So, apparently, some kind of thing happened in the stock market Friday and Monday. It always seems to be Fridays and Mondays when all these stock traders, or what in the hell ever they are, start getting all nervous breakdown-y.
Some sort of points were down by a thousand. I have no idea what that means. I know of no sport in which scores range into the thousands.
Indexes and averages were down. Yields, too. These things must mean something the unlettered layperson can grasp, right?
Bears were seen roaming the streets outside the stock exchange. Isn’t that what some people claimed? If so, wouldn’t that be good? I mean, I’d be all on the side of bears in a cage match versus stock traders. Bears are cool. Anyway, I could see what all the folderol is about if this bears story were true but, I’m learning, it’s only a metaphor.
This thousand-point thing, or whatever happened, is very, very traumatic. Awfully bad for the nation, don’t you know. The world, too.
Me? I didn’t feel a thing.
Last time there was some kind of stock market tragedy, back in 2007-08, the wealth The Loved One and I possess took some kind of beating. Then, a few years later, our little pile of Monopoly dough, miraculously, had grown as tall as it had been before that financial trauma. Like I said, I didn’t feel a thing.
Anyway, loads of people on TV, the internet, and in coffeehouses and bars are wringing their hands. Fingernails are being chewed. Cases of Pepto-Bismol swallowed. The papers are loaded with pix of guys in garish smocks staring dolefully at computer screens up on the walls of what I assume to be where they trade stocks. Or hide out from bears. Or whatever. So I figure I’d better try to understand this economics business once again, for the 23 jillionth time.
Fortunately, every news website, every paper, every TV station, is running its own little tutorial. The Stock Market Plunge Explained goes the headline. So, I read a few.
Guess what. I still have no goddamned idea what in the hell happened Friday and Monday.
I’ve only ever felt confident in my knowledge of high finance when I realize that the stock market is basically Vegas. And not Vegas-lite, I might add. The wagering, the propositions, the backing and the fleecing on Wall Street all put the Nevada houses to shame. We’re talking trillions of dollars here. Trillions!
Lets look at a trillion:
There’s not even that many light years from one end of the observable universe to the other. I forget who wrote this — it may have been Isaac Asimov — but I remember reading once that when we want to say something’s huge, something has a lot of zeroes after it, we call it “astronomical.” And when we want to say something’s modest or small in number, we call it “economical.” It should be, this guy wrote, the other way around. Something that can be counted in the 13-plus figures should be referred to as economical. The economy’s the only realm of human endeavor whose practitioners count so high.
Anyway, I iterate: Only when I see the obvious correlation between hard-core gambling and the stock market do I feel I’ve got a handle on what all this indexes and averages and yields stuff is all about.
The thing is, we warn people all the time about the potential dangers of Vegas gambling. We even have a sort of a safety net for people who get carried away in Vegas: we call it Gamblers Anonymous. A person who can’t tear him or herself away from the baccarat table can go get therapy. There are even pharmaceuticals that purportedly squelch the urge to throw dice.
Those guys in garish smocks gazing dolorously at computer screens on the walls of the stock exchange? They look exactly like broken down horseplayers at some seedy OTB.
For some bizarre reason, though, every four years we vote for the guy who promises most convincingly he’ll make it easier for these degenerates to indulge in their habit.