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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS:

Thinking About Sisyphus

by Fred Cederholm

Pick a market, any market. The graphs show the same 100 point + declines again and again – retrenching from false bumps engineered by market “fluffing” from alleged-conspiratorial activity. Is such not truly “the invisible hand” of a market correcting to sane pricing of equities? Market graphs of late show a futile Sysyphus at work – up and back.
I’ve been thinking about Sysyphus. Actually I’ve been thinking about our current mess(es), Bernanke, Paulson, the equity markets, our presidential candidates, and masochism. Poor old Sysyphus was a character from Greek mythology who was condemned to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain to solve his problem(s); whence the stone would fall back of its own weight leaving him from where he had begun. Does THAT task not characterize the futile situation set before our political and fiscal/ economic personages/ leaders in calendar 2008?

You see Uncle $ugar finds himself in one @#$%^&* heck of a mess. The entire planet of Earth finds itself in one @#$%^&* heck of a mess! This one @#$$%^&* heck of a mess has been a long time coming, and the solution to the one @#$%^&* heck of a mess will not be quickly/ easily, resolved! While Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals in his day, he was faced with cumulative challenges not experienced by any personas in the entire history of mankind up to that point in time – ditto for those who aspire to deal with the one @#$%^&* of a mess facing us. Even those who give their “face time” to media cameras don’t give a true clue to the dementia of the mess.

Bernanke, as the Chairman of the FED, is jogging on quicksand with leaden shoes. Anyone familiar with my columns knows that I am NOT a fan of the Bush administration, but Ben Bernanke is one of the few Bush appointments with which I approve. Following “Maestro” Alan Greenspan is a thankless task – in TRUMP spades. The only more difficult job is following “W” Bush in the Oval Office. Mistakes were made – colossal mistakes were made – but hindsight is always 20/20! The FED has limited ammo left in a crisis this gargantuan – and we are talking about financial losses in the TRILLIONS – maybe in the MULTI-TRILLIONS. This is a crisis about solvency, not liquidity. Drawing a line “in the water” and lowering interest rates, may buy time; but it will not fix a blasted thing. “Helicopter Ben” has a reputation to live down to. His actions thus far have reinforced myth.

Treasury Secretary Paulson has “said” Uncle $ugar cannot bail out those who irrationally took on more debt than they can handle. The government should not “cover” the banks, Wall Street, nor the markets for THEIR ill-conceived actions. But... the policy/proposals thus far say the opposite!
Treasury Secretary Paulson has “said” Uncle $ugar cannot bail out those who irrationally took on more debt than they can handle. The government should not “cover” the banks, Wall Street, nor the markets for THEIR ill-conceived actions. But... the policy/proposals thus far say the opposite! Have interest rate cuts on the cost of funds been matched by comparable drops in rates paid by borrowers? No way! Just like Japan in 1990’s, policies were designed to buy time for banks.

Pick a market, any market. The graphs show the same 100 point + declines again and again - retrenching from false bumps engineered by market “fluffing” from any alleged-conspiratorial activity of a “plunge protection team,” the market makers of Wall Street, or the cash rich sovereign wealth investment funds - dumping their dollars. Is such not truly “the invisible hand” of a market correcting to some sane pricing of equities based upon historical multiples of earning per share (or their perceived future EPS)? Market graphs of late show a futile Sysyphus at work – up and back.

In an election year, the public is geared up for hearing - not the truth - but a song and dance. We have been exposed to both “eloquence” and - “trust me - I’ve got the experience and know how to get US/ us thru this.” Who has even specifically IDed what “this” is? Just what are their solutions - to the problems which they dare NOT even speak the names? Our next President will face hurdles of Olympian proportions. Are they nuts, or merely ODed on Prozac? (Beat me, hit me, kick me – more, more, more... I’m still not satisfied.) “Hello... I’m running for President, my name is... but just call me Sysyphus.”

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.


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This story was published on March 3, 2008.