Dave Barry

Classic '98: What, me worry?

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies on Capitol Hill Wednesday July 22, 1998 before the House Banking Committee.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies on Capitol Hill Wednesday July 22, 1998 before the House Banking Committee. AP File Photo

This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, September 27, 1998 in Tropic Magazine.

Where is the American economy headed? Should we be nervous? Will the Stock Market crash? Will we lose our jobs and our life savings and our homes? Will we ultimately have to ward off starvation by eating our household pets?

Hold it! Let's calm down! There is NO reason for that kind of thinking! Sure, the economy has been on a ``roller coaster'' of late, but let's consider the reassuring words of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan in his recent speech before the Association of People Before Whom Alan Greenspan Gives Speeches.

``This is merely a temporary economic slump,'' Greenspan stated, adding, ``everybody should get some dogs.''

So there is absolutely nothing to worry about, except for the eerie parallels between our current economic circumstances and those surrounding the big Stock Market crash that led to the Great Depression:

-- EERIE PARALLEL NO. 1: The big Stock Market crash occurred in 1929. The year that we are currently in, according to a majority of leading economists, is 1998. Both of these years start with exactly the same two digits, in exactly the same order. Coincidence?

-- EERIE PARALLEL NO. 2: Alan Greenspan gave exactly the same speech in 1929.

-- EERIE PARALLEL NO. 3: President Lincoln had a secretary named ``Kennedy.'' President Kennedy had a secretary named ``Lincoln.'' Incredibly, neither of these presidents had an intern named ``Lewinsky.''

So perhaps there is, indeed, cause for alarm. To help us better understand the situation, let's analyze the current economic picture by making up questions and then answering them:

Q. Why has the U.S. economy been so strong in recent years?

A. The key is the software industry, which employs many highly educated, well-paid workers to (a) design software and then (b) try to figure out how come it doesn't work.

Q. And that makes the economy strong?

A. No. Software actually hurts the economy, because at any given time two-thirds of the American work force is on hold waiting for Technical Support. What makes the economy strong is that, while waiting, these workers drink billions of gallons of specialty coffees costing upward of $3.49 per cup. Our latte industry alone dwarfs General Motors.

Q. So what's the problem?

A. The problem is Asia, a large land mass located near Hawaii. Asia is having a severe currency crisis caused by the fact that the Asians suddenly realized that a lot of their currency has funny names such as the ``baht,'' the ``kip,'' the ``ringgit'' and the ``Vietnamese currency whose name we can't print in the newspaper but you should look it up in the encyclopedia and then imagine the endless stream of hilarious jokes you'd be making if you were a tourist in Vietnam.''

Q. Why does the Asian economic crisis pose such a serious threat to America?

A. Because Asia is where TV sets come from.

Q. Can't we just make our own TV sets?

A. Ha ha! The only person still alive who remembers anything about the era when Americans could actually build a working television is a 92-year-old retired Motorola employee named Horace M. Sneet, who, when asked recently how to make a TV set, said, quote, ``You need 12 foot of stout walnut.''

Q. Are you going to get many letters from irate humor-impaired animal-lovers chastising you for making a joke about eating dogs?

A. Yes.

Q. What will these letters say?

A. They will say: ``Mr. Barry, I, personally, am unusually intelligent and therefore capable of realizing that you were attempting to be satirical, but many of your readers, particularly impressionable young people, will, as a direct result of your column, eat their dogs.''

Q. What about this ``Year 2000'' computer problem that I keep hearing about? Is it going to cause worldwide economic collapse?''

A. Don't worry! Our top minds are working on it day and night.

Q. Who are our top minds?

A. Gus and Bud. Their current thinking is that the problem is ``somewhere in the carburetor.''

Q. So what you're saying is, I should not be worried?

A. That is correct. We are a strong nation, and as long as we do not panic, and our leaders remain wise and vigilant and keep their Vietnamese currency units in their pants, there is every reason to believe that our economy will remain robust until well into the latter part of next Thursday. After that, it would be wise for all of us, if we are looking for a safe place for our money, to remember Alan Greenspan's recent words of advice to investors.

Q. What were those words?

A. ``Remove the collar first.''

©1998 Dave Barry

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