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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Alchemy, Astrology and Economics

In far distant years, when the 21st century is ancient history, I believe that the “science” of economics will be viewed in the same light as we today view alchemy and astrology.

There are too many varying theories explaining the mechanics of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in our world for us to be able to find a basic and immutable truth underlying what we call “economics.” Unlike the accepted principles underlying such bedrocks of the physical sciences as Newton’s Law of Gravity or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, economic theory rests on mushy, ever-changing and often diametrically opposed principals put forth by renowned economists with diverse viewpoints. Well, Merlin the Magician was renowned too, and look what happened to the Knights of the Round Table.

Look what is going on in Washington. We are in a recession. Our national debt is astronomical and increasing daily. Should we raise taxes to deal with it, or lower taxes and cross our fingers. We have to get people back to work. For that we need jobs. We have to keep up the value of our currency. Or do we? And “entitlement” programs such as Medicare and Social Security are costing too much … but no one wants to cut them, at least in this generation.

Listen to the economic theory being used to justify dealing with these problems. Is there real and long-term agreement between the Federal Reserve Chairman, the Secretary of the Treasury, the President and both Houses of Congress as to what do? Frankly, I think they are throwing globs of mud at a wall hoping some of it will stick. That is what listening to economists will do. So we should stop listening to them, all of them! Unless you are in the market for a formula for an elixir to turn sand into gold.

The recession can be ended by creating jobs. Employed people will consume, spending money and pay taxes and then, everything else will fall into place. Jobs are the answer, the only answer.

The way to accomplish this is to bring back the millions of jobs which have been outsourced to lower cost labor countries. The simplest was to do this would be to put high tariffs on imported goods. Who would pay $70,000 for an imported car when a similar car made in this country could be bought for $25,000? Who would pay $100 for an imported shirt when a similar one produced here costs $40?

But “economists” will tell you that such “protectionism” won’t work; it will lessen the amount of dollars going overseas which are ultimately used to buy American goods and cause foreign countries to put up tariff walls against our products. It would mess up international trade. Such practices were tried in the 30’s (Smoot-Hawley Tariff) and failed! And all of this is correct, except for the fact that the present way of doing things is destroying the United States of America.

We are not that far from the collapse of our country's economic system (it almost happened in 2008 when we almost lost our banking system) and the dropping of our standard of living to that of a third world country … or worse. Look around at what is happening here. Sooner or later, the government will recognize this and find some sugar-coated way of instituting enough “protectionism” in our laws to save our country.

** ** **

And here's a short story I wrote six years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

Old Times

Jack Lippman

“Mary, I’ve been thinking about Cheryl. It’s been three years since the accident and it might be good for her to start getting out socially. Your sister can’t live in the past forever.”

Looking at Tom, she knew he was right. Since that spring evening three years ago when Cheryl’s husband and their fifteen year old daughter were killed coming back from a cheerleading competition in an accident with a drunken driver, she had understandably withdrawn into a shell, immersing herself in her job, and doing little else.

“I know,” Mary replied. “Do you think we might take her out to dinner, and bring someone along for her? Oh, we wouldn’t surprise her. I’d talk to her up front, of course, and so long as we’re there, she might go along with it. It’s worth a try.”

“I think so,” Tom nodded.

“Do you have anyone in mind,” she inquired.

“Come to think of it, I do,” Tom answered. “There’s that new lawyer with the firm. I think he’s divorced and from what I know about him, he’s a nice guy. I’ve worked on a few projects with him and we’ve gone to lunch a few times too. I don’t think he has any serious attachments going, either.”

Mary’s face lit up. “Are you talking about the fellow who drove you home a couple of months back when your car wouldn’t start? Very impressive looking guy.”

“Yes, that’s the one. And if it’s okay with you, I’ll speak to him tomorrow, and you can touch base with Cheryl.”

And so it was that the following Thursday evening, Mary and Tom picked up a freshly coiffed Cheryl and drove to the restaurant they had carefully selected where they would meet Doug Ferris. He was waiting at the bar when they arrived, and took his drink with them to the table overlooking the riverfront which Mary had specially asked for.

While the food was fine, the evening wasn’t working out as well as they had hoped it would. After Tom introduced Doug to Cheryl, and reintroduced him to Mary, everything rapidly went downhill. No matter in what direction Mary and Tom steered the conversation, and even when Doug made a few jokes about his prior marriage, which broke up when his wife ran off with a Hungarian nobleman, nothing seemed to help. Cheryl was stony-faced, unresponsive and about as talkative as an iceberg. She nibbled at her food and looked downward most of the time. That’s why, after dessert and coffee, Mary and Tom where shocked when Cheryl, seemingly awakening from the stupor in which she had been all evening, turned to Doug.

