recession. The children all take ONE giant step forward and buy a thousand more shares of Cisco. "Hooray!," they all scream.

What time is it Mr. Bear?

The bear says, "It's 2:00 PM, mid 1999." Dow is at 11,000, up over 1200% since 1971. In that same time, American GDP has risen only 150%, Production has risen only 150%, but Money Supply has risen 600%. Clearly, it is not interest rates but market manipulators and loose money that have brought a record number of investors into the market with the promise of huge gains. But the Fed.'s greedy strong dollar policy is pricing Industry out of the world markets, and most of the money will soon be stolen. Executives at Worldcom, Enron, Global Crossing, and many others will rape childlike investors and bankrupt their companies. The children all take TWO giant steps forward and buy 2000 more Nortel shares at $C 118.00. The price-to-earnings ratio stands around 120. John Roth pockets 100 million or so while telling investors and employees how great things are looking just 3 months down the road. "Yippee!," the children cry.

What time is it Mr. Bear?

The bear says, "It's 3:00 PM, July, 2002." The Dow has fallen to 8000. The continent falls into a deep recession. The US deficit rises to 400 billion a year. The US federal debt hits 7 Trillion as the Fed tries to spend its way out of the hole they dug. The Fed lowers interest rates, 12 times and turns on the money spigots. The Fed spends the peoples' pension savings fund as do all the major corporations.

The marketing gurus and spin doctors go to work to create hyper-consumerism. Home equity loans are used to buy cars at 0% financing with cash-back and no money down. Anyone can get a mortgage with as low as 3% down payment. The riskier ones are all bundled up together and sold to unsuspecting foreigners. House prices sky-rocket as the binge takes hold and the illusion of wealth is created through more debt financing. A friend of my father-in-law laughs as he relates how he has used 16 credit cards to carry his debt over at a lower and lower interest rate to avoid the payments. The last card has guaranteed him a 1.7% interest rate for three more months. Then he says that he'll move all his debt over to a new card!

A new mantra is created and taught to the people - "Dow 10,000 - Dow 10,000" they repeat endlessly. The kids all remember the chant because they heard it a couple of years ago. All the while, the network media puppets report that a great economic upturn is coming in the very next quarter - or the one after that. All the children take THREE big steps forward and buy anything that moves on the NASDAQ at either infinite or negative price-to-earnings, because they have nothing saved for when school gets out. "Yahoo!," they all shout.

What time is it Mr. Bear?

The bear says, "It's 4:00 PM, February, 2003." The US declares war on IRAQ, and states that anyone who helps out can bid on lucrative restoration contracts. Congress agrees to let the president spend whatever he wants as the yearly deficit rate rises to half a trillion per year. The great tax rebate of 2003 is planned as a last resort to stimulate the still dormant economy into recovery. The new master of the printing press says the sky's the limit. "We have a thing called a printing press," he states for the record. It's only paper after all. The children are a bit shocked but take FOUR steps forward and buy 4000 shares of Haliburton oil. "Death to Saddam Hussein!" they shriek in a frenzy.

What time is it Mr. Bear?

The bear says, "It's 5:00 PM, December 31, 2003." The Dow has reached 10,000. NASDAQ has reached 2,000 again. The kids are climbing the walls like chimpanzees on amphetamines. The headlines pump the "new" economic paradigm. Trade DEFICIT FALLS to only 38 billion in November - imagine! Only 456 billion per year if all 12 months are that good! This is supposed to be wonderful news? A new mantra is born. "Dow 11,000 - Dow 11,000" the kids chant. The US Dollar has fallen some 30% in two years, and is starting to get out of control. Long term interest rates are rising and already home prices and housing starts are down. The home refinancing market is shriveling and will soon crimp consumer purchasing numbers. Debt is out of control.

Many states are all but bankrupt. Europe, Japan and China are using all their extra cash, and printing even more cash, to buy this mountain of US debt so they can continue to sell their merchandise to US for still more printing press paper. They know that if they stop supporting the dollar, their currencies will sky-rocket and their products will no longer be affordable to Americans. This amounts to just another type of trade war, called competitive currency devaluation. Meanwhile the more sensible of OPEC countries talk about changing world oil pricing from US dollar to EUROs, or better yet GOLD. It is only a matter of time before the game is over and the colossal paper dollar Ponzi scheme is revealed to the world. Now that the 2003 tax rebate has worked it's "magic" on corporate profits, why are there still no jobs? Why are the manufacturing numbers still flat? What good are higher profits if they only last 3 months? When everyone is laid off, the productivity numbers will be enormous, but who will buy the finished products? Isn't "Jobless recovery" an oxymoron?

I ask myself - I ask all of you, "Is this economic foolishness sustainable?."

The kids are now buying shares of some small gold investment banking firm, not because they've got a price-to-earnings ratio of 1.05 - having made $4.15 per share over the last four quarters - but because they like the company's emblem, a three-masted golden sailing ship. It's "so cool and sparkly" they exclaim. Maybe there's hope for them yet. I love my children. They take FIVE giant steps forward, giggling uncontrollably. They are right under the Bear's nose by now and can hardly contain their excitement. They know what's coming...

What time is it Mr. Bear?

This time, the great bear growls, "It's DINNER TIME!" The children scream and run frantically. Many are eaten.

Rock Gale
Ottawa, Canada.
[email protected]
January 25, 2004

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