09 August 2011

Numbers games

So the US credit rating gets downgraded by S&P which, as many of our saner bloggers have pointed out, is one of those same sage agencies that just a few years ago were giving sterling ratings to 11-dimensional "derivative" investments based on beach-front real estate in Outer Mongolia, and which made a $2 trillion math error in its calculations. In response, the stock market plummets and money flees into US Treasuries. The MSM, of course, insist that this is all awesomely significant, and doubtless all the talk shows are even now full of boring people in dark suits gravely discussing just how awesomely significant it is.

Well, the stock market is always going up and down because of one thing and another, and most of the time it means nothing and has no long-term effect, the boring guys in suits notwithstanding. As for the big rush into Treasuries, well, the money fleeing the stock market has to go somewhere (what else are people going to invest in -- the eurozone?) and sensible people know perfectly well that, as Obama pointed out the other day, the United States is still the United States whatever the bunglers at S&P think.

Meanwhile, the price of gold has cracked $1,700 an ounce, an event so thoroughly predictable that I feel downright frustrated at not having predicted it. Every time the MSM starts bleating about the crisis of the day (whether real or imaginary or, like the recent debt-ceiling hostage crisis, fabricated by politicians), the usual Chicken Littles all panic and decide that, this time, the sky really is falling and The System is going to collapse and plunge us all into one of those post-apocalyptic Road Warrior scenarios they've watched too many bad movies about (just as they thought during the previous crisis, and the one before that, etc., etc., but they've forgotten about that) -- and so they rush out and buy some gold, a substance unlikely to be of any value in a post-apocalyptic world (you'd do better with food or machine-maintenance skills), thus driving the price up. If I'd invested in some gold a couple of years ago and sold it yesterday, I could have doubled my money. And the investment would be a very safe one. There will always be another crisis sooner or later, and there will always be swarms of gloom-and-doomers who somehow imagine that the best response to an impending collapse of civilization is to buy gold and drive the price up. It's just a matter of waiting.

Meanwhile, here are some numbers from the real world, showing that the public basically understands whose fault the recent mess actually was, despite the dereliction of the MSM whose pristine aversion to bias evidently includes refusing to take sides between verifiable facts and teabagger delusions, which helps explain why their own numbers have been tanking for years. Speaking of the teabaggers, their numbers are tanking too -- 18% support might seem high for an astroturfed Mongol horde of nihilists who can't spell, but it's lower than the numbers who believe in ghosts and flying saucers, or claim to. Eventually it may even get low enough that the Republican party can stop pandering to them, and Barry Goldwater can at least reduce the number of RPMs he must now be doing in his grave.

But when you get right down to it, there's just one set of numbers we'll see this week that will really matter: the election returns from Wisconsin. Keep your eye on the ball.

Update: David Frum is well worth reading on this.


Anonymous Sherry Peyton said...

I agree with you on the volatility of the market and how it doesn't mean a whole lot. I also agree that the public seems quite aware of who is to blame. However come voting time, people vote as to whether they are doing better or not. If not they will vote out whose in and vice versa. I sure get the idea that the crazy teabaggers are of the opinion that they are on a moral crusade and frankly as Eric Cantor says, ignore the calls for revenue. Stand tough. I do think our government is basically ineffectual and I'm not sure when it's going to change. I look to Wisconsin as well to see if the left really can stand up to the challenge. If not, nothing is gonna change and I suspect Obama is a one termer. God help us given the awful group of idiots running in the GOP.

09 August, 2011 07:26  
Blogger Snowbrush said...

Some days, it's better to not listen to the news...

09 August, 2011 11:08  
Blogger Nance said...

You got this nailed! Those Wisconsin numbers matter more. The markets have been nuts for years now...both the pre-crash run-ups and the wild fluctuations. Meanwhile, the corporations whose stocks trade there are doing just dandy, thank you.

What was the name of that guy who had a show on FOX...um, um...Bach? Beck? How easily we forget. Well anyway, he ruined gold for me. I'm one of those emotional investors and he tainted that particular metal for me for good.

09 August, 2011 14:55  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

SP: Well, we'll see. We've never in living memory had an opposition party as blatantly obstructionist and destructive as this. All over the place I'm seeing polls showing Republican approval ratings plummeting after the debt-ceiling battle.

SB: I get burned out on it too sometimes.

Nance: Thanks. Wisconsin is looking mixed -- two wins, not enough to take the legislature but cutting the Republican majority to one vote. As for gold, the people who swear by it are nuts, but it's a form of nuttiness I could have profited from if I'd thought ahead a little more.

10 August, 2011 05:19  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Yeah, I wish I still had all that gold jewelry I sold off a few years ago. . . .

I'm a little sad about the outcome in WI but the Dems who lost were in districts which are heavily Republican. So, I guess it's not all bad, but still . . . one has to wonder . . .

10 August, 2011 07:08  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I heard elsewhere that the six Republicans who were challenged were all elected in 2008, which meant those districts were "red" enough that they bucked the strong Democratic wave that year. So Democrats now having won even two of those districts is significant.

11 August, 2011 20:13  

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