It is now nearly a month since The End Of The World As We Know It. And no, there's no doubt about it; every talking head (or other body part) on the tube has declaimed solemnly that in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and wherever the hell the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was going, everything has changed; it's a whole new world, with a whole new set of rules. Yeah, right. And I am Marie of Roumania.

Apart from the usual media-induced hysteria, what affected most people who weren't within driving distance of Ground Zero was the rapid tanking of the economy, as panicky investors sought to move their putatively hard-earned funds into something comparatively safe, like a strongbox under the Beautyrest. The Dow started dropping at the same appalling speed as the Nasdaq. Pundits worked up the nerve to utter the R word. And since said word carries such frightening subtext, Joe and Susan Sixpack quit going to the mall every other day. Which brings us to a distinctly unpretty pass: we are now being told that it's our patriotic duty to go out and spend money.

Feh. If we're really in a recession, the last thing I need (well, apart from custom-fitted moose spats) is to run up more debt. I'm not in too much danger of being laid off; our customers routinely demonstrate that they'll overextend themselves beyond all comprehension to partake of our services. But at some point, I might actually decide to get a real job, and it would be nice to know that there's one out there somewhere, and that I can survive for the period of time it would take to locate it. And yes, there's the chance that the decision might be made for me in a fit of corporate pique — I have never gone out of my way to be fawning and obsequious, and I'm not going to start now — but that's an issue for another time.

If Dubya and his born-again New New Dealers really want to give the economy a shot in the arm, they'll have to resort to something more than mere jawboning. The War On Insane Martyrs will help long-suffering defense contractors; a real tax cut (instead of the half-assed measures that have been passed) will do some good for the rest of us. And it would help immensely if the Democrats would quit whining about the so-called "disappearing surplus". I am no mathematician — last time I tried to determine the area under a curve, it was one of Sharon Stone's — but I do know this much: a budget with a $100 billion surplus is exactly as much out of balance as a budget with a $100 billion deficit. If you really, truly want to shop your way to patriotism, though, feel free to buy me stuff.

The Vent

9 October 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill