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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS:

Thinking About Presentation

by Fred Cederholm

Despite all the brouhaha and positive spin, the US economy is far from fixed. The predicted economic and financial Armageddon appears not “avoided” but rather “delayed.” Presentations are at work in this critical misconception.

I’ve been thinking about presentation. Actually I’ve been thinking about 2009, Obama, the economy, jobs, bailouts, Bernanke, and St. Johns Lutheran Church. The year 2009 will always hold a special place in my memory. The two open heart surgeries and a “generally fatal” MRSA infection almost ended my stay here on planet Earth. During the ordeal, I experienced so much love, concern, and prayers from lifelong friends and from new readers of my column all around our lush little planet. Still... there were many events going on in 2009 which impacted literally everybody in the negative while much of the presentation was in the positive.

You see presentation is everything. It has been said that “truth is not based on reality... it is based upon perception.” Perception comes from presentation. One need only look to the events of 2009 to realize how true that observation was. On January 21st we installed our first African American President. With all the hoopla, bon mots (kind words), and visions of change, “we” felt optimistic that our problems were over --- or were soon going to be fixed. Barack Obama began his presidency with the highest of ratings --- on an undercurrent of change. He was even rewarded with the Nobel Peace prize for all the work and accomplishments he was yet to do. The presentation and packaging of him was incredible. Not quite twelve months later his ratings set a record for the largest decline of any US President during the first year of his administration. So... what happened? “Change” is looking more and more like “continuity.” Both are “C” words but what a difference they make to any presentation.

Despite all the brouhaha and positive spin, the US economy is far from fixed. The predicted economic and financial Armageddon appears not “avoided” but rather “delayed.” Presentations are at work in this critical misconception. Domestic net job losses are still running roughly a quarter of a million a month. If you don’t believe me, read the revised (downward) numbers which are buried in the tailings of the news media a couple of months later. The initial stories had been positioned on page one and at the top of the broadcasts. Unemployment/underemployment are acknowledged nationwide at just above 10%. Some cities and regions are showing rates in the 30%, 40% and 50% range. While our Rochelle area is actually having some growth on the jobs scene (with more local good news coming in 2010, trust me!), there are many families locally who are hurting big time.

The economy (no make that high finance, biggie banks, and Wall Street) avoided disaster in 2009. A bullet was dodged at a cost to the US citizenry of a TRILLION. (OK, make that several HUNDRED BILLION. I can play the presentation game, too.) The TARP program was aptly named, but not as the presented Troubled Asset Relief Program. A drop cloth used to cover up and protect the problems really sums up TARP quite well. Those few who truly benefited can be IDed and publicly named. Those few are paying back their bailout monies to enable their payment of CHRISTMAS and yearend bonuses. Many of these will exceed the lifelong earnings of the ordinary Joes and Johns in one “thanks for a great year” bonus to a fat cat. Meanwhile restructuring of the debt on underwater homes (where outstanding loan balances exceed the market value of the property) number in the thousands while numbers of submerged borrowers number in the tens of millions!

The naming of FED Chairman Ben Bernanke as Time magazine’s man/person of the year fits the power of presentation to a “T.” Ben did what he had too, to bailout and save the big boys; but just what has the FED done to help out the mortal masses. Interest rates for a bank’s borrowing from their regional Federal Reserve Bank stand at ZERO (OK, at .25%). Any loans made to the public reflect a “market rate” of 6%, 8%, or more. Don’t forget that some credit card rates just hit an APR of 79% to lock in a juice loan rate before the rate caps hit in January. Bernanke clearly deserves a special mention, but NOT so positively as Time magazine’s man/person of the year” to spin him ahead into 2010.

Sunday evening saw the Sunday School Christmas presentation at my home church of St. Johns in Creston. It was a fun presentation to watch. This was a Christmas that shouldn’t have been for me; and on Saturday, I actually turned 60! May GOD bless you one and all. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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


Copyright 2009 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 December 21, 2009.