As Sorry as We Should Be

When you are a teenager taking your first karate classes, you look for opportunities to verify your dubious mastery of newly discovered skills. You repeatedly punch wood, sand or otherwise innocent objects which have never done you any wrong in order to toughen your hands and feet.

One evening I found myself home alone with the opportunity to practice some recently learned moves. In the foyer at the end of our hallway I found enough room to cut loose with a flurry of kicks and punches. However, on the last punch I threw at the end of the form, I misjudged the distance to the wall and knocked a fist-sized hole in the plaster. Naturally this occurred just as my parents were pulling into the driveway.

In a slight panic, and at the time still lacking the integrity that parents, and the best martial arts teachers, attempt to instill in their wards, I concocted a story on the spot. I had been, I told them, absent-mindedly “drumming” on the wall when all at once the old and crumbling plaster gave way.

Of course, and in spite of the decrepit state of the plaster which, oddly enough is still hanging in the 70-year-old house, I got the opportunity to learn to repair holes in plaster forthwith – and also to paint a wall. Those lessons have served me well over the years.

Janet Yellen, however, did not seem to be in any kind of panic the other night when she was being interviewed by Stephen Colbert, but she did concoct a story that I found to be puzzling if not entertaining. Perhaps it was some rare species of humor. After all, Colbert is known for his love of hyperbole.

Alas, as the interview progressed it became apparent that the Treasury Secretary was sincere in placing the blame for record inflation on, drum roll – you and me. After being cooped up for a year during the pandemic, we began, she said, “splurging” on “grills” and “technology.”

According to Secretary Yellen, the Biden Administration handled the economy so well that we felt confident in our splurging, which led to record inflation and the supply chain bottlenecks we’re still experiencing.

It’s not all our fault, however. According to the Secretary, Russia is to blame for the high price of food and gas.

Curiouser and curiouser… When they were handing out “stimulus” checks, the intention, we were told, was to “stimulate” the economy, and we all assumed this meant that we were supposed to spend that money. We did…but now we are at fault for doing our part for the Great Stimulation?

As a matter of fact, for some time now we have been actively discouraged from saving money. Money stashed in a jar and buried in the back yard retains its value almost as well as money deposited in a bank. Also, the President has told us that inflation is a sign of a strong economy and that our present discomfort is all part of the Great Transition. So… if we are to blame for inflation, shouldn’t we be congratulated?

Let’s also give credit where credit is due (and if you follow economic news, you’ll agree that was a pun worthy of a drum roll and a high hat). Secretary Yellen made no mention of the trillions of dollars conjured since the beginning of the pandemic. According to NASDAQ, “All-in money printing totaled $13 trillion: $5.2 for COVID + $4.5 for quantitative easing + $3 for infrastructure. Mountains of money cause inflation.” (World War II, by comparison, cost $4.7 trillion in today’s dollars.)

Nevertheless, Tracey and I did buy a barbecue grill last year, and how the Treasury Secretary found out, I’ll never know. Hopefully I’ve matured some since my wall-punching days, so I freely admit to the purchase. We are precisely as sorry about that as we should be.

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