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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.’’

``It might lead to revolution,’’ I said. ``It would lead to revolution if they didn’t control the media,’’ Uncle Chet said. ``Can you imagine if Fox went after the real traitors, the one’s who voted for NAFTA and greased the skids for jobs to slide to China?’’

“Never happen,’’ I said.

``No, because Fox and its Fox-lite competitors are run by the bigmonied interests that profit from America’s slide,’’ Uncle Chet said.

``There’s no allegiance to the flag of the United States of America when there’s a buck to be made.’’

``You mean a euro,’’ I said.

``Yes, unfortunately I do,’’ Uncle Chet said. ``We’re well into the postnation- state phase, where first loyalties are to class, regardless of border.

It happened when capital poured overseas in the ’90s and it’s happening now in the currency world. You can bet that the rich in all countries are dumping dollars, and the vast underclass _ what we used to call the middle class here _ will be stuck with them.’’

``Happy birthday to me,’’ the little miscreant said. ``I turn 16 and the world falls apart.’’

``Sorry about that. It just burns me up to see what’s going on,’’ Uncle Chet said.

``I’m only kidding,’’ she said. ``Maybe we should change the topic,’’ Alice said.

``Maybe we should give her her present right now,’’ Uncle Chet said, eyeing a card near his glass of red wine.

``I think that’s a good idea.’’ The girl brightened as he passed the card to her.

``We may as well give her ours, too,’’ Hon said, and another card crossed the table. ``Shall we sing?’’ Alice said. So we sang to the girl who’s about to get her driver’s permit, the little miscreant who’s little no longer. And after the last note resonated, she opened her mail.

The cards were funny, judging from her expression as she read them, and in each one were little piles of greenbacks, which she combined neatly, then stuffed into her wallet.

``Thank you, everyone.’’ She looked around the room. ``That is just what I wanted, but next year, I hope you’ll consider yen.’’


Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace’s column appears every other week.