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November 17, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: Better stock up on yen

COLUMBUS _ ``The dollar’s tanking,’’ Uncle Chet said during dinner Saturday as we celebrated the little miscreant’s 16th birthday. ``It’s dropping against the yen, the yuan, the euro.’’

``May I have the cranberry sauce?’’ Alice asked.

``It’s a little dollar, a weakling,’’ he said. ``Central banks are dumping it, oil producers don’t want it.

The dollar’s becoming a pariah.’’

``It’s turning into a dime,’’ I said, helping myself to chicken and rice. ``You’re right, and dimes aren’t real money anymore,’’ he said.

``Ever drop one on the floor?’’ ``Sounds like a slug,’’ I said.

``What’s a slug?’’ asked Buddy, who’s in third grade.

``A fake coin,’’ I said. ``They used to cut them out of steel and try them in vending machines.’’

``But they don’t bother now,’’ Uncle Chet said. ``Our coins aren’t worth counterfeiting these days.’’

``But the whole world’s been in recession,’’ Hon said. ``Why’s the dollar dropping?’’ ``A lot of reasons,’’ Uncle Chet said. ``Only we have a $12 trillion debt. That’s $40,000 owed by every man, woman and child in the country on top of their personal debt. Do you think we can pay off our Chinese bankers? The rest of the world is betting `no.’

``Only we have the most expensive military in history, with troops in 120 countries and two losing occupations to manage. Only we have the leastefficient health care system in the world, where providers and patients struggle as middlemen pocket a fortune. And only we’ve let our manufacturers abandon us, so we really have no way to get back into the trade game, except to completely retool.’’

``It takes money to retool,’’ Hon said.

``True,’’ Uncle Chet said. ``We have no good options, but the politicians don’t dare tell us that, because it might lead to embarrassing questions.’’

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