The emperor has no brains

So it begins. Earlier this month, our emperor — a man so upbeat that he could fall down a manhole and be glad in the gloom that he didn’t wear his sunglasses — admitted that the economic situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage, or words to that effect.

Yes, that is true. Worldwide stock markets are in turmoil and Wall Street has its own convulsions. The housing market is so moribund it has a tag attached to its toes. The subprime mortgage mess hangs like a dead albatross around the necks of everyone, but especially poor people losing their homes.

Meanwhile, job growth is anemic and inflation waits in the wings like a ghoul rubbing its hands together. The federal deficit casts its huge and sinister shadow. Foreigners are buying up the country. The dollar is being used by French people to blow their superior noses on.

Gosh, what a shocker! Who knew that America couldn’t go on forever outsourcing jobs, spending tax money like drunken sailors and generally making the economy resemble that of a Third World country? I bet residents of Pompeii living under the volcano weren’t this surprised!

Those superior French people have an expression to describe what brought us to this unfortunate pass — laissez faire, which, as you know, means leave the heck alone and don’t worry, be happy. And if you aren’t happy, don’t worry anyway, because as the administration’s economic doctors always advise, take two tax cuts and see us in the morning.

Fortunately, friends, it is always morning in America, and I am not one to be Mr. Doom and Gloom. I gladly shake Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market and cheerily say in my best Chamber of Commerce voice, “Howdy!”

Why, I celebrate any piece of good news. Here’s one. The price of crude oil has gone down in anticipation of a recession and a downturn in demand. In fact, the price has gone down from very high to high. Now we will be able to afford to drive to the poor house. Hurrah for us!

More good news: The president and the Congress are working on a stimulus package. How you stimulate a quivering house of cards I don’t really know — I am just a poor hack being fitted to wear a barrel — but I think the theory is that making the deficit bigger is the best way out of impeding bankruptcy.

It seems very encouraging to me. We should all remember that the economy is something of a yo-yo. Sometimes we may feel at the end of our string when our round yo-yo heads hit the pavement, but we’ll be back up to the top soon enough to discover that the yo-yo is now held by foreign hands.

It’s all cyclical. That is why I may get on my cyclical and pedal furiously to save on gas until things improve. You too should have a plan. What happens if we slip into a recession? (It has a precise definition by the way; it is not officially a recession until a corporate executive has to cut back on lunch.) And what happens if the recession becomes a depression?

Again, we must remain optimistic. As FDR so famously said in the midst of the Great Depression, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” — that and the prospect of losing our life’s savings and having to take in laundry.

Ah well, retirement is overrated anyway. I find so many retirees waste their days on the golf course, where they become so bitter about their putting that they turn to talk radio.

On the bright side, I doubt if we will ever have another Great Depression. At worst, we will have a Mediocre Depression or an Irritating Recession.

Still, there will be victims. People like me may be reduced to camping outside golf pro shops and interrupting the guests with a pathetic plea, “Brother, can you spare a greens fee?” Nobody will be hawking apples, however; it will be cell phone sign-ups or credit card applications.

You may wonder how I remain so perky in the face of possible disaster. Well, if rich people can laugh all the way to the bank, the least I can do is a laugh all the way into penury.

Besides, I take inspiration from our supreme leader in the White House. In his speech in Chicago earlier this month, wherein he admitted, ahem, that Americans are anxious about the economy, he said: “This economy rests in the hands of the American people, not in the halls of our government.” All I can say is shame on the American people for having outsourced themselves.

(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)