“Doug,” she said, “I’m having a wonderful time, but I do have to get to work in the morning. I think we all do. So, without my being the party-pooper, can I suggest that we all call it a night? Mary and Tom have really gone out of their way to make this a fun night, and I don’t want to inconvenience them even a bit more, so could you drive me home? I’d just love that. Really”!

Tom and Mary, still a bit dumbfounded, took care of the check as Cheryl and Doug walked out of the restaurant, arm in arm.

Once in Doug’s car, and out of the parking lot, Cheryl turned to him brusquely. “Mr. Ferris. I recognize you, but I don’t think you’ve recognized me yet.””

He fixed his eyes on her for a moment. “Have we met before this evening?” he asked.

“Yes”, she said. “You were the defense attorney for the murderer who killed my husband and daughter three years ago. You got that rotten bum off with three years probation and I lost my family. I’ll never forget the smirk on that bastard’s face in the courtroom after the judge announced the sentence. And I’ll never forgive you for convincing the judge and jury what a poor unfortunate victim of a dysfunctional family he was. You bastard”! Cheryl’s hand reached into her pocketbook, where she fingered the silverplated revolver she had carried with her ever since she had been left to live alone in the house.

* * *

Driving in the opposite direction, Tom turned to Mary. “You know, I just can’t figure your sister out. She looked like she was having one miserable evening and all of a sudden, she brightens up and asks Doug to take her home. You women are just too much.”

“Tom,” Mary interrupted, a worried look crossing her face, “What did Doug do before he joined your firm”?

“Was in practice in the next county, I think. Mostly criminal law, I recall. He had quite a reputation, a real crackerjack, but he told us he was sick of it. Didn’t like the kind of clients with whom he had to deal. That’s why he moved over to the corporate world, and we were glad to get him.”

Mary was silent. Then she let out a gasp, “Oh, my God”! Tom looked at his wife who seemed to be catching her breath, and gathering her thoughts at the same time..

“Oh, my God,” she repeated. “It’s all coming back to me, Tom. Doug Ferris was the lawyer who defended the drunk who killed Cheryl’s husband and daughter, and got him off with practically nothing. I thought there was something familiar about him, but I couldn’t pin it down until you mentioned his being in criminal law.
And if I finally remembered him, Cheryl certainly has too, and probably a hell of a lot sooner than I did.”

“That explains why she was so cold toward him at dinner, but why did she suddenly warm up and ask him to drive her home? We certainly could have done that,” Tom said.

“Turn the car around, Tom! Head for Cheryl’s house. And quickly. I hope we’re not too late. Tom, since my sister has been living alone in that big house, she has been carrying a gun. I saw it in her purse in the ladies’ room tonight. She knew who she was going out with and I think she intends to use it on him.”

* * *

Cheryl pointed the revolver at Doug. “I would prefer to be pointing this at the man who destroyed my family, but since you were the one who set him free, I have no problem in killing you. I don’t care what happens to me since my life is over anyway. I died three years ago.”

“Are you going to shoot yourself after you shoot me,”? Doug asked.

“Maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t given it much thought.”

“Don’t. It’ll make things messy for your sister. It always does.”

Looking directly into Cheryl’s eyes after pausing a second, his voice suddenly took on a new warmth as he continued. “You know, right after that case, I quit criminal law. I was really good at getting my clients off, but when I stopped and thought about the kind of people I was defending, and what most of them had done, it made me sick. That’s how I ended up working with Tom’s firm. Actually, your husband’s and daughter’s deaths were what finally convinced me. You may not believe it, but after the judge fell for my impassioned plea and didn’t give my client a day in jail, I went out to the men’s room and vomited.”

“Really,”? Cheryl replied, still pointing the gun at Doug.

“Put the gun down, Cheryl. Shooting me won’t help. It’ll only make things worse.”

Cheryl started to cry and put the revolver back into her purse just as Tom and Mary pulled into Cheryl’s driveway where Doug’s car was parked.

“Cheryl, Doug, is everything alright.”? Mary called out, jumping out of her car.

“No problem, little sister,” Cheryl answered. “We’ve just been talking about old times. You know, some of the people both of us knew in the past, but everything’s just fine now.” Cheryl was no longer crying.

